I don’t like it when someone is angry or frustrated or disappointed by something I’ve done. It isn’t fun knowing someone feels let down by one (or more) of my actions. And, yet it happens – not too often, thankfully – right along with the yucky, pit-in-the-stomach feeling I get.
It turns out prudence is not one of my signature strengths*. If it was I wouldn’t find myself in tricky situations where I say or do things which I regret later because I didn’t take the time to think through the consequence of a particular set of words or actions. Unfortunately my “git-er-done” and “leap before I look” tendency has a way of getting me into some hot water. Sigh. And then I find myself needing to apologize and make amends where and when I can – which is the good, necessary, and appropriate thing to do.
As you can imagine this scenario is ripe for beating myself up for F*ing up.
And, it is the perfect scenario for practicing a little self-compassion and a little self-love – both the hallmarks of self-care. This idea of being kind to me, like a good friend would be; to hold myself with the generosity of someone who loves me, is a powerful concept. In fact, tears came to my eyes when I happened upon this beautiful African saying this morning:
“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”
Practicing a little self-compassion this morning helped me to see more clearly my light and my strengths and to be able to hold those aspects of my best self in my heart along with my failings. The key to this practice this morning was to be able to love both sides of myself, recognizing that each is an integral part of me, essential to my wholeness.
And…since February is SELF-CARE month (self-declared), I offer you the steps and journaling prompts I took myself through this morning:
1. Begin with LovingKindess.
First I meditated, a short-five minute session focused on my breathing, and offering LovingKindness to myself – a beautiful set of phrases I’ve borrowed (and adapted) from Jon Kabat-Zin
- May I be safe and protected from internal and external harm;
- May I be healthy and whole to the greatest extent possible;
- May I be kind and loving and generous to myself and others;
- May I be happy and contented and live vibrantly in joy…
2. Invite your Wise-Best Self to be present.
I spent a few minutes contemplating/ journaling – getting reacquainted with my wiser self – the one who represents all the qualities I aspire to: wisdom, strength, courage, compassion, competence, acceptance, etc.
3. Reflect on and invite three strengths to the forefront.
I then spent a few minutes journaling, from the perspective of my Wiser-Best Self about what she knows are three of my top signature strengths – noting ways in which I have actively been engaged with them in service to others and myself….ways in which I’ve shown up as especially loving, or creative, or generous, the parts of myself I really, really like.
What I know from my own experience, and that of clients, is it can be tricky, sometimes, to call up one’s strengths and goodness if you’ve been beating yourself up. A quick resource like a VIA Character Strengths* list is an easy way to get back in touch with how you’ve shown up positively in the past. (I keep this list in my journal, for times like this when need to remind myself of who I am capable of being when I am at my best.)
4. Reflect on the negative traits which caused the upset.
Once I had a clear sense again of who I am capable of being when I am at my best, I knew I could more easily admit to who I am when I mess up. I then spent a few minutes journaling about three negative traits which recently created a kerfuffle with another person.
5. Explore the gifts of each positive and negative trait.
I then spent a few minutes on each trait (6 in all) reflecting on what special gift each trait brings by being part of me: focusing first on the positive ones, then the negative ones. I set my intention and attention to the lessons I was learning by their being a part of me, knowing each one has some wisdom or learning to offer.
6. Listen for the wisdom of your Wise-Best Self.
Finally, I asked my wiser self what gifts and lessons these parts of me had to offer myself – listening carefully for the answers.
In this way, I chose to see myself as more than the sum of my mistakes; to remember my beauty; to celebrate my wholeness; to repair my innocence; and to remind me of my goodness and purpose.
In the spirit of loving-kindness and compassion and self-care, I hope you too can not be fooled by mistakes you’ve made; that you will be able to hold and love both the light and dark sides of yourself and that you are able to remember your beauty and be witness to and celebrate your wholeness, restore your innocence, and reconnect with the values and purpose inherent in your wise-best self.
I’d love to hear what you discover about yourself as you engage in your own self-care and compassion.