This week I’ve been engaged in growth exercises from two different sources that—at first—seem almost directly opposed to each other.
The first assignment was to notice areas of my life where I have become resigned and justified to the “way it is”. Places where I have given up. Places where I have no hope. Places where I justify my lack of action, lack of growth, and lack of responsibility.
Bleak stuff, this. It is challenging to look at this stuff. Challenging to admit it to myself—all the areas where I push my awareness away and say, “Not today. Not tomorrow. And maybe not ever.” But it is even more challenging to say it out loud. To share it with others. To be authentic about how often and in how many places I let myself go numb and pretend not to care because I don’t want to do what it would take to make a difference.
The list is long: politics, the environment, homelessness, poverty, my weight, my health, my finances, relationships, my house, procrastination, my debt. The weight of all these things—when I allow myself to get present to them—feels heavy and overwhelming.
And that is where the second exercise comes in.
This week I am also practicing self-compassion as part of Niki Meadows’ 2017 Kindness Challenge.
“Having compassion for others entails sympathy or empathy for their discomfort and suffering. This week we’re going to work on showing ourselves compassion. For some of us that might mean not being so hard on ourselves, not holding ourselves up to standards of perfection, or easing up on the negative self-talk. Many struggle with being their own worst critic, this week we are going to strive to be warm, understanding, and encouraging with ourselves.”
I am bringing that warmth, understanding, and encouragement to myself as I allow myself to get present to places where I’ve previously been numb. I am bringing compassion for myself for the fact that I have allowed myself to go numb. I am telling myself that, while going numb may not be the most empowering place to be—and I am grateful for the push to get present to all that I actually care about—going numb is not bad or wrong. It is not a failing. It does not make me a loser. It is natural. It is human.
Bringing this compassion to the practice of getting present eases the burden. It allows me to look more deeply because the urge to push the “bad stuff” away is lessened. I do not have to expect perfection from myself. I do not have to regret the time I have wasted in justification and inaction. I do not have to accept responsibility for all that is wrong in the world or even in my own life.
I am human. I am flawed. I procrastinate. I owe. I avoid.
And… I am amazing. I love. I act. I share. I create. I wonder. I appreciate. I contribute.
Practicing self-compassion does not mean that I have to stay stuck in my flaws or in my numbness. It means that I do not castigate myself for those flaws or that numbness. I love myself in all of my flawed amazingly beautiful humanity and continue to strive to grow and learn.