This blog series on Work-Life Harmony is for us: overworked, overextended, tired, hard-on-ourselves individuals who are dreaming of harmony and peace, but seem stuck in a gerbil wheel of life… you know, pretty much everyone of working age.
Let me start by asking: how are you treating yourself these days? Are you compassionate to yourself, recognizing that you are doing your best? Or, are you beating yourself up, pushing harder and harder to get ahead? (Hint, if the latter one worked, you’d nail it by now.)
We are used to giving compassion to others and being there for our friends and family (can I get an ‘amen’?), but for most of us giving compassion to ourselves is foreign and unnatural. For the hard workers or perfectionists among us ‘self-compassion’ may even feel like slacking or giving up. It’s not.
Self-Compassion has three stages: First, we acknowledge when we are suffering. Because we often don’t recognize our suffering, we instead criticize and judge ourselves for not being able to do more or be more.
To acknowledge our suffering is to open the door to possibilities. Click to tweet this.
I once had a client complain of terrible reoccurring migraines and having to miss work and stay home in bed for two days. The migraines were at the tail end of prolonged episodes of stress and overwhelm and were her body’s way of demanding rest. The tool of awareness allowed her to catch early signs of distress and intervene before the migraine emerged.
Second, we offer kindness to ourselves. Again, instead of judging and criticizing we offer ourselves understanding, kindness and compassion. We give ourselves permission to be overwhelmed or anxious. We offer kindness to ourselves by recognizing we are taking on more than we have to.
When my client would recover from the migraines she would look at what was going on in her life beforehand. She recognized she felt defeated at work by a boss who wouldn’t promote her. She wouldn’t talk about it with her husband so she was keeping it inside …adding frustration to other life stressors. And she would be irritated with herself for not holding it together better. She lacked the kindness towards herself that she would offer her friends and family during times of distress.
And lastly, we recognize that it is ok to have these moments of distress or suffering or even failure, since it is part of the human experience. Instead of beating ourselves up or pushing ourselves harder, we look at how we can comfort ourselves, meet some of our own needs, and ultimately . . . feel better. This is an extremely important way we can honor ourselves.
Instead of waiting for the headache to emerge my client learned to acknowledge her distress and go to bed early, leave work 30 minutes earlier to get a good dinner, share with her husband her distress, meet a friend for fun, or have some down time on the weekend.
Tip: your inner critic/punisher might resist this step—do it anyway! The world won’t collapse if you take a little time for yourself. In fact, everyone will be better off for it!
Did you know that MMFT is launching a Self-Compassion and Self-Esteem Support Group? Find out more here.
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