The elephant that pooped in the living room?

While I have no intention of focusing this post on the still-somewhat-mindblowing events of January 6, I also would be remiss to not at least acknowledge that something horrifying (that looked an awful lot like a failed coup attempt) happened in Washington D.C. on that date. I’ve been pretty inarticulate in my thoughts so I was incredibly grateful when HBR published this piece today on the loss of trust associated with last week’s events, as well as what is required for the United States to move forward. I also think it’s important to mention the authors’ emphasis on holding those responsible accountable for their actions, something which quite a few people seem to think gets in the way of “unity.” Perhaps “unity” needs to be viewed through a lens of “recovering core principles of democracy we can agree upon” rather than simply giving people a free pass. Have any of you who have raised children made a choice to “go along to get along” rather than holding them accountable when they’ve violated a household rule?

Whew. Now that I’ve said more than I intended about the elephant that is clearly not in the corner of the room (nor is he behaving himself!), I wanted to address a different aspect of news cycles and pandemics and winter blahs. Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion is a bandwagon I jumped on a while ago, and I can think of NO better time than the middle of January, especially this January, to remind you to be kinder to yourself. I know that there is so very much “stuff” out there about self-care, and some of it seems very woo-woo- and, if we’re honest, victim blaming. If you just did more yoga, or meditated every day, or attended virtual church each Sunday, if you would just do those things, you would be okay.

Or would you?

If I’ve learned one lesson about self-compassion, it’s that the true objective is to treat ourselves with respect and honor. It means not “should”ing all over ourselves (I should have done yoga, I should have meditated this morning, I should not have had that second cup of coffee…you see where this goes). Self-compassion isn’t a “free pass” when you really truly mess up, as we all do because we are human. Instead of prolonged self-flagellating (something surgical residents are often particularly gifted at), it allows you to take a step back, to own your part in something bad that happen, and to move forward by starting over. Assuming that you are someone who is kind to your friends, it asks you to treat yourself like you would treat a friend in a similar situation; if you tend to yell at your friends and tell them they’re total screw-ups when they’ve made a mistake in their life, we probably need to have a different discussion anyway…

I want to give you something helpful as we think about self-compassion, and there’s a “nudge” question that can be wonderful when we’re “stuck” (with that stuck being a nasty internal monologue about ourselves, or doom scrolling, or whatever not-healthy coping mechanism we find ourselves using).

What do I need right now? Right in this moment, what will help me the most?

Sure, sometimes it’s going to be some sort of indulgence (moderation, please, with the indulgences). Sometimes it’s something as simple as “I need to get offline” or “I need to get outdoors and go for a walk.” I find that what I need right now is seldom complicated or messy…and if it is, that’s food for additional thought as well.

What do you need right now?

Go and do that. And don’t “should” all over yourself in the process, please.