The thing about learning is that life always gives you the opportunity to repeat the same lesson, as often as required.
To insist that it really sinks in.
That’s what happened to me two days ago.
I had a minor car scrape with a vehicle much bigger than mine and a woman, much angrier than I had anticipated.
I don’t do angry very well. Never have.
I am happy for you to sob and snot all over my favourite shirt but show me anger and I tend to morph into a troubled 10 year old with a lowered gaze and a trembling whisper.
That’s where I stood. Terrified. Exposed.
Because I had made a mistake.
This was my fault.
I try so hard not to make mistakes.
I have become adept at letting things go, taking risks despite the chance of failure, and employing crafty short-cuts – all things that lead me to believe, I was winning the battle with my perfectionistic nemesis.
But this ‘big’, public mistake was the perfect moment for my inner mean girl to make a fresh debut.
There she was, belting out my inadequacies in a manner more suited to a party with tequila and a newly separated Johnny Depp.
When I returned home crying, my husband offered me a glass of Pinot Grigio and my 6-year old proffered a reframe –
It’s ok mamma. You’re just having a bad day. Think happy thoughts, remember I love you and tomorrow you will feel so much better!
As I began to spiral into a self-absorbed pity party with my ego insisting that I was the better person for remaining calm at the scene of my crime, I decided it was time to practice some much needed self-compassion.
At that precise moment, I also thought it particularly spectacular that I was pretty much exemplifying what self-compassion is NOT.
Self-compassion does not involve over-emphasizing and dramatizing negative thoughts to the extent that you are consumed by your own pain and incapable of observing the situation with clarity.
Self-compassion acknowledges the fact that we all fallible, imperfect, human beings, but not to the point where you are ruminating on your personal failures with an intensity that defies all logic.
Self-compassion is not an opportunity for ego magnification, where you ignore the fact that foibles make you just like everybody else on the planet, and instead, feel cut off from your common humanity.
Needless to say, I eventually managed to talk myself down with a little self-kindness and some much appreciated compassion from my family and friends.
An extra lengthy session at the gym was just the ticket for releasing the accumulated tension, and providing a break-state in my less than helpful ruminations,
My relationship to self, has been faithfully restored and rekindled – for now….
I have a feeling that even after years of practice, this self-love and compassion gig is going to be a long deliberate ass-hauling exercise, with peaks and valleys yet to be travailed.