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Archive for the ‘Self-Compassion’ Category

This is a dangerous thing, or at least that what my husband believes. It seems that whenever I tell him “I’ve been thinking” it implicates him as well. This is not always true and as you can imagine, some of my plans cannot be executed solo.

It has been awhile since I have written. Recovery from my knee surgery has occupied the lion’s share of the last few weeks, as well as planning a staycation when are plans to travel to Portugal were circumvented by a medical incident. I shared this in a Facebook posting as follows:

Making Lemonade:

Four weeks ago today I landed in the ER with “atrial fibrillation” (rapid, irregular heartbeat). Unexpected, surprising as this was a first and very scared. As the cause was unknown and is yet to be determined (although I have my suspicions) we were advised to cancel our trip to Portugal scheduled for Feb. 25th. The disappointment was huge, tears were shed. We had both been looking forward to escaping winter and shedding the cabin fever that had accumulated.

After a couple of days of living in this space, we both decided that this lemon needed to be turned into lemonade. I signed up at NAV Fit and began swimming twice per week. Jim played hockey locally. We began walking short distances. We checked out events in Ottawa and Montreal and scheduled plays and other events. We went for a spa day. In other words, we set about enjoying our “staycation”.

Today marks our return date from Portugal, where it has been raining most of the time we were supposed to be there, and I am celebrating what has been an amazing four weeks’ vacation. Attitude is everything; that has been my most enduring lesson. I have lingered in bed a little longer in the mornings, meditating and being grateful for the day, I have read more books, I feel regenerated. And isn’t that the goal of any vacation.

When faced again with lemons, and I am sure there will be opportunities, I plan to feel what needs to be felt, move on and make some lemonade.

Turning around this unexpected situation required some planning, an attitude adjustment and a wee bit of thinking. There is much more to share however; here are a couple highlights.

Forgiveness
My staycation allowed me ample time for reflection and reading. One of the books I chose was Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto. After listening to Mark interviewed on CBC radio, I was completely attracted to the book and to exploring a topic which has long been important to me.

The book is a memoir dedicated to his grandparents Hugh MacLean and Mitsue Sakamoto, both of whom experienced incredible hardship during WW2, Hugh as a prisoner of war in a Japanese Camp and Mitsue as a Japanese Canadian expelled from her BC home to labor in Southern Alberta.

Can you imagine the first time these people met around a kitchen table when their respective children decided to wed? The book describes Mark’s grandparents’ journeys, and how these journeys formed him and led him to understand forgiveness.

I learned long ago that to forgive was to give yourself a gift, for those that you refuse to forgive have no idea that they have wronged you. Not forgiving others causes you pain, not the unforgiven. To forgive is to release oneself from the pain and the burden. I also learned that forgiving never implies agreement or condoning the actions of another. These two learnings have helped me time and time again.

“Forgiveness is moving on. It is a daily act that looks forward. Forgiveness smiles.”
Mark Sakamoto

 

Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
I have long-held the opinion that self-esteem and self-confidence are different. I believed that as despite thinking very little of myself for much of my life, this did not stop me from having the confidence to try things.

In her book Wire Your Brain for Confidence, Louise Jewell describes self-esteem as one’s global evaluation of self and one’s self-worth. By contrast, self-confidence is defined as the belief you can do things well or succeed, feeling the capacity to cope with things. You can have one without the other. Finally, she also describes self-efficacy which is essentially the courage to act.

It occurs to me that these days it is self-efficacy that I need the most. Yes, I have spent a life time in action, I have always had goals to be reached, I have always been willing to dive in and see what happens. This seems to have changed recently however, as I step away from the business that has kept me occupied for over 20 years. Frankly, I feel a bit lost. And while I know that the sense of being lost is very much part of the transition process, that neutral zone of discovery, I have to say it doesn’t feel that comfortable.

In looking further into self-efficacy and saving myself from falling into a self-judgmental hole, Jewell goes on to recommend several ways of retaining one’s sense of self-efficacy including setting goals, perseverance (which I also consider to be GRIT), and expecting positive outcomes. Of all of these perseverance rings most true for me, bringing me back to GRIT which is defined as Passion + Perseverance.

What I have been thinking is that it is time for me, perhaps all of us, to define our passion for this phase of our life, that thing that lights us up or which we want to influence in some way and then set about defining how this can happen. All of this requires esteem and belief in oneself, the confidence and courage to try what might be new things. It all feels a bit like starting over.

 

This is some of what I have been thinking about, finding my way through what some days feels like a maze and other days feel like a vast open field. Either way I have a couple of solid intentions for the journey forward:

  • A happy healthy body, resilient and strong
  • Work/projects/activities which both inspire and engage me and which contribute in someway to the betterment of our world.

Sounds simple….Maybe not….Jumping in anyway!

Until next time

Betty

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It is challenging not to notice the changes that aging creates, especially in our bodies. Having experienced the ravages of inflammatory arthritis over the last few years, and the physical limitations this has imposed, it would be and is easy to go down the road of ‘getting old sucks’.

Of course, the last few weeks have bee particularly challenging as I had my first Total Knee Replacement of January 5th. This is part of the reason I have been absent from blogging. For those of you who have experienced this surgery, you know that the first two weeks are brutal, there is no sugar coating required. Beyond the two-week mark, things get easier, or at least they did for me, and you are able to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I will be quite honest and admit that the journey has been tougher than even I imagined, especially knowing that I have the opportunity of doing it again with the other knee.

Okay, enough! What has the journey really been about? Moving forward, frankly. Giving myself the opportunity to have pain free knees that allow me to enjoy the walking that has always been so important to me and resuming a life style I want to live. Yes, getting old sucks and yes, there are things we can do about it.

Over the last 3 + weeks I have had ample opportunity for reflection, it seems to me that healing has been occurring at many different levels. While the physical limitations have left me somewhat housebound, I have been given the gift of reflection time. I have focused on what’s changing and shifting: work, where we live, what I really want, releasing and so much more. Too bad I needed surgery to create these conditions however it is important to note that with every change or even loss lies the possibility of opportunity.

I have also recognized how little compassion I offer myself. Actually, it was Jim who noticed as he watched me push through my exercises every day, endure the discomfort and become discouraged. “Why are you so hard on yourself”, he would ask. “You are progressing each day. Notice the improvements and have a little compassion for yourself.” Thank God, I have a cheerleader.

He was right. The moment I shifted gears and began to offer myself more love and compassion, the better I felt and the better my knee seemed. Now I am looking for the small signs of progress everyday like finally being able to put on my own sock, walk comfortably without a cane, get in and out of regular chairs, and more.

All this to say that we can agree that getting old sucks just as we can agree that when things change, we create new opportunities. What we focus on is the source of our energy and while it might be a tad more challenging to see the good in life with each passing year, our attitude is an essential ingredient in our long-term health. This time off has allowed me to dream, to explore possibilities, to consider options and most importantly to begin planning my retirement and what will engage my spirit. It really has been perfect after all!

Let’s all agree that staying positive is essential for each of us to thoroughly engage in and enjoy our Third Act.

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Compassion seems to be the theme running through my life and the lives of others these days. It could also be that I am noticing all the signs as I prepare for a retreat mid-October entitled ‘The Healing Power of Self-Compassion’.

So what have I been noticing?

First is Ed, a 65 + fellow who was participating in a program called Choices and where I was a guest facilitator. My topic was the importance of goals and intentions. While the class was diverse, participants of different age groups as well as reasons for being there, it was clear that Ed was struggling with his Third Act choices.

Although my interaction with him was as part of the group, what I saw was an amazing fellow who did not believe in himself, his worth or what he had to offer the world. At the end of the morning he expressed his desire to simply find his voice and identify opportunities for feeling some level of confidence in speaking.

What was really holding him back was his self-critic, literally roaring in his ear. As I have learned, this voice generally shouts: “You are not worth it” and/or “Who do you think you are”. And that is very damaging, especially when it isolates you and makes you feel like you are the only person who has this voice.

Next is Eileen who I met just last evening. A former nurse and nurse educator, you can see that this is a woman with great knowledge and a desire to share. Because she is also a survivor of coronary disease, she also has firsthand knowledge of  heart care for women. In other words, she is impressive.

In a conversation with her during a New Beginnings Workshop, she expressed her sense of being under-engaged, feeling a lack of purpose. The critical part of her was telling her that this was the time in her life for her to take care of her and that this was the most important focus. After all she had dedicated her life to caring for others. During our conversation I pointed out to her that this is not an either-or discussion. This is a trap I believe many of us fall into, that to focus on ‘ME FIRST” is a unilateral event however, by my definition ME FIRST is predicated on selfness – taking care of self so as to leverage one’s ability to care for others.

As our conversation continued, I suggested to Eileen that perhaps it was a ‘both-and’ conversation, that she could focus on self-care as well as continuing to offer her gifts to others. In doing so I encouraged her to dip into the past, her experiences and wisdom, harvest the gems and notice her passion, and attract opportunities for engaging these. As the discussion continued, I could see her simply ‘light-up’.

 

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
For both Ed and Eileen, it was evident their self-critics were having a field day. This is the absence of self-compassion. The stories they were telling themselves, the criticism they were levying upon their shoulders, were undermining their enjoyment of life. They would never have dreamed of criticizing others in this way and this is what happens. You are much harder on yourself than you would ever be on others.

This needs to stop. All of us need to step into a role of being our own best friend and ally, that person who sits in our corner and lifts us up and stops putting us down. Trust me, self-criticism will never lead to happiness, only self-compassion can do that.

 

The Three Steps to Self-Compassion

Based on the research of psychologists Kristen Neff and Brene Brown, there are three essential components in cultivating self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgment
    Self-kindness is simply easing up, being gentler and kinder in your comments to yourself. You can start by considering what you might say to someone else in a similar circumstance. What words of caring or encouragement would you offer a child, a spouse, a friend or a colleague facing a specific situation. Now offer those words to yourself. You are just as deserving, just as important, just as gifted. There is absolutely no need for you to put yourself down.
    Secondly, when facing a situation where you are tempted to come down hard on yourself, think before you leap. Ask yourself what you really need at that moment. Do you really need more criticism making the situation worse, or do you need some loving kindness. Consider the difference this might make for you in moving forward.
  2. Common Humanity vs Isolation
    As someone who has great mastery in self-criticism, I can tell you that for many years I thought I was the only one who thought this way, who could be genuinely mean to myself. You see, this is something we just don’t talk about. Sometimes I wonder if we should have a party and all come as our respective self-critics!
    When I began to discuss this with other about 20 years ago, I discovered very quickly that I was not alone, that most of us had a ‘Negative Nellie’ sitting on our shoulder who was willing to jump in at any point and reek emotional havoc.
    The second aspect of self-compassion is to recognize that you are not alone, that being imperfect is part of the human experience. We all have an inner-critic – it is best to simply accept him/her, shake hands with that devil and move on. It is helpful to share his/her words and messages with others. You may be surprised at other people’s stories about themselves.
    Also recognize that making mistakes, which is the self-critic’s fuel, is normal. And, not only is it normal, it is important for mistakes are where we learn and grow.
  3. Mindfulness vs Over-Identification
    So how do you start. My experience has been that much of the critical noise in my head is like elevator music. It is playing constantly and I am not mindfully aware of it. The first step in taming the critic is to become aware of what you are actually telling yourself, to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are showing up.
    Then you can exercise compassion and come back to kindness and ask yourself, “what would I rather think or feel? What other behaviors would be better for me?”

In other words, you begin learning to re-program the critic. You make compassionate choices which lift you up, which celebrate who you are, and which acknowledge your gifts.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, and it is important work.

A little compassion goes a long way and can help you have the most amazing Third Act journey. It no longer serves you to put yourself down, and it no longer serves anyone else either. It is time for you to live up to all the potential stored inside of you. This will be fueled by every ounce of compassion you can give yourself.

Take a look at this short video as well:

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