Self-awareness is the foundation for self-compassion. This is what has softened my heart, but compassion has also helped me become more resilient. I know that these seem like opposites, so let me explain.
My heart had been hardened by trauma. Trauma from Cancer. Trauma from rolling my car and landing on my roof 20 years ago. Trauma from rejection. Trauma from my father dying.
You've had trauma in your life, whether it was from a difficult family member or a life or death situation. This trauma can make or break you. You can use these experiences to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, or you can ignore these experiences, push down the feelings, and keep living your current life.
You know that digging into my past stories have helped me unlock frustration and access new doorways so I could be more honest with myself. Fear has held me back for many years and only in the past few years have I been able to lean into my strengths and navigate around my weaknesses.
You are a human being. You are wired for the desire to keep growing. It’s how we have survived as a species. If you stop growing, you stop living. You stop caring about others and yourself, which doesn’t leave room for much compassion, but when you care for yourself and others then compassion is so much easier.
You need to practice self-compassion in order to be able to let go of your pain. People often hold on to their painful stories because they are a part of their identity. How would you make decisions without these stories? I don’t advocate forgetting these stories. I advocate rewriting how you view them.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl
When my father was passing my first thought was, “Why me?” Really that was my first thought. Not about my dad’s struggles. It was all about me. I don’t like to admit this, but it’s true.
When I stopped repeating this “Why me?” story to myself and started getting curious about my emotions, that’s when I was able to dig deep to understand myself a little better. I dug into these uncomfortable emotions and found that I was afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn't have one of my best friends in my life. I was afraid of my own mortality. I was afraid that I was going to end up like my father who became grumpy in his older age. I opened myself and truly felt the feelings. I cried most mornings going into work, but I came out stronger. I used this experience to write a book to help other people. I used it to look at my faults as a father and break some of the bad habits that I learned from my father.
I finally began to forgive myself for all my mistakes. I forgave myself for flipping my car 1.5 times because my anger overwhelmed me during a night of drinking. I forgave myself for being angry at my older son too often because I learned these habits from my father and creating new habits is freaking hard.
I made changes that have made a huge impact in my life and have rippled out to my friends and family. I still have a long way to go, but I’m so much more joyful than I used to be and I continue to grow my joy as I bring more compassion to myself and the people in my life. I’ve been able to build this self-compassion with a positive reflection routine at the end of my day.
This positive reflection has helped me overcome my fear of who I am. This is huge! I’ve stopped being so hard on myself. I’m able to enjoy who I am. I enjoy my personality because I appreciate my strengths and weaknesses and I’m not afraid to talk about either of them.
Look at your weaknesses. Do you appreciate them? Do you see how they help balance out your strengths? This does take a lot of practice, but when you take the time to understand what you do well and how you can do more of this, then it becomes easier for you to deliver more value at work and at home. I’m not saying this is easy. This path of self-discovery is hard, but the alternative is living your life like you are now and continuing on the same path. I choose to make small changes by digging a little deeper every single day with structure. It’s this process that has helped me find new ways to appreciate myself and the life I live.
When you go to bed tonight, try writing down your strengths (difference between strengths and talents) and weaknesses. Make a long list. Maybe do this for several nights until you reach 50 things or 100. Then next to each one, write down why you are grateful for that strength or weakness. After all, each one makes you who you are. You can’t be perfect, so embrace the whole you and watch how it helps you grow. Loving yourself takes practice. The alternative is continuing to be mean to yourself. That's no way to live.
We have to deepen our ability to enjoy life and that means getting a little uncomfortable today, so you can peel away the armor and allow your authentic self to shine at work and at home.
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