Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Being gentle with ourselves (this means you)

Along with remembering to choose joy, being gentle with myself is a huge lesson that I seem to need to learn over and over again. I am so used to struggling, so used to trying hard and working hard and just generally either assuming life is hard or making life hard that being gentle seems foreign, awkward, even wrong at times. But, usually, the worse things get the more I need to be gentle with myself.

For me, gentle usually looks like forgiving myself my human foibles, as in not roasting myself on the spit of self-criticism. It is taking the time to do things, really going at my own pace, instead of rushing. It is backing off and not pushing harder when pushing harder has not been working for days, or hours, or even minutes. Gentle is cutting myself some slack. Not expecting everything to be done perfectly. And let’s face it, I always create a “to do” list that is unrealistic, I recognize that at the beginning of the day when I make it, I tell myself it is so that I stretch myself, challenge myself, it will ensure that I get more things done in a day. But by the time the end of the day has rolled around I have convinced myself that the list was do-able, I just wasn’t good enough. That kind of thinking and behaving has got to go. It doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t serve others.

Ironically in my work as a life coach, many people come to coaching wanting that someone to chase them down, to hold their feet to the fire and really give them hell when they don’t do that one important thing they committed do. But when we get to coaching, what they really need is to learn how and when to be gentle, to have compassion for themselves.

The metaphor I used the other day with a friend is that of a guitar string. As I try to tighten it to get the right sound, stretching it further and further, longer and longer, I run the risk of snapping the string. Somehow I keep thinking that it can take being tightened just a smidge more, just one tiny smidge more again. I assume that it will take too much precious time to loosen the string and start again. And then I am so startled when the string breaks. Picture the surprise (not to mention annoyance) when I realize how much more time it is going to take to have to go to the store, buy a new string, remove the old one, put in the new one and tighten it. The same is true of my life. I can choose to back off, give myself a break, and be gentle, thereby ensuring that my mental or physical “string” does not snap. Isn’t that easier, more worthwhile and more efficient then everything I will have to do to get myself back on track if I push myself too hard (all the while thinking I don’t have time to be gentle).

The choice is mine. The decision starts now.


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