Are you enough as you are? Such a simple question yet many of us find it hard to answer. But if we were honest with ourselves and more compassionate with ourselves, I think we’d be able to answer this question without hesitation
Why is it so hard to answer?
Because it’s loaded with all sorts of baggage!
I’ve recently started an MSc in Coaching & Behavioural Change. I’ve been planning on doing it for nearly 5 years but the timing hadn’t been quite right. Then the various paths I found myself on collided and here I am! Every time I do some serious learning I always think “never again”, because when I’m in it I find it stressful. It’s not because I don’t enjoy the learning, it’s because I always take on too much at the same time and, more importantly, I put too much pressure on myself to get it right, as I’m never quite sure I’m enough! Anyway, time passes, I find myself searching for my next challenge and another opportunity to learn, and so the cycle continues.
I’ve been thinking about this unhelpful pattern of behaviour and how I can learn to just enjoy the experience. After all, I chose to do it and I’d probably choose to do it again, even though it’s painful. I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to manage myself and my expectations differently. To find more self-compassion. A value of excellence, some might argue border-line perfectionism, drives me to achieve and give my absolute best, yet it also seems to erode my ability to self-manage and be more compassionate towards myself. I’m so good at being compassionate with others, it’s actually one of my best strengths, but I can’t bring myself to do the same in reverse. Funny that!
From ‘The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse’ by Charlie Mackesy
What is compassion?
Paul Gilbert, the psychologist and founder of compassion focused therapy talks about compassion as being:
“a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it”.
It’s not the same as empathy or sympathy or love or kindness or pity. It’s actually about having courage and wisdom. Think about the wisest person you know, not the brightest or the cleverest or the most materially successful, but the wisest person you know… Wise Owl wise! What is it that makes them wise? I think wise people tend to make good decisions about living.
Compassion based coaching
In the world of compassionate mind coaching we are looking to help our clients find ways to make good decisions about living, which often revolves around the balance of 3 vital systems, the threat system, the drive system and the rest & digest system. Animals have got this down to a fine art, but for human beings modern living over stimulates our threat and drive systems. When our threat system is activated, perhaps by an unexpected board presentation at work, we’re constantly wondering whether to run and hide or stand and fight, living with fear or stress or anxiety or anger. When our drive system is activated, perhaps by the possibility of promotion, we’re constantly striving for more, feeling driven, excited, and energised or frustrated, bored and disappointed by the lack of progress. It is here we can get stuck, swinging backwards and forwards between the 2, giving little thought to how best to activate the third, and arguably most important, rest and digest system.
Why is rest and digest so important?
The rest and digest system is essential for recovery and repair. It prepares us so we are ready to be at our best when our threat or drive systems are activated once more. It enables us to relax, feel calm, safe, peaceful, and content. It helps us to feel connected to ourselves and the world around us. Cultivating compassion is a way of activating the rest and digest system.
Self-compassion is associated with:
- better psychological health and wellbeing,
- improved resilience and an ability to cope with adversity,
- healthy behaviours,
- and improved relationships.
Compassion at work is associated with@
- employee engagement
- attracting and retaining staff
- health and wellbeing
- organisational commitment
- positive organisational cultures and reputations
How do you cultivate self-compassion?
Cultivating self-compassion can take some conscious effort, especially if you’ve been spending way too long living off adrenaline and cortisol! Start by:
- Being your own best friend – ie someone who really cares about you
- Talking to yourself with a smile – it’s much harder to be mad with a smile on your face
- Changing the tone of your voice – just as you would with a small child
You might also find it helpful to be-friend your inner child and this blog might help with that, alternatively take some advice from the wise mole in Charlie Mackesy’s brilliant book “The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse”: Relevant to all ages!!
If you’re interested in finding a little more self-compassion or recognise some of the patterns of being constantly switched on, please get in touch. I can’t promise to be wise, but I can promise to listen and help you work out the best way forward.