Every new school year, I feel like it’s the start of a new year. Many of us might set intentions for the year, like “I’m going to have a place for all those school papers” and “I’m going to make sure our mornings run smoothly” or “I’m going to make really good lunches for them.”
We have great intentions. Maybe we are able to stick with it for awhile. And then the papers pile up in the same place they were last year. Mornings feel rushed and we find ourselves yelling at the kiddos. We have other more immediate “fires to put out” and are too exhausted at the end of the day to think about anything other than “Lunchables.” We look back and we feel so far away from where we wanted to be.
While having goals or resolutions can stem from a desire to deepen our sense of connection with others (and ourselves), sometimes our resolutions come from this mistaken belief: something’s wrong and we aren’t doing enough.
Which often gets translated into:
“I am not enough.”
“There’s something wrong with me.”
Which then becomes “I have to do something more! I have to be something more!”
So we start obsessively thinking about exactly how we are inadequate (check out the things you whisper to yourself) and “doing more” in order to try to get rid of that feeling “I’m not enough.” Soon, we are in a shame-blame cycle, anxious, focused on the “small stuff,” exhausted.
Tonight, I was laying with my son as he drifted off to sleep, his hand on my chest, one of his legs flopped over mine, thinking about my “resolutions” that have been occupying my time and attention. I started to feel guilty for not being enough and doing enough – for not being present enough, for not focusing on math and reading over the summer enough, for not speaking in Spanish enough, for not being “that” parent that has all their papers and old artwork organized enough….
Then I turned my attention to my son’s breathing. I turned my attention to the heat and softness of his hand against my heart. And some Grace entered my heart and mind…
“This is enough,” I said to myself, “This is enough.”
Laying here listening to his rhythmical breathing is enough.
Holding his hand on my heart is enough.
I started thinking about the other ways I love that are “enough”:
How my whole face lights up when I see my kiddos is enough.
Cuddling with my daughter at dinner time when she is tired is enough.
Marveling in the way her hair curls is enough.
Patiently being with my son and doing math work is enough.
My “Love Looks” are enough.
Softening when I’d rather react is enough.
Opening my heart and arms when I’d rather critique is enough.
Brene Brown talks a lot about how shame doesn’t motivate. Myopically honing in on where we were we “aren’t enough” and beating ourselves up don’t work (check out Brene’s shame research, Kristin Neff’s self-compassion research, and Tara Brach’s podcasts). Blaming, shaming, doing more, critiquing ourselves more don’t motivate us to make healthy changes. They don’t heal us.
What does work?
What does motivate us to look at our life and make healthy changes? What heals our stressed-out nervous systems, our hearts that have held so much?
Every time you notice that you are going down that path of believing you are not enough, pause and give yourself a dose of compassion. When you do this, you are resourcing yourself in deep, nourishing ways, and you are laying down new neural pathways that enable you to heal the anxiety, fear, and shame within you. COMPASSION IS HOW WE HEAL, folks. COMPASSION motivates us to make healthy changes that stem from love instead of fear. COMPASSION gets us out of stress mode and in to “loving mode.”
What can you do?
Say something compassionate to yourself like:
“Of course you’d feel ____ (anxious, ashamed, afraid, mad).”
“It’s ok, Love.”
“That’s an old belief.”
Do things like:
Connect to your present moment experience – especially your heart and body.
Put your hand on your heart.
Feel your feet on the earth.
Feel yourself breathing.
Soften around your heart.
Relax any tense muscle.
“Open” and “stay” instead of close off and run away.
That’s “it,” friends. That’s it. Little doses of self-compassion – again and again – throughout our day. THEN we are resourced.
Then you can sit with, stay, and be with the underlying emotions.
You can be with the shame.
You can be with the fear or the anxiety.
You can STAY and allow those old beliefs to be healed – by your breath and your presence.
Compassion is enough. It is enough to motivate us to make nourishing changes in our lives. It is enough to heal us. It is enough to turn our mistaken beliefs upside down and start KNOWING in our bones, “I am enough. This — this genuine presence I am giving is enough, this gentle embrace is enough, this look of regard is enough, this moment I am here is enough.”
This week, may we all wake up and realize when we start thinking we aren’t enough and learn to have compassion for ourselves. May we nourish and resource ourselves with kind words, enabling us to give mindful presence to our shame and fears. May we allow just our breath and our gentle presence to heal us.
Lisa A. McCrohan
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