December 24, 2015
This week I had a moment – or rather 15 minutes or so – that I was not proud of. I was faced with a situation that was nothing more than a minor annoying inconvenience in the big scheme of life, and I’m not proud of how I chose to react and how I chose to be in the face of the situation. In the moment, I played my own tape in my head, I replayed my own words and the words of wisdom from others I respect and admire – but still, for whatever reason, I wasn’t successful at listening and showing up the way I know I’m capable of showing up when these inconsequential challenges cross my path. The situation is over, no permanent damage was done, and I moved on with my day, my week, my life. But now I have a choice to make. I can continue to beat myself up over my so-called “failure,” or I can be kind to myself, forgive myself, and learn something for the next time things don’t go as planned or I’m faced with a challenge – big or small.
After being intrigued by a friend’s extremely positive and enriching experience, I am currently four weeks into a six-week meditation program under the theme of Mental Mastery. My meditation coach is constantly repeating the importance of being kind to oneself. During our weekly one-hour phone calls, she reminds me of my successes and reinforces the importance of acknowledging the progress I have made, the way I have leveraged the tools I have been exposed to, and the nuggets of insight I seem to be extracting from this process. I’m tempted to go into my usual pattern and focus on what I didn’t do right, highlight and perseverate about the one night I missed doing my meditation, and criticize myself for not meditating “correctly,” (as if there is one correct way to meditate, I suppose). But hearing her be-kind-to-yourself-love-yourself-and-refrain-from-judging-yourself mantra enough times has stopped me in my tracks.
Self-compassion is defined by gostrengths.com as “the extension of kindness, care, warmth, and understanding (instead of beratement and criticism) toward oneself when faced with shortcomings, inadequacies, or failures.” Some further digging online highlighted that self-compassion is positively associated with life satisfaction, wisdom, happiness, optimism, emotional resilience, and lots more good stuff. I now understood why she beats the self-compassion drum so hard, so loudly, and so often.
When I continued to Google the topic, I found Dr. Kristen Neff’s self-compassion.org filled with content I only skimmed but hope to spend more time with in the future – including her own TED Talk and numerous recommended readings and websites on the topics of self-compassion, mindfulness, meditation, and more. It looks like there is a whole community of professionals and academics beating the self-compassion drum. I guess it’s more of a jam-packed drum circle.
Thinking about this topic reminds me of a moment just a couple of months ago. It was the weekend, and my husband was traveling and my son had a hockey game at 9:00 a.m. so it was on me to get my three young kids out of the house, to the rink, and get my son dressed for the game. I did all of the above – except, I forgot his hockey stick. It actually makes me uncomfortable to think about how I reacted, and most notably, how hard I was on myself. A self-deprecating tape played in my head – and played loudly. I felt like an utter failure and the example I was setting for my kids was, to say the least, not a good one. I was not calm. I was not kind to myself. I did not demonstrate self-compassion.
With 2016 just a few days away, I hadn’t really thought of a new year’s resolution…until now. I will strive to be kind to myself when my knee-jerk reaction is probably to criticize and scold myself. I will strive to demonstrate more self-compassion. And, of course, I’ll gladly take any of the positive side effects that come along with it. And if I forget the hockey stick, I’ll try to remind myself of the 20 other goals I scored that morning instead of focusing on the one puck that missed the net.