Archives for category: Gremlins

Self-compassion is one of the most important modules in The Daring Way™ intensives that I run, and also a theme that comes up time and time again in my coaching with female leaders.  Why is it that we sometimes speak to ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t dream of speaking to our friends, (let alone our enemies)?

At its simplest, self-compassion is about treating yourself in a way that you would treat a close friend. What do you do when a close friend is struggling?  You give them a hug maybe, let them know that you’re there for them, you might buy them a gift or show them some empathy.

Too often, with ourselves, we interrogate our thoughts looking for fault and blame.  We beat ourselves up for our failures and the “should” voices have a field day; ‘You should have tried harder’. ‘You shouldn’t have believed in that’. ‘You shouldn’t have trusted that person’.  I also have a tendency to isolate myself and shut myself off from the rest of the world.

Kirsten Neff is a professor at the University of Texas in Austin who has made self-compassion her career’s work.  I recently had the good fortune of attending an advanced workshop in Texas which she led.  I have to say, the work we did together blew my mind.

Often in my courses we discuss Kristen Neff and her work.  Up until now the response has been fairly ambiguous. Yes, everyone agrees that we beat ourselves up and speak to ourselves in terrible, terrible ways.  Yet everyone feels a little bit resigned to it, that it’s an impossible habit to break.  There is a limiting belief that to embrace self-compassion is to be a bit fluffy and ‘woo woo’.  To be frank, it feels a little flakey to be consciously saying ‘Oh you poor thing that must be really tough’ to ourselves, rather than ‘come on Rox snap the fuck out of it!’.  The other push back is that our own internal critic has been the driving force behind the success in our lives.

Kristen blew all of this out of the water.

Firstly, she came along with the science.  The physiological underpinnings of self-criticism is your body feeling threatened – which will produce cortisol and adrenalin.  You don’t need me to tell you quite how damaging these are in large quantities for our bodies.  The physiological response is trying to attack the problem but in actual fact these stress hormones are attacking ourselves because we make ourselves the problem.

In contrast, the physiological underpinnings of self-compassion are in the mammalian care giving system.  Physical warmth (giving a hug), gentle touch and soothing vocalisations all produce oxytocin and opiates in our system. Also when you are compassionate the reward centres of the brain light up.  Self-compassion literally gives our body the resources to be able to hold our own pain.

When we think about our success being driven by our own self-criticism and harshness, you cannot help but wonder at the cost of what.  Sure, we may be driving our external success via promotions, pay increases and getting that mortgage.  But what is the cost of that on our physical and mental health? And is it truly sustainable?  We know that women seem to be more sensitive to the stress hormone cortisol than men (as detailed in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive).  Surely it’s time for us all to start taking this a bit more seriously.

self-compassion

Take a self-compassion break (courtesy of Kristen Neff).
Every bone in my body resists putting this simple breathing exercise in the newsletter and also resists doing the breathing exercise.  Breathing and mindfulness are a continual struggle for me – and yet the science is showing me it isn’t fluffy, new age shit at all.  This is what we need to start to heal.

Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out.  On the out breath, breathe out compassion for other people.  On the in breath, breathe in compassion for yourself.  Keep doing this for two minutes thinking about different and specific people to breathe out compassion to, and then extend the same loving kindness to yourself.

Kirsten’s website http://www.self-compassion.org is also a wonderful resource for learning more about self-compassion.

Love Rox

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I’ve been hiding in my cave for a couple of weeks. My newsletter hasn’t gone out, I have had to postpone clients and I think I’ve had worse sleep than when my children were 6 weeks old. Returning from holiday to a perfect storm of croup, chicken pox and a tube strike really has created havoc in my family and work life.

Throughout, I’ve had the sense at the back of my mind that this stuff matters. That I needed to write about it. And I’ve procrastinated – partly because of the mind-bending exhaustion. But also because I don’t have any answers for you; I can’t suggest how to sail through this stuff. I don’t want to silver line it for you.

And so I share here some of the misery, exhaustion and feelings of hopelessness – not to seek attention or sympathy – but to reassure you that you are not the only one struggling. This shit isn’t what we share on social media, or even necessarily tell our closest friends. But this shit is sometimes our truth, and our truth always matters.

Sure I tell those closest to me about the horrors of A&E in Ashford on a Friday night, what a pain in the ass it is to lose money from cancelling clients and the frustration of being housebound for five days. I don’t volunteer the information that sometimes I wonder what on earth I’m doing trying to run a business when I’ve got a two and a three year old. That I constantly worry that I’m not a good enough Mother / Wife / Business owner and friend. That there is a ‘who are you to think you can do all of this?’ gremlin’s voice resounding in my head.

Sometimes two weeks will pass in a heavy

One area of my life is always being neglected and typically my children and my business get more of me than my husband and my friends. And during a period of “crisis”, it was just the kids, quite frankly, that were getting anything. And I’m not sure they were getting anything too meaningful out of me. (Notice how I’ve forgotten to include myself in the balance equation too – spending time on myself is, as I’m sure most mothers identify with, right at the bottom of the list when things get tough.)

And you know what, that’s fine isn’t it? Well, not exactly fine, but acceptable. Ok, maybe. I’m reminded of an article about the pressures of having it all. It summarised, in one of my favourite pieces of journalism of late; ‘’ALL’ IS A WHOLE FUCKING HELL OF A LOT’.

And it is. We’re all trying to fit in a hell of a lot of stuff. And I’m so grateful for the varied life that I’m able to lead. Yet it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed, tired and guilty. For all of the positive, constructive messaging that the media – and myself – sends out about how to make it work, please know that sometimes it feels bloody difficult for everyone. Sometimes you are going to feel absolutely, on your knees, can’t string a sentence together, exhausted. Sometimes you will wonder if it is worth the effort. Sometimes two weeks will pass in a heavy eyed, slightly numb, out of your own body trance and you’ll look back and wonder what on earth happened. Sometimes there’s not enough wine in the world.

Please know that you are not the only one who sometimes feels like this. You can have it all – ‘It’s exhausting and it’s a balancing act and it’s way too much for anyone to handle, ever. That’s also what’s so gratifying about it’.*

(Heather Havrilesky in NY magazine; http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/04/ask-polly-do-i-have-a-baby-or-have-a-career.html?mid=twitter_nymag)