Self kindness is a key ingredient to living a healthy and happy life. And self protection is just one way to practice self kindness. The most obvious practice of self kindness is taking care of your physical body — a healthy diet, exercise, protecting yourself from disease and physical harm. A less obvious act of self kindness is in setting your boundaries and protecting them without harming others.
There is the story of the monk and the snake which illustrates this rather well:
Long ago there was an especially brave monk who went from village to village annually to teach the principles of non-harming to the villagers One day on his rounds the monk entered a village where he found a large and very strong snake terrorizing the people. The monk intervened and took the snake aside and told him about the importance of living a nonviolent life. After spending several hours with the snake, the monk left the village and continued on his way. The following year the monk returned to the village and found the snake coiled under a hedge, frail and frightened, skinny and pocked. The monk was perplexed and he asked the snake what had happened to him. The snake told the monk that he had been practicing the monk’s teaching of nonviolence. He said the villagers were no longer afraid of him and they had stoned him and beaten him with sticks. He said he was afraid to leave his safe hiding place under the hedge. The monk was stunned and said to the snake, “Yes, yes, I did tell you not to be violent, but I never told you not to hiss.”
I’ve told this story in my yoga classes many times when discussing nonviolence (ahimsa) because it explains that “hissing” can be an appropriate response, an act of self kindness that may be needed to protect your boundaries without harming others. And when you practice self kindness you are likely to be more sensitive and kind to others.