We All Need Compassion…From Ourselves

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I believe that a universal experience in life is that we are often extremely hard on ourselves.  We criticize ourselves for our failures and shortcomings, we devalue our strengths and contributions, and we tear at the fabric of our very being with anger and sometimes hatred.  We don’t always see this in others because this can be an internal experience, but I know that we sense it and feel it in ourselves.


When we tear at our core value as a human being we only end up with depression and frustration. It keeps us from believing in our future potential and leads to more negative thoughts and behavior.  Self-doubt causes a tremendous amount of stress as we want to have a different life but feel like it’s unattainable.


I see this dynamic so many times in my work as a career consultant. Through no fault of their own, many people are laid off of their jobs due to a downturn in their company or some type of corporate restructuring.  Talented people with incredible experience to offer will begin to doubt themselves and their ability to find another job. Some will blame themselves for not working harder or playing the office politics more effectively, but that wouldn’t have mattered.  These people are bystanders caught up in a new world of business that wants to hire and let people go on a moment’s notice.    But for many people, it’s hard to not separate themselves and their self-worth from their layoff.


I also see this in people who are trying to lose weight who have a failing in their plan. I’ve been there too.  This goal that we are trying to reach is so important to us, that when we make a mistake or fail to achieve our goals we take it hard and blame ourselves.  This blame goes beyond taking responsibility into the realm of self-criticism.  I know that at times in my life, it transferred into self-hatred.  There was a time when I was a kid I was so mad at myself for being fat that I took a wire hanger and whipped my legs until they were sore.  That only happened once, but the self-doubt and self-hatred cropped up now and then as I experience weight loss success and failure throughout my life.  If you’ve every struggled with your weight over your life, this may feel familiar.


The problem with this self-criticism is that if often leads to more self-destructive thinking and behavior.  In a previous podcast, I confessed that I am a stress eater and I know many of you listening are stress eaters too. The Catch 22 with this lack of compassion on ourselves is that the stress leads us back to food, and usually food that is not good for us.  We think these self-critical thoughts, get stressed, stress eat, get frustrated with ourselves, think more negative thoughts and the loop continues.


Why is it that we are so hard on ourselves?  What I find true is that some of us would never talk to other people the way we talk to ourselves and if they heard how we talk to ourselves they would be horrified.


When searching for a good definition of compassion I found this on Wikipedia:


“The Dalai Lama once said that compassion is a necessity, not a luxury, and that without it humanity cannot survive. Compassion is a process of connecting by identifying with another person.  This identification with others through compassion can lead to increased motivation to do something in an effort to relieve the suffering of others”.

It seems that it’s easier to have compassion on others, but how do we have a compassionate response to our own struggles and failures?


First.  We have to give up the idea of perfection.  As we move toward our goal of losing weight we cannot expect perfection. We will have ups and downs. Success and failure. What is important, though, is steady progress, not perfection.  Be kind to yourself and give up the notion of that this process will go exactly how you want.

2nd. We need to realize that we are only human and can’t do everything all at once.  Sometimes we fail in life because we are doing too much. When it comes to your health, the research shows that small changes made over time yield better results than major changes done quickly.  If you are struggling with your weight, be compassionate with yourself and give yourself plenty of time to make the changes you need.

3rd. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or failures, rather own your mistakes and forgive yourself. Then move on and start again.  In an earlier podcast I talked about how you are only one meal away from being back on track.  I have used that mental strategy hundreds of times over the years to keep my progress going. In the past, I would let my mistakes rule my thinking and I would give up.  Forgiving yourself isn’t always easy, but it’s important. It’s a way to have self-compassion.

4th. And most importantly,  believe that you are worthy of compassion. You have intrinsic value as a person, and regardless of your successes or failures, you deserve to be loved and respected. There is an organization called the Charter for Compassion and their creed explains much of what I want to say here:

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”


 One of Jesus most famous sayings is, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  If we increase our compassionate response to ourselves, we will have a larger capacity to have compassion on others. We will benefit, and those around us will benefit because we all need a little compassion now and then.

6 Questions to Ask When Making Hard Decisions

Credit: Flocutus

Photo: Flocutus

Do you have a hard decision to make?

Life is filled with circumstances where we need or are forced to make hard decisions.  The reason these decisions are difficult is that there is not always a clear way forward and we are filled with anxiety about making the wrong choice.

In my life and in the lives of many people I’ve coached, I’ve seen people struggle with decisions around:

  • Starting or ending a relationship
  • Leaving a job or staying
  • Committing time to an activity or saying no
  • Starting a plan to get healthy or doing nothing
  • Making a significant purchase or holding on to your money
  • Moving a family for a work opportunity
  • Planning to retire or keep working
  • Starting a business or working for someone else

Whatever the hard decision you need to make, I find the following questions helpful in making the best decisions we can.

1. Is the option in alignment with my values?

One of the biggest stresses in life is when you act in ways that violate your deepest values. If we make choices that conflict with our values, then this is an indication that an option may not work for us.  Not all of our values have equal importance in life. I think it’s helpful to rank order your values so your decision falls within your highest priorities.

2. Is the decision about something where there is clearly a right or wrong?

Many decisions we struggle with have nothing to do with right or wrong, yet we have anxiety about making the wrong choice.  If you are buying a car and staying within your budget, does is ultimately matter if you buy a Toyota or a Ford?  If you are pursing a new job and have two offers, could both options be a good fit?  If there is no discernible right or wrong, what seems best to you? In these types of scenarios, you can’t make a bad decision so determine what may be the better option for now.

3. Do I have enough information to make the decision?

Sometimes we get paralyzed when making a decision because we don’t have all the details about the benefits or drawbacks of our options.  This requires that we take time to ask questions, do some research, or consult with experts.  Once you have the information you need, the path to making a better decision will be clearer.

4. Will I regret choosing or not choosing an option later in life?

Author Mark Twain has this great quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

When making a decision about how I am going to spend my time or resources this is a question I often ask. I find that if I believe I will regret a decision later in life, then I have the insight of what I need to do now. Sometimes playing it safe is the best option, but sometimes taking a calculated risk, trying something new, or starting a new venture will lead to less regrets.

5. Have I talked through my options with people I trust?

Don’t go it alone when making tough decisions.  We all need an outside perspective to gain clarity on next steps.  Engage with good friends, family members, and colleagues.  Read books written by authors you admire.  Talk with a leader in your business or industry.  Hire a coach. I believe it’s a good idea to have a good mix between people we consult with, some who have personal interest in our outcome and some who don’t.  This mix will give you different feedback.

6. Have I given this decision enough time or too much time?

There are decisions we can’t rush. The outcomes have significant meaning in our life and relationships. The decisions could affect others and so we need to take time gather information, ask ourselves the above questions, and consult with people we trust.

The are also times when we are delaying a decision we know we need to make.  This heightens anxiety and leads to frustration.  If we are taking too much time it may be a signal that we don’t feel capable to make a good decision or that either option we choose has difficult components.  In these situations I encourage setting a deadline for a choice to made, gathering any missing information, and talking with people you can trust and who will hold you accountable.

 

A  challenge in making hard decisions is that sometimes there is information or experiences you can never know unless you try. When people are going through divorces, leaving a job, or moving to new cities there is anxiety of the unknown.

Will I be OK?

Will I succeed?

Will I like it there?

Sometimes we will make a decision that we later regret and here is the good news.  I don’t think any experience in life is wasted as long as we learn and grow as individuals. We all make decisions given the information and context of our life at a given time, so let’s have so compassion on ourselves.

One of the best decisions you can make is to be your best self. Start there and use the above questions as a guide on your way.

 

 

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Drive By Wisdom: Ask For What You Need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard for us to get our needs met if we are not willing or brave enough to ask for what we need. In this episode of Drive By Wisdom, we’ll explore how asking for help can improve your life.  Click on the video below:

Drive By Wisdom: Letting Go of the Outcome

In this Episode of Drive By Wisdom we’ll look at how letting go of the outcome can help you achieve your goals with less stress and more engagement.

Play the short video below.

Do Our Failures Define Us or Inform Us?

Credit: Harman Abiwardani

Credit: Harman Abiwardani

Relationship failures. Business failures. Career failures. 

Been there and done that.

What about failures in parenting? Failed partnerships? Vocation or educational failures? There are too many failures to mention, but we all know we have failed somewhere in our lives.

The question I have for you (and for myself) is do your failures define you?  What I mean by that is do we allow our failures to set our identity?  “I’m a divorcee.”  “I’m a dropout”. “I’m unemployed”.

Setting our self-worth and identify by our failures is a limiting experience. It limits our ability to see our life in the broader context of all that we do well and all that has gone well. It narrows our view on who we are to external events and actions.

When we allow our failures to define us we go to dark places in our minds.  We relive the past over and over and focus on our mistakes.  Dark places lead to dark emotions and there is nothing helpful about depression and anxiety.

The inner critic in our minds blames us for being stupid,making bad choices, or for being naive. It focuses our minds on the mistakes, the blunders, and the omissions.  The inner critic is not our friend, so don’t treat it like one.

Instead of letting failure define us, what about letting it inform us?

Hidden in every failure is a clue to our next success. We need to let go of the failure, let go of the guilt and shame, and let go of the discouragement. We can instead embrace a learning that will make us stronger and wiser.

Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves when we have a failure, whether it be big or small:

  • Why did I fail?
  • What would I do differently if I could do it all over?
  • What was within my control? What was outside my control?
  • What is the key learning I can take from this so I don’t repeat it?
  • Who do I need to help me figure this out?
  • Was it worth it, even though I failed

I’ve used this strategy to help me understand one of my failures.  From 2006 to 2008 I was self-employed. I was an independent consultant and was working hard to build my consulting business. After two years I was breaking even, which is better than losing money, but still not successful. Then the  recession hit in 2008 and I decided to fold my business and find a full-time job.

Here’s what I learned from that failure:

  • I started my business too early in my career.
  • I didn’t have a big enough reputation for what I do
  • My network was too small
  • I was gaining momentum in late 2007 but the recession hit
  • While I liked being self-employed I missed having colleagues

If I were to start my own business in the future I would have a greater chance of success, because I have 10 more years of experience, a bigger reputation for what I do, and my network is huge compared to 2006. (No worries to my employer, I’m happy where I am at.)

Was that failure worth it?  I think so.  The reality is that the company that I  work for was attracted to me because of all the work I did in my own business. While I didn’t make enough money, I still built the skills and experiences that my current employer was looking for. In that sense, it was worth it.

When I was a kid I used to be afraid of failure, so I excluded myself from things that would have been beneficial to me. As I matured I gained more courage to try new things and engage with new people. Some things were successful and some failed, but all of these experiences contribute to who I am today.

I’m a huge believer that nothing in life is wasted.  From all experiences, both good and bad, there is something we can learn.

Learning from our failure is one of the ways we become our best selves.

 

Slow Down to the Speed of Life. Interview with Psychologist and Author Joe Bailey

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Feeling like life is moving too fast and you can’t keep up? Anxious and frustrated?

Then, Slow Down to the Speed of Life.

Slow Down to the Speed of Life is a phenomenal interview with psychologist and author Joe Bailey where we discover how to change our thinking in order to better handle the stress of life. Often we are looking for our circumstances to change in order for our lives to improve. They key to resilience to life adversity and overall mental health, is to change our thought process in order to change how we feel and respond.

Slow Down to the Speed of Life is one of the best books I’ve read and I plan to read it every year to remind myself how to slow down, live in the moment, and enjoy life to the fullest extent possible.

For more information about Joe Bailey, his books, and videos go to:  www.joebaileyandassociates.com