The Self-Compassion and Wisdom Combo
I’ve come to realize that just asking people to be kind to themselves doesn’t work, because that is not enough information. Some want to believe they are being kind to themselves by giving in. Giving into the situation, the desire, the emotion, etc. The key is being kind to ourselves with wisdom. Today I'm going to go into this concept in a little more detail. When making decisions in our lives, having a combination of kindness and wisdom can help us make decisions that are positive for both ourself and those around us.
It is very important to understand that this culture of self-compassion comes with the need for wisdom. Our goal isn’t to wander through life just forgiving everything we do if those things are mean or not skillful. It’s to be able to continuously learn from our acts, our emotions, our thoughts and continue to grow to use these things with more wisdom and skill. Without the wisdom we aren’t looking for the patterns; or we just continue on in denial, or doing harmful things to ourselves or others.
Let's look at an example of what I mean. For example, we've all had those days when we are extra tired. There are a lot of reasons this might be happening.
- It could be you've been working extra hard and really are physically or mentally exhausted. Or you have a known condition that causes this exhaustion.
- Perhaps you haven't been sleeping; or you haven't been eating food that nourishes you; or you've been stuck behind your desk and you haven't been moving enough.
- Then there are the times when we are lethargic because we are in avoidance mode. Example: If I just sit here and stare at the tv, I can ignore the conversation I'm putting off or the project I'm supposed to be working on that I don't want to do.
- Or maybe, we've let ourselves get into a circle of worry about something that we can't do anything about. That is exhausting, because there is no fix, no end, and unfortunately, every time we allow our mind to go down the worry track, we are training ourselves to worry, so the worry tends to perpetuate itself.
There are many other reasons why we could be tired, let's face it life can be exhausting. But I'll let you in on a secret. People who seem to keep moving and get things done have these times of
being tired also. But by using their wisdom, they don't just give into it without asking some questions. They stop for a moment to think, "I'm more tired than usual. What's going on? Is there a reason I should be tired? If so, maybe I give myself a break tonight to sit and read or watch an hour of tv, or maybe I just go to bed early." Does your mind need some downtime or does your body need some downtime?
If they haven't been working so hard that they should be tired, they think, "Is there something going on with my health? How have I been sleeping? How have I been eating?" Nothing fixes itself. If we aren't sleeping well and we get in the habit of just vegging every night, we aren't being kind to ourself because that cycle will continue and just keep getting worse instead of better. Taking steps to figure out what is off with our health would be a critical piece of being kind to ourselves in the long run here.
If life has been normal, no craziness above and beyond the normal, and you've been sleeping, eating healthy, and getting some exercise in, then the next question they ask is, "Am I avoiding or resisting a next step? Ignoring something that needs attention?" This is often my ah-ha moment. I might be avoiding a conversation with a client or a loved one; or I might be resisting the next step in a project I'm working on, because it's something that will be hard for me or that needs a set block of time. When I'm in avoidance mode, I feel like I'm being dragged down by what I don't want to do - otherwise known as feeling tired or lethargic. Once I know what I'm resisting, then the next step for being kind to myself is to act and move past that resistance. I tell myself, "Just get it done Christine." In this case, if I continue "as is" I just practice resistance, instead of practicing the effort it takes to stretch into an area of discomfort so I can move forward.
As, you can see through this demonstration, the self-compassionate part isn't to curl up under the covers and just be. That might be the compassionate thing to do for one night when we really have pushed ourselves too far, but the compassionate thing to do really is to take some time to sit with yourself non-judgmentally and say, "OK Me - What's going on?" And even more importantly to listen to what yourself, especially your body, has to say. The people you think always have it together face discomfort, and doubt, and fear, they have just learned that the more they take that long step into a zone of discomfort, the faster they move beyond it and the more they personally grow.
Through this questioning we begin to take responsibility for our actions and next steps. We also learn to recognize sooner when through our actions we aren't practicing self compassion; when our actions might feel good now, but they are not good for us in the long run.
Can you think of something that feels good now, but in the not so distant future there's regret? For me that moment comes quickly when I eat sugar and then within an hour my gut is grumpy and my head is spinning. Or perhaps you can share with the group, a time you were in lethargic avoidance mode and you realized what you were avoiding? I had a lot of practice recognizing this feeling when I was working on my dissertation.