Whitney Ervin, Features Editor
When I was 13, my grandmother got me a self-help book for my birthday. I don’t remember exactly what it was called, but from the gist of the title, I knew it was about treating others nicer. For a rather angry teenager, it probably would have contained some halfway decent advice, but I never opened it. This pretty much exemplifies how I took all advice in those days, in one ear and out of the other.
Despite my grandmother’s good intentions, the experience left me with a rather bitter taste in my mouth over self-help books. Not just disinterest, but disdain. I was biased against any self-help books that were recommended from there on out. What can I say? I’m stubborn.
As you can imagine, when I received “The Kindness Workbook” by Robin Raven, I was reluctant about it. However, the world could use a lot more kindness so I had a soft spot for the message.
The book is split into two parts. The first part is titled “ Be Kinder To Yourself” and the second part is titled “Nurture Kindness In Others.”
This approach was interesting to me because oftentimes we don’t realize how our own inner struggles affect those around us. The idea of the first part of the book is to nurture yourself, in turn making you gentler and more kind with others.
As you might have guessed from the title, Raven took a more interactive approach to the topic. In the guide on how to use this book, Raven emphasizes that although it is a workbook, it shouldn’t feel like work. It should be fun. If, like me, you struggle with self-reflection that can be a difficult process.
I was struggling from the start.
The first activity in the book is “Silence Your Inner Critic” and is designed to help you think of ways to talk to yourself in a more kind fashion than you might usually. The activity asks you to list harsh criticisms you usually give yourself and then write down kinder alternatives. The hope of the activity is that you continue to practice being kind to yourself and silence your inner critic.
The activities that follow are full of self-reflection, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes we’ll all experience pain we can’t fight with kindness, and Raven has a section dedicated to throwing yourself a pity party. Although the idea is to take care of yourself. Raven emphasizes your “pity party” should focus on healing. While treating yourself to lunch or dinner can be a good way to be kind to yourself, sometimes you just have to let yourself feel the pain.
Raven writes, “If your idea of a pity party is just thirty minutes of alone time where you can cry in peace, that’s fine.”
Now, onto part two. This is where you take all of the kindness you’ve nurtured in yourself and bestow it on others. Not only does this section of the book offer ways to be more kind to others, but it also guides you to forge better relationships with those around you. Through the activities, you challenge yourself to explore different ways to treat and relate with others.
One of my personal favorite sections was “Set Boundaries For Kindness to Thrive” as this is something I struggle with.
“You don’t have to be all things to all people, and it’s unhealthy to try,” Raven writes in this section.
The activity has you list kindness you are willing to do for others, and kindnesses you aren’t willing to do. By setting these boundaries, you’re setting the stage for how you want to be treated.
There are times when it can be difficult to be kind, especially to ourselves. Oftentimes we don’t even realize all the ways we’re being unkind to ourselves, and therefore to others. “The Kindness Workbook” can be a very useful tool for anyone who is willing to give kindness a chance.