When #1 on the To-do List Becomes Self-Compassion
This past week, I began writing a blog speaking to how some of the current humanitarian crises, such as the war in Ukraine and the conflict in Yemen, affect even those of us living far away from these complex situations. I was only a couple of hundred words into it but I thought it had great potential. I was planning to finish it today but, unexpectedly, my dog was hurt and had to have emergency surgery. My whole day's “to-do list” was turned upside down. I didn’t accomplish any of the things I’d hoped to. For example, I wasn’t able to visit the two Intensive programs that were starting today. And I wasn’t able to provide a new employee the training that I had promised. And I missed a couple of meetings.
Taking a step back, the thing you should know about me is this: I don’t like to “fail” or “come up short.” I never want to put out something that I see as “not good enough.” I feel a strong responsibility to come through on the things I’ve promised others. And when this doesn’t happen, it’s difficult for me. Even when it’s due to circumstances outside of my control.
So, today I’m not going to be able to pull together all the complex thoughts I was having about humanitarian crises and internal journeys related to that. My mind is too scattered. I’m too worried about my pup to “succeed” at all the things I “should” be doing today.
Today I’m practicing self-compassion.
Instead of going to the place I typically go when I don’t meet my own expectations, I’m choosing to comfort myself for not being able to do it all. Because none of us can be everything for everyone all the time. I’m acknowledging that I feel guilty and helpless for letting my co-workers down, all while reminding myself that I’m human and being a human is great. We all let others down at times; it’s okay if it happens on occasion. I’m reminding myself that co-workers are there to help along the way and it’s okay that I need them right now. I’m even being mindful of the fact that I feel guilty for feeling guilty about work when I should be focused on how my little dog is doing. And that is okay, because everyone struggles with conflicting thoughts and emotions at times.
I’m normal and this is what it is to be human.
How often could we be reminding ourselves of that little statement? How often could we be treating ourselves with the same love and compassion that we would a friend? I know this is a struggle for me and, if you’ve made it this far reading, perhaps for you. I rationally know that the peace I give myself by turning toward and acknowledging my suffering can be so beneficial. But sometimes it’s so engrained in me to treat myself harshly that I am not even aware that I’m doing so. The stability that comes with letting go of the idea that we “should” feel a particular way and, instead, embracing how we actually feel as a part of our own process is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. It’s permission to fail and grow.
For me, today, I’m growing. I’m growing by asking for help. That’s not something I do well normally. I’m growing by putting my home-life and family first. Because my partner deserves to feel emotionally and logistically supported as we care for our injured dog. I’m growing by being mindful of my imperfections. My flaws are valuable and give others around me permission to also be who they are--namely, human. Because being human is a very beautiful experience and we shouldn’t short ourselves the opportunity to fully experience this journey.
Note: Sara’s dog will walk away with some stiches and scars. And maybe some anger about wearing the cone of shame. But his spirit is still strong as ever.