Kindness Challenge Week 2: Self-Compassion

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.

Discovering the Difference between Self-Love and Self-Indulgence

Kindness Challenge Week 1:  Self-Love

Sometimes in life, the Universe seems to bombard me with the same message over and over again.  It has been like that this week.  First, I stumbled upon Niki Meadows’ blog, The Richness of a Simple Life, and her 2017 Kindness Challenge.

I’ve never participated in a social media challenge, but this looked like exactly the topics my husband Tim and I have been delving into lately, and I happily signed on even though I was late to the party (the first week began May 7).

The topic for Week 1 was self-love.

A little bit of a coincidence, that.  I’d just finished listening to James Altucher on Shawn Stevens’ podcast, The Model Health Show.  They were discussing James’ book, The Power of No, and how important it was to put yourself first—even if what you are up to is contributing to others.  How putting yourself first is actually necessary in order to have the health and energy to contribute to others.  It is similar to putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

Tim and I have also been engaged in some pretty deep conversations about shifts we’re wanting to make in our habits to improve our health and well-being.  We’re getting ready to launch our Year of Sobriety experiment—giving up both processed foods and alcohol for a year.  We’re also taking on getting ourselves into a regular sleep routine and building capacity for daily exercise.  All big projects that promise to take a lot of intentionality and creativity to fulfill on and that offer big rewards in well-being.

Finally, in my Landmark Education seminar, Causing the Miraculous, I am engaged in practicing “being not deserving”.  Practicing being not deserving may seem counter to practicing self-love, but I think they actually go hand in hand.  Practicing being not deserving is about seeing life as a gift not as something we have to earn or that is owed to us.

Okay, Universe, your message is clear, it is time to ponder the meaning of self-love.  It is time to figure out what is my personal version of an oxygen mask.  What do I need to take care of first, before I can contribute to others?

Oxygen mask

I have never been one of those selfless persons who is always sacrificing herself to ensure others’ happiness.  Not that I don’t care about others or that I’m selfish, but I have always seemed pretty capable of putting myself first.

It’s just that, honestly, the way I’ve put myself first hasn’t always put myself first.

I’ve become pretty adept at putting my self-in-the-moment ahead of my self-in-the-future.

I hit the snooze alarm and don’t get up and go on my walk.  I let myself put off unpleasant tasks.  I have dessert because “I’ve been so good and I deserve it.”  I watch too much TV or play games for hours.  All of these things feel good—in the moment.  But they don’t leave me feeling vital, alive, and connected to the wonder of life.

I think it is time to say no to myself more often.  No to eating foods that leave me feeling sluggish and acidic.  No to choosing inactivity over movement.  No to staying up too late.  No to binge television watching.  No to binge game playing.  Saying no unhealthy self-indulgences is saying yes to a future of health, vitality, community, and contribution.  Saying no is an act of self-love.