My Nana is hands down the nicest person in the world. Without a shadow of a doubt. She bakes my favorite pastries even when it’s not a special occasion. She lights up every room with her contagious smile, and therefore, invites others to smile alongside her. She makes it seem so effortless! She’s the only person who manages to make me feel like a kid again, even in my 30’s. Even in the knockouts of adulthood, still, her hugs make me feel like a baby. The embrace of her soft arms make me feel like the most loved person ever, even when I think I’m an absolute failure.
I’m not sure about much, but one thing I know for certain. Nana takes the gold medal when it comes to kindness. One time, back when I was a teenager, I received one of the most valuable lessons from her. I came home from high school, defeated. I got bullied by some classmates and Nana immediately noticed my frown. I felt torn and worthless. That’s when she laid her wisdom upon me. “See, the way you’re feeling right now is a huge advantage for you. Now you know how to treat others, because you know firsthand the pain of being mistreated. Be kind, always.” I wonder if she was ever hurt in the same way. Her words stuck with me ever since.
Years later, I got to know my Nana in a different way.
“You worthless piece of crap! It makes no difference for you to be here. You just take up space.”
“Nana! Who are you talking to like that?”
She looked at me like I caught her red-handed.
“What’s going on Nana? I’ve never heard you curse before.”
She took a deep breath and said, “You can’t hear the voice in my head.”
“What is the voice telling you Nana?”
“I feel incompetent. I’m a disgrace. I can’t even help my own daughter when she’s going through it.”
“Nana, do you feel responsible for my mom’s burnout at work?”
She sat down with the desperate look of total failure in her eyes. “I feel so useless. If I can’t make my own kid feel better, what kind of a mother am I?”
Her question made me think, how can she be so harsh to herself while she is always nice to others?
“Nana, you’re being a bully to yourself.”
“What if your mom gets sick from all that pressure she puts over herself? What if she hates me because I raised her to have that workaholic mindset?” Her desperation struggled keeping the tears away. “It’s just that I love seeing my loved ones smiling. When they don’t, I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I blame myself. Always. Like a static noise in the background, and sometimes these thoughts get too loud.”
“Wow, I never knew you were so hard on yourself Nana. This openness is giving me so many eye openers.”
I sat down beside her. “Nana, you’re not alone. I’m way too familiar with those overthinking episodes. Like when I had my first crush in high school, remember?
I couldn’t help but over analyze each thing I said. On repeat. I was so scared to be alone again.”
Before I finished my sentence, her arms were around me. She broke down in tears.
“Nana, you taught me to be kind to others. Because we want to be treated kindly. The foundation of that is kindness to myself, right?” She smiled as she recognized her own teaching. For the first time in my life I was able to tell Nana something about kindness.
She held my hand as I described what a huge gamechanger Mindfulness has been in my life. A quick routine I’ve found useful when overthinking is to write down a list of moments I’ve felt proud of myself. Those moments when I found it easy to love myself. Having that list on hand reminds me I’m not the worst person in the world, as that voice inside my head would like me to believe. I remember kindness towards myself is how I can be kind towards others. To forgive myself as I forgive others. To be gentle as my favorite person taught me. Nana stared at me with tears in her eyes. I love the kind smile on her face. Be kind to yourself like you are to me, Nana.
I felt inspired to share this story on World Kindness Day, hoping the kindest people in the world are just as kind to themselves as they are to others.
With sharing our story, I hope you too can start a conversation with your (grand)parents around being kind to one self.
If you’re bothered by overthinking things, you can learn how to solve it.