Somehow we instinctively get it with our children, our staff, our students and anyone else were trying to motivate. And yet when it comes to ourselves; the concept of how to truly motivate ourselves to live as we truly want to seems to allude us.
For years I somehow believed that by being extremely harsh on myself, by getting mad at myself for my failings, by entering into a battle of wills and willpower, I would be able to motivate the behavior change I sought, (namely weight loss).
This belief certainly wasn’t based on logic. Has this ever worked for any of us in a real and sustained way in the realm of a parenting, supervising or teaching? Have we been able to garner true compliance through criticism, condemnation and shame?
Kindness, compassion, love, encouragement, support, understanding, bridging, seeing, connecting – these are the ways we call one another to their potential. Then it should be no surprise that these are also the ONLY ways we can call ourselves into our full potential, into our True Selves.
This New Year I encourage you to call a truce with yourself. Those perpetual patterns or behaviors that you feel are keeping you stuck or keeping you away from the life you want to live are also signs from yourself that something is missing, something is needed in order for you to create the right balance so that you can live as you truly ARE.
No matter what your hopes are for the year ahead make this one resolution to yourself… That above all you will be KIND. That when you step off your path you will hold yourself in the loving arms of a mother’s embrace and say ‘there there baby, You just got lost for a moment’.
All too often, and especially in the realm of our eating, we use shame as our first line of defense. “I can’t believe I did this again! I’m such a fat loser! I’m never going to get this! What’s wrong with me?” You would never talk to your dearest ones; your children, your closest friends, your students or staff the way you talk to yourself.
There is science mounting to support this position. Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in the area of self-compassion, demonstrates how, through the activation of the hormones associated with the sympathetic nervous system, shame, self-criticism and condemnation greatly reduces the possibility of lasting behavior change. A stance of self-compassion employs the parasympathetic nervous system and begins to release calming hormones in the body which better position us to make healthy choices.
In The Deeper Cravings Path, I teach a concept I call ‘compassionate curiosity’. This practice allows us to become really curious and interested in fostering courageous self-awareness into the meaning of our negative patterns with food. When we are shaming ourselves, it can be too painful to be really honest with ourselves about what’s happening in our lives. The compassionate stance allows us to open ourselves to see what we really need to see in order to heal.
As a starting place I recommend this practice adapted from the work of Dr. Neff. The next time you find yourself so angry at yourself for something you did, something you ate, something you said, Stop and give yourself a nurturing touch like placing your two hands on your heart. Then say these three lines (out loud or internally):
“This is a hard moment”
(This acknowledges that your experiencing suffering and it also, and perhaps more importantly, points out that it is just a moment, it will pass, it is impermanent.) Next say:
“…and hard moments are part of living”
(This gets at the universality of suffering. So often we feel like we are the only ones are we are the worst ones struggling with this problem. The sense of isolation, then, serves to deepen the problem). And finally say:
“…and may I be kind to myself in this moment”
This sets the intention for kindness and puts you on a path of releasing the shame.
I have seen some incredible results using this practice, mind you there are times when I might need to repeat those three lines to myself 10 x over, but inevitably in every case, I sense a shift. A return to the loving wisdom of my True Self.
Wishing you much kindness, peace and truth in 2014,