We all know the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them to do you, or in more modern terms: treat others as you wish to be treated. It’s a great rule, obviously. We all wish to be treated well by other people and therefore should turn those tables on them. However, I think there is another and perhaps even more important rule: treat yourself as kindly as you treat others.
Yes, I know there are haters in the world and the media likes to broadcast all the hatred and evil people in the world who harm others, but the truth is most humans are kind. The human spirit is wired for love and compassion, and there are tons more (un-broadcasted) acts of kindness that happen in the world every day that we don’t always see unless we look for them.
In fact, think about your own life. How kind are you to people in need, those suffering, your loved ones who are hurting? And now ask yourself this: how kind are you to yourself when you are in need or suffering? My guess is you’re much gentler to others than you are to yourself, and that you might even be critical and hard on yourself in times of need.
Here’s the thing – you teach other people how to treat you (I think I heard that from Oprah once). So, if you are not kind to yourself, you will have a hard time accepting kindness and love from others. If people see you being self-critical, they may assume it’s okay to treat you the same. I know this from personal experience. I spent many years (a long time ago) in a verbally abusive relationship. In hindsight, I realize it was so easy for me to take that harsh treatment from another person because I wasn’t very nice to myself. I was hard on myself, critical and my self-talk was frequently mean. This self-treatment made it almost normal to accept that behavior from another person. It was as if no one could be harder on me than I was to myself.
I remember one day when I was being overly self-critical I had a realization. I realized I would never (EVER) talk to my niece or a loved one or my best friend the way I was talking to myself. So, why was it okay to talk to myself that way when I wouldn’t do it to those I loved? It wasn’t okay. That was 11 years ago, and since then I’ve made a concerted effort every day to treat myself as I treat those I love and those in need. Am I perfect? No. Do I still have moments of being hard on myself? Of course, but I am acutely aware of it and stop it the moment I sense it beginning.
When you decide to be a friend to yourself, to have self-love and self-compassion some important things happen. First, you stop tolerating people mistreating you. You stop allowing negativity in your life and stop exerting effort into relationships that are not healthy. You quickly recognize when someone is treating you poorly because you are now committed to being kind to yourself and know how that feels. You also begin to attract kind compassionate and loving people into your life (who also love themselves). These are strong, healthy relationships that are equal partnerships and bring joy to your life.
So yes, I am a big fan of the golden rule and think we all need to treat others as we wish to be treated; however, I think we also need to start with examining how we behave toward ourselves. Treating others as we want to be treated may be the golden rule; however, in my book treating yourself as kindly as you treat others is rule #1.