I’ve been doing a lot of noodling on resilience lately. Perhaps because clients are increasingly in need of this topic or because I’m coming off of 8 weeks of travel programs and am teetering on burnout myself. Whichever way you slice it or dice it, resilience is the way of the world today. We are all doing too much, pushing too hard, being pulled in too many directions. We need resilience to bounce back and stay anchored along the journey.
What surprised me about a recent course I took was the definition of resilience they offered. In my mind, resilience is an active pursuit. I picture a warrior, a ship in turbulent seas that pushes through the night, an incessant ability to persevere no matter the circumstances. I ascribe passion and energy to the skill.
Their definition of resilience felt wimpy and soft – resilience as self-compassion. What the heck is self-compassion anyway – Positive psychology? Balance? Talking nicely to yourself? Breathing? The first exercise they had us do was to journal about what we want to leave behind or let go of. That was easy. Resentment, judgment, control… the pen just flowed with inspiration, I wrote an entire essay before they rang the bell. Then we had to journal about self-compassion and it was crickets in my brain. I was completely stuck. It felt too obvious and too obscure at the same time. I tried to soften my language, attempted to go deep, but all I could come up with was this:
Self-compassion is tricky for the striving mind that wants to do more and experience life to the fullest. Perhaps expectations are the opposite of self-compassion. After all, aren’t they resentments under construction? Maybe I need to let go of expectations of myself and others. Maybe self-compassion is letting go of disappointments.
My poor definition of self-compassion was littered with inversion – I couldn’t define self-compassion with kindness, only through the opposite and the explanation of what I didn’t want. This was a bummer and I felt sorry for myself and for my definition.
What I learned and what I want to share with you is that self-compassion is a complicated state, especially those of us who want to be more. Sometimes, we want to be more for the sake of more. And that’s a scary place. I can fill in the details for you another time if you’re interested, but the moral of the weekend course was: You’ll only go as far as your love will take you.
These words have been sitting with me since. What do we really love and appreciate about ourselves? Where can we soften to slow down and enjoy a bit of the journey while we climb? What are practices of self-compassion that we can infuse in the every-day. How does our mind cease its grasping nature so that we aren’t the victim of our thoughts?
More questions than answers, but what I do know for sure (thank you Oprah, for that life-changing prompt), is that as Thanksgiving approaches, some self-compassion (rather than compassion for everyone and everything else outside of ourselves), would be a good thing to add to the resilience mix.
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.Joseph Campbell
From Theory to Action
I would urge you to attempt the same journal exercise I experienced.
- What are you wanting to let go of and release?
- What is self-compassion for you?
See what wisdom arises. Notice any blocks. The trick is to not stop writing so your subconscious mind can take center stage and your rational brain can, well…, stop rationalizing your answers. Just let the pen flow and allow yourself to speak truth onto your page. Resilience may have a few more dimensions than we realize.