Self-compassion, otherwise known as being kind to yourself, is freaking hard.
Elmira and I battle with it all the time, trying to figure out why we don't extend the same forgiveness and understanding to ourselves as we do to each other. Just this morning my self-talk ran something like: WhyHaventYouWrittenYourBookProposalYetYouSuckYouAreFailing. I would never talk to a friend like that. What gives?
Last summer, Elmira leaned into her vulnerability and bravely sent the following note to some friends. We hope it helps you on your own journey toward cultivating self-compassion.
There are many of you I wanted to send this to - so I'm doing it as a blind copy mass email - mainly because I'm grappling with a lot of emotions, a lot which I'm not sure how to describe - because I'm not sure what those feelings are. They're just *feelings* - and, f*k, feelings are hard. Truth is, I'm embarrassed by them.
Now before you roll your eyes, I am totally fine. I have had a great year: I published a book. I am running a great startup that empowers women. I teach at NYU. I get to work with amazing entrepreneurs around the world. I get to travel around the world and talk about the amazing entrepreneurs I talk to. I get to write about entrepreneurs for various publications and talk about it on TV and the radio. I get to talk about foreign policy on TV and the radio. Most of all, I have an amazing family (most of the time - that's a separate subject #LOL) and the most amazing friends in the world - hands down, no one beats me in this category. In short, my cup runneth over. #blessed
Still, I'm human. As such, I'm vulnerable to the ups and downs that humans go through. Ups are great - I think we all know what to do with ups. Yay. Rah-rah. Sisboombah.
What about those downs?.....Downs are hard for anyone, myself included. Here's what happens to me when the downs come: I freeze; I'm gripped with fear; I become paralyzed.
What happens then? I do look at my list of "goods" - the positives in my life - all the things I listed above. I sit myself down and listen to Calm - a meditation app that I highly recommend - so that I can re-center myself. I breathe. I work out. I reach out to friends. I go out, for a walk, a run, whatever. I just go.
This helps. But what it doesn't do is prevent me from: 1) obsessing about my down - or whatever it is that has gotten me down and 2) (this is the worst one) beating myself up; I become self-judgey.
I'm tough. I'm independent. Those are things I'm super proud of. But tough and independent are also confusing. Especially the tough, it drives me to be tough on me. This is what I'm writing you about.
I've been working on grappling with the downs - and a whole lotta issues that I've been avoiding for years - decades even. As I have, it has been pointed out to me that I struggle with self-compassion.
What's the problem with that? Lots of things. You would think, at least I thought for a long time, that being hard on myself would push me to work harder, do better, and move toward the "up." It doesn't. The harder I am on myself, the more I pull myself down and turn the down into a cycle that overwhelms me. I retreat. I isolate myself.
When I retreat and isolate myself I have trouble connecting. There are a lot of reasons for this, which I will not get into here; in short - when I can't connect, I can't get up from the down.
Err....so, what's your point, Elmira?
My point is, I started to learn about empathy and self-compassion. Whoa. EYE OPENING. This is what I want to share with you.
There is a lot on empathy that I'm reading and studying - understanding how empathy is different from sympathy; how empathy doesn't necessarily equal "I need to fix your problem." Empathy is showing up, being there for someone, and letting that someone know that he/she is not alone. Here is a great video on empathy.
What I learned about empathy is that it's not easy. It's more than just listening and lending a shoulder. It requires the ability to get beyond one's self and connect to another person, in a way that moves both of you forward. There is a lot more insight I can share on this if you'd like.
In short, I'm working on empathy. One of the ways to work on it, is to measure your own level of self-compassion. You can't show up and show compassion for another person if you're not able to show up and show compassion for yourself. Here is a great site, with meditations and videos on self-compassion. Take the test to measure your level of self-compassion. (I came out very low on the isolation bit... #gah).
I wanted to share this because it has really switched on a new light inside me; it has started to help me shift how I think about the downs; about whatever problem I'm facing. And the truth is - in this life we will all face one problem or another.
The key is not to beat ourselves up or become self-judgey; it's to talk to ourselves as we would talk to a friend, a sister, a loved one. It is to exercise the same compassion we would for another person. For when we do, we reinforce the ability to connect to one another and the world. God knows I want nothing more in this world but to connect to each of you and this great world we live in. It is through connection that we move forward.
Take out a sheet of paper and answer the following questions:
First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.
Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself.
Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?
Please write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.
Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?
For the past few years, FPI has been mentoring and training some of the world’s brightest and most accomplished women to interrupt the conversations we have about that world.
But I (co-founder Lauren Bohn, a recovering perfectionist) soon realized that before we could do that, we'd first need to interrupt the conversations we tell ourselves.
We’ve heard it time and time again. We've received countless emails from high-profile, hugely successful and talented women (and men): social media’s endless torrent of mediated, filtered moments of triumph and “success,” regularly throws them down spirals of self-doubt. Highlight reels have distorted our self-worth. We too often compare our insides to other people’s manufactured outsides.
Before we can meaningful contribute to society and live out our purpose, we must reclaim our self-worth. In short, we need to start getting real.
In that spirit, we want The Fail Feed to be a much-needed unfiltered space to share and feast in our vulnerabilities and failures. Rejection letters, fuck-ups, panic attacks, fears, tears -- let’s talk about them, let's share them. They’re not the opposites of success. They’re crucial parts of success.
Most of all, we want FF to be in service of you -- your work and your dreams. Tell us what you're lacking in today's 24/7 content frenzy. Tell us want you want to see and hear. Tell us what you want to learn. We're not sure exactly what FF will become, but we're leaning into our vulnerability and getting the conversation started. Join us.