Stumbling toward kindness

There’s nothing wrong with being scared.

Or dropping the ball or falling flat on your face or putting your foot in it or missing the boat or being a deer in the headlights or leaving all the stones unturned.

There’s no shame in regret, ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, lying awake at night over things said or not said, actions taken or not taken.

There’s nothing wrong with classes skipped and projects undone, books abandoned, art materials unused, notebooks and calendars and workbooks and exercise equipment still in their wrappers.

There’s no shame in having made all those plans, written out all those schedules, picked the date to start the new regime only to watch it pass as you continue to do that same old thing you reall,y truly, absolutely are ready to stop doing.

There’s nothing wrong with any of it.

I promise you.

It’s all part of being a human person. ALL OF IT.

The only way to be reliable rid of it is to be not alive anymore.

I have a teacher who says, love whatever you’re feeling because in 50 years (100 years?) you won’t be able to feel it, or anything else.

All the feelings we have about anything that we don’t like are part of the human experience.

I always forget that.


I always forget that feeling sad, embarrassed, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, regretful, angry, jealous, threatened, scared, lonely, worried, unprepared, unqualified, self-conscious, insecure—ALL OF IT—is not a sign that something has gone wrong, but a sign that I am alive and therefore, susceptible to the full range of the human experience.

So what do we do? Accept it, many will say and I agree but true acceptance doesn’t come without kindness, tenderness, and compassion toward the self.

I took a week-long course on self-compassion a few years ago. It was an amazing workshop–inspiring lectures, powerful exercises, intense 1:1 work, and small group mini-sessions. At the end of the week, the instructors said, you’re leaving with a lot of information, resources, and tools but know that inevitably, all of these will fail you at times because disappointment, failure, and pain are an inescapable part of life. There is no class that can inoculate you from your humanity.

So, again–what do we do, practically speaking?

Self-compassion has three steps, says researcher Kristin Neff:

1. Mindfulness = noticing when we’re suffering. It’s astounding to me how hard it is to interrupt my habitual response to pain and equally how astoundingly different it feels when I remember to stop and say, Oh wait, this is hurt(or fear or disappointment, etc.,)

2. Common humanity = recognizing that whatever we’re feeling is part of the human condition rather than evidence that there’s something terribly wrong with us (or them).

3. Kindness to self = turning toward our own pain from a place of extreme friendliness to the self rather than pushing the feelings away or doubling down with harsh self-talk or unkind treatment.

I’m alive. You’re alive.

We get to walk around drinking strong coffee and eating crisp, salty potato chips. We get to hug our loved ones and talk about the stuff that lights us up.

We get to make mistakes and lose things and forget to pay attention to our heart’s desires. And then we get to stop, lean against our humanity, and stumble toward kindness.

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