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7 Oct 2016

Community through vulnerability

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect” – Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Have you ever been surprised at hearing what someone that you thought had the perfect life was going through?

How often do we actually really see each other, versus just seeing our projection of the other person? Seeing each other is a privilege and reduces our sense of isolation, and the sense of ‘me’ being different. At the same time it opens my heart to you.

Today I was part of a self-esteem event where the woman speaking before me shared her story of early child sexual abuse. It was brave, moving and raw, all hearts in the room bled with her. Her sharing created an immediate sense of shared humanity.

As part of our Mindful Leadership for Women programs we ask participants before commencing about what they think holds them back and about the biggest challenges they face in their career?

The response is always themes around not feeling good enough, never living up to internal expectations of how I should be and concerns for what others think of me. Reading and sharing this always becomes an essential part of the learning. First is the relief at realising that I am not the only one feeling like this, followed by surprise at this being part of the inside worlds of others that I see as being so successful, beautiful and capable. Experiencing the shared humanity creates instant community and care for each other.

Brené Brown says: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”  Perhaps it also the birthplace of community, of caring or bringing the heart online in the relationship?

This shared humanity is full of compassion that then opens the door potentially to self-compassion.

According the Dr Kristin Neff, self-compassion activates our brain’s care-giving and self-awareness systems enhancing our motivation, performance and resilience. Whereas when we judge ourselves, our brains engage the state of self-inhibition and self-punishment. This again causes a disengagement from our goals and others.

With empathy and love in my heart I no longer judge, but I hold you, warts and all. This is what happens when I hear of your pain, it gives direct access to love, bypassing judgment, projections and comparing.

When we don’t share but deal in facades and projections, we often walk around feeling not good enough, by comparing and mentally competing and second guessing ourselves.

This is not about victimhood. This is about being real, that being human is wonderful , confusing, joyful, sad, delightful and at times painful beyond the telling. So next time when you feel ‘not good enough’ follow Kristin Neff’s structure for self compassion:

• Common humanity vs isolation – remind yourself that this is a human condition and then consider all the suffering that is experienced in the world. See your suffering as part of this human condition.

• Mindfulness vs over identification – be curious about what body sensation gave rise to this thought. Know all thoughts as just temporary hypotheses with a texture that is born out of the body state. See the thought as ‘interesting’ but not a truth, a temporary visitor.

• Self-kindness vs self-judgment – Feel empathy for the part of you that has been put down by the self-judgment, feel for the vulnerable abused part. Feel kindness for the eagerness of the ‘protector’ alerting you to not being good enough for the sake of ensuring that you don’t risk rejection and exclusion. The ‘not good enough’ voice is in the service of your survival.

Beautiful quotes on Compassion:

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”

Thomas Merton

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

The Dalai Lama

“Within all beings there is a seed of perfection. However, compassion is required in order to activate that seed which is inherent in our hearts and minds”

The Dalai Lama

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