We all know that being kind and generous to others makes us feel good. But how often are we similarly giving and nurturing to ourselves? More often than not we treat ourselves in a way we would never dream of doing to anyone else.

When I ask, ‘What can I give myself right now?’, I’m not talking about self-indulgence. Sometimes that can be the flip side of depriving ourselves. We don’t give ourselves the rest or praise or free time that we deserve, and we then ‘make up’ for that by gifting ourselves a whacking great glass of wine or a whole packet of biscuits.

Think about it like parenting. You’ve ignored your kid for days, and then you make up for it by giving them a packet of sweets, or buying them something. Would they feel cared for and nurtured? Wouldn’t they rather have your love and attention?

We can’t expect other people to do it for us

In fact, all of us need to be loved, however old we are. We often look for this in a partner, or our friends, but the bottom line is that while loving friends and family are great things to have, they ought to be the icing on the cake, not the whole cake. If we don’t love and look after ourselves, we can’t expect other people to do it for us.

And the sad fact is that if we don’t nurture ourselves, we’re that much less likely to surround ourselves with people who will provide that icing. We may even choose people who will reinforce our self-criticism or neglect.

The importance of the question

So, that question, ‘What can I give myself right now?’ is a simple but very effective way to start giving ourselves the love and attention that we all need. Practised regularly, it can help to build up that wise, nurturing parent part of ourselves, and can genuinely cause a positive revolution in our lives.

The truth is that for some of us this is harder than others. If we didn’t have particularly wise and nurturing parents ourselves, we probably won’t have internalised this role very well up until now.

But we know that the brain is infinitely plastic and malleable. It simply creates the shortcuts and thought patterns that it thinks we want. If we start to ask ourselves regularly, ‘What can I give myself right now?’, and then act on that, the brain will start to strengthen this neural pathway instead, and we can develop a nurturing inner voice to replace the critical one.