Most of what I am about to tell you is contrary to what you might have been taught or have come to believe in. I have to share this with you because it’s just too good not to and because it’s something that we need to place more emphasis on. It began with that one word, the one that sometimes we’re even afraid to say. Are you ready?
Self-Esteem… and it needs to evolve.
I know, our idea of self can be loaded with comparison and fraught with disappointment. If we’re feeling low, our self-esteem says, ‘I’m not good enough’ and if we’re feeling great, we’re arrogant. Then there’s the ego-based conversation. The one that suggests you leave the ego at the door and all will be well. If you don’t (or can’t), it only opens the door to more comparison and disappointment.
It implies that you need to work on that (negative aspect of yourself) to get to this (ideal comparison).
So what I’d like to tell you today is this:
All you “need” is a practice of self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff spoke brilliantly at the recent Business and Compassion Conference. She addressed how our global evaluation of self-worth breeds an internal negative dialogue of, ‘Am I good enough?’. She says that this sets us up for social comparison and nasty social dynamics. It breeds the idea that we need to be ‘special’ or ‘above average’ in order to be acceptable—not to mention what it’s done to further instill narcissism, which appears to be on the rise.
And what happens when we fail? This concept of self-esteem is contingent upon our success. We are ‘not allowed’ to fail. Well, I’m here to share with you that it doesn’t have to be this way…
Self-compassion is the alternate approach. It is, quite simply, our kindness, love, nurturing, and care of ourselves. It’s the theory that we are (and should be) our own best cheerleaders.
Kristin shared three components to practicing self-compassion:
- Treat yourself with kindness instead of judgement. Actively sooth and comfort yourself. Ask yourself, if this how you would treat your best friend. Then act from there.
- We are all interconnected. By seeing yourself as a part of a larger human experience, you no longer operate in isolation. Remember, life is imperfect, but every moment has some perfection within it.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness cultivates self-compassion and acts as a platform for your needs and your ability do something about it—in kind, compassionate ways, by accepting things non-judgmentally.
There is a belief that some of what we’re talking about is considered to be weak, but the greatest, most powerful leaders of our time used self-compassion and lived with the message that suffering is not okay or necessary.
Natural Rhythms…a compassionate practice
I recently had a conversation with an old colleague who has moved on from the corporate world and is enjoying life as an entrepreneur. He’s enjoying the work and working, when he “feels like it”. As far as I’m concerned, he’s working the way we were meant to work, to his natural rhythm. Nurturing your natural rhythms is an act of self-compassion. Honouring your body-mind-soul, acknowledging your needs on any given day or in any given moment, expressing yourself with care and love, these are all acts of self-compassion.
Another colleague mentioned she had spent a day at the office and didn’t “do anything but talk to other colleagues”. She felt unproductive. What she didn’t realize was how valuable she was on that day, to take the time to listen, nurture, and connect with colleagues. Isn’t that an element that we need to foster in the workplace? After all, the workplace is also about human connection and collaboration; it’s not all ‘bottom line’ and ‘results-driven’, contrary to what we’ve been taught.
I find the best way for me to work is to my own natural rhythm. What this means for me might mean something different to you, but what I have discovered that my natural rhythm is influenced by nature and the cosmos—what’s happening in the planets. I tuned into this at a retreat with Donna Farhi in New Zealand. One of the days we were practicing was stifling hot and as we entered into the room, looking overheated and tired, she astutely picked up on everyone’s energy and changed her original plan of indoor yoga asanas to a walk down to the ocean for a swim, to cool off and enjoy the radiant beauty of the day we were blessed with. It wasn’t a day to be inside. Donna saw she needed to flow with the rhythm of the day and acted accordingly.
When I respect and follow my own natural cadence, it has a great impact on my productivity, creativity, and innovation. If I were to spend my time in a 9-5 office situation, it would kill my creativity (and soul). I’ve been there and know that the freedom of working the way I do produces results unlike any office schedule. But here’s the thing, a certain level of trust (a trust in the process) must happen. We must let go of our old ways of working, the rules we impose on ourselves and the rules imposed by others.
Shortly after I exited the 9-5 world, I felt guilt ridden on the days I felt unproductive. Now I have come to appreciate that the days I once thought were unproductive are days of ‘inaction’, days that are designed to refuel and rejuvenate. When I respect these days, I come back stronger, refreshed, and filled with innovation, creativity, and passion. I trust that what I need to do will get done in ‘perfect time’ and you know what? It always does. With this approach comes a natural flow and ease with my work. I no longer feel as if I’m ‘trying to push water uphill’.
Self-compassion is strongly linked to our wellbeing. It increases life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self confidence, positivity, and optimism. It’s not associated with social comparisons but social connectedness, cultivating a world where we’re all ONE.
I’m suggesting a return to a primordial language.
One that exists as the deepest knowledge and expression that humanity knows.
It pre-dates spoken language, it has its roots in the emergence of awe.
It is present in everyone, as an elemental music and reflection of
molecular and stellar movement.
It is a genetic design built into leaf patterns and the bobbing of sea horses.
It is eminently present to children, we have educated it out of them.
But it is the story of our place in the universe and we must begin to tell that story again.
What we are losing is our ability to speak to the whole.
The songs of celebration, the poetry of praise.
~ author unknown (via Donna Farhi, Quote of the Week)
Is your current schedule working for you? How could you add more self-compassion? I would love to hear in the comments below or feel free to connect.
Love and light,