I’ve been practicing mindful self-compassion for a while now. It’s a program based on: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.
This work could not have come at a better time for me. For most of my adult life, I had a strong inner critic that was harsh and judgmental.
At one point, I labeled this voice “Sledgehammer” because sometimes it felt like I was beating myself up with one.
As a result of some work called Positive Intelligence and the exercises in the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, I’ve turned down the volume on that harsh voice.
Here’s how mindful self-compassion works:
-Mindfulness: First, notice: “This is challenging for me right now.” By noticing and not getting overwhelmed by my emotions, I’ve been able to function (for the most part) with peace and tranquility.
-Common Humanity: Remember: “I’m not alone; many others have faced similar challenges.” It’s been helpful to remind myself that I am connected, loved, and supported by my family, friends, and business partners. And that others also feel all kinds of pain: it’s a part of being human.
-Self-Kindness: Choose to be nice, rather than shaming or mean: “May I be kind to myself as I face this challenge.” This one is tough for me. By practicing, I am learning how to be kind (as opposed to) harsh with myself.
Self-compassion is the practice of being kind and gentle with ourselves (rather than harsh) when we’ve made mistakes, errors, or unskillful actions. It’s the practice of what I call “giving ourselves a break.” Or, as said by two teachers of mine:
“We cannot just go out and try to practice compassion. If we can first make friends with ourselves, if we are willing to be who we are, then we can begin to open to others.”–Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
“We can discern what will make us complete. This is the process of making friends with ourselves. It involves accepting the whole picture because it all has a lot to teach us.”–Pema Chödrön
As mindfulness became more acceptable in the United States in the 1990s, Daniel Goleman brought the phrase emotional intelligence into the leadership lexicon with his 1995 book by the same name and through his Harvard Business Review article entitled: “What Makes a Leader?”
The mindfulness movement is now helping people recognize and label their feelings while encouraging others to do the same. More folks establish a daily practice of sitting meditation (as I have), which also helps.
As a result, mindful leaders are more skillful at noticing their emotions. They breathe and create, as Viktor Frankl said: “a space between stimulus and response.”
More and more psychological research findings point out that many leaders have that powerful inner critic (or self-judge that I mentioned above). It’s a voice that tells you that you would rather NOT deal with difficult emotions when they arise.
If this happens to you, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche has some advice:
“When we have genuine trust in ourselves, there is a sense of genuine compassion toward ourselves, but without self-indulgence. We are gentle and straightforward, but we are no longer playing the game of idiot compassion, using false kindness to protect ourselves unnecessarily.”
As Rinpoche says, it’s not an invitation to “self-indulgence [or to] shield ourselves from reality.” We take full responsibility for any mistakes, errors, or unskillful actions from that perspective. In other words, we clean up the messes we make in life while being gentle with ourselves.
If you find that you are harsh and judgmental with yourself from time to time, I encourage you to get the workbook and do the practices.
And, if you’d like some support with that, the Coaches at Fundraising Leadership (Janice, Michelle, Margaret, and I) would love to help you embrace mindful self-compassion and quiet your inner critic through our Positive Intelligence Coaching Program.
David Langiulli is an Author, Executive Coach, and Leadership Trainer. He uses all of his courage, compassion, and wisdom to help leaders in the nonprofit world flourish and thrive. As a coach, David has been described as: “gently fierce!”?Fun Fact? He’s an expert in Positive Intelligence and is on a 10-year quest for a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. This post is an excerpt from his book Life, Leadership, and Langiulli – Essays for Living and Leading in a Complex World.