Dammit! Why can’t I just get it together??
And so began what might historically have been a prime platform for Brutal Bart, my vicious inner critic, to launch into a cutting tirade.
But this time it didn’t happen. Instead, I took a deep breath and dived into self-compassion.
It was pretty insignificant in the greater scope of things. I got the night wrong for a planning meeting for a workshop I’m co-facilitating and missed it. When I got a message from one of the others asking if something had come up, I started going into a knee-jerk self-flagellation mode.
I’m blessed to be gifted at a lot of things. Organization, unfortunately, is not one of them. As a result I have wasted a lot of time, missed a lot of opportunities, and just flat out screwed up.
So Brutal Bart wasn’t just gathering steam to take me to task for missing the meeting. He was gathering every single time my lack of organization has had a negative impact, getting ready to make his displeasure go supernova.
At least that’s what I assume he was doing. That’s what he usually tries to do.
But this time I headed him off at the pass. I was…<gasp!>…compassionate with myself.
Exercising my Self-Compassion muscles
It’s all part of my diabolical plan to dive deep into self-compassion this year with the Self-Compassion Project. Part of that project is reading and writing about the topic, but an even bigger part is using what happens in my life as an opportunity to exercise my self-compassion muscles so I get more adept at it and it comes more naturally.
Here’s a run-down of what I did.
I got objective.
This was the perfect opportunity to put what I’ve been exploring into action. To start with, I took a step back and looked at it objectively. What had happened, without any story overlay? I hadn’t shown up and the meeting had carried on without me. Nobody died.
Possibly my absence had made me look bad, but even that could be put in perspective. It wasn’t like I was caught on video kicking puppies. I had screwed up my calendar, which I could pretty well guarantee that every other person there had done at one point or another.
So that perspective defused my story about the whole thing. It helped me experience it as, while certainly less than preferable, not that big a deal. Certainly not worth pumping more and more cortisol into my system as I suffered the stress of self-criticism.
I got kind.
That objective picture gave me the space to aim a little kindness at myself. “Yeah, you screwed up. Yeah, your organization could use some work – maybe this is a good catalyst for exploring what you can do to improve that. And this isn’t your identity. This mistake isn’t who you are. You’re a good person, and you’ll make even more effort to make sure you pull your weight for the rest of this.”
I focused on my breathing. I played with some of the ways I’ve been learning about for bringing everything back down to earth and grounding.
I noticed, over and over.
From then until I went to bed, I noticed little surges where Brutal Bart was testing to see if maybe I wasn’t paying attention so he could get a toe-hold. When I did, I reminded myself of the objective picture. Paying attention kept Brutal Bart at bay.
What’s my point?
The point of all this isn’t to pat myself on the head and say, “Look what I did!” It’s to plant the seed for something each one of us can do, and that is to use the inevitable bumps along the way as learning lab experiments to learn, grow, and develop new skills.
As much as we want to avoid it, screwing up can actually be an opportunity to go to the self-compassion gym and train ourselves to respond in a more productive, self-loving way.
That certainly beats letting Brutal Bart run the show.
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