For the second week of the Kindness Challenge put on by Niki at “The Richness of a Simple Life”, the focus was on Self-Compassion.
This topic has been sitting with me ever since it was announced for the challenge and Niki’s questions to contemplate added an extra layer into the mix.
It wasn’t so much that the questions brought that much new to the picture, it was more about allowing myself to acknowledge the hurdles that have always been in the way of living self-compassionate. Funny enough, I have always tried to pretend that there weren’t any hurdles and that it would just be a straight run for the finish line. But I decided to take the glasses off that were distorting reality and instead become curious about the hurdles that are lining the path. I wanted to inspect them to figure out which techniques I have to utilize to master overcoming them.
The hurdle that has been taunting me the most lately, was put in place long time ago. It was mostly modeled by my mother, when I was growing up. Although she never put it in exactly those terms, the message my brothers and I constantly received was that asking anyone for help was a sign of weakness. Asking for help sends everyone around you the message that you have given up and are not able to take care of your own matters anymore. It has had its positive side in that it has made me a hard worker who can get things accomplished very independently. But it has also made it very hard for others to support me, when I struggle, because it would be the greatest weakness of all. So in my family we learned to hide the emotions around struggle and always look poised to portray to the outside world that we can handle it.
I have lived this way so vigorously that I did not realize how much accepting help from others is not just helping you, but is also a way for others to feel connected to you. By always seeming like I don’t need their help to live my life, I have inadvertently made connections one-sided, which can drive people away. This blew completely up in my face, when I got divorced. Suddenly, I really needed others emotional support. But because I had never asked for it and always handled everything flawlessly on my own, everyone automatically assumed that I was fine and didn’t need them.
Suddenly, I was faced with two things I did not know how to handle: (1) Not knowing how I would be able to get through this on my own (2) Not feeling like I could ask for help.
Needless to say, I was not modeling a life of self-compassion. It has been a process to turn this childhood message around and allowing myself to fall apart once in a while, have others see it, and ask for help. I am taking it step by step. I am becoming more of a master in the first two, but I am still very much working on the “asking for help” part. Interestingly enough, just sharing bits and pieces of my struggles with co-workers and friends has brought on some random acts of kindness that I have allowed myself to accept with joy, rather than a feeling of failure.
As my wonderful regular blog commenter, Michael, put it the other day, I have come a long way since my first post and I am very proud of it. I plan on continuing this path of self-compassion and sharing it with others.
My increased self-compassion and commitment to live more authentically is also allowing others an opportunity to be a giving and kind person, which in turn makes them feel good as well.
I am learning the most important lesson of them all: Magic can only happen, if we allow it into our lives and are ready to receive it.