Tag Archives: Compassion

The Power of No

Danielle LaPorte says it so perfectly – No makes way for yes.

We live in a society of that feeds off an intense need for instant gratification and a fear of missing out. A society in which saying no is virtually out of the question. Saying no means you might miss out on something really big or it could very well result in a loss of or lack of something in your life.  You simply can’t say no and expect to live a full life…or so a rather vocal segment of our modern society would have us believe.  And let’s not forget that we, as a society, judge our level of success by how “busy” we are.  The more things you say yes to the busier you are, the more successful you are, right?  So again, saying no just can’t possibly be an option.

But here’s the harsh reality – unless you say the word no, at least on occasion, you can and will lose the ability to say yes at some point, very possibly at the moment when you really want/need to say yes. Why? Because you are human and can’t do it all.  Because there are only so many hours in a day.  Because no matter how close you get to being perfect, you still can’t be solely responsible for accomplishing everything that needs to be done at home, at work, and everywhere else in between.  It just isn’t possible.  You just cannot say yes all the time.

And let’s be clear – those are merely the facts as they exist, they do not represent a failure on your part. There’s no judgment. There is only the stone-cold reality that when we say yes too often we eventually reach a point when yes can’t possibly be the answer anymore.  If you are always saying yes you will inevitably reach the point where you cannot physically fit anything more into your schedule…into your life…and so it is then that no has to be the answer.  Something has to go before anything else can be added.  Quite a conundrum when faced with the opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do, but you can’t because of all the other things you previously said yes to (things that you may not even really care about).

And who does it hurt? Let’s be honest here – primarily you. And while overcommitting on your part can create problems for others as well, by and large you are the one who suffers from your inability to say no.  So what is the answer?  How do we find a balance between saying yes and saying no?

The key is to set and honor boundaries for yourself. If you follow any of Brené Brown’s work then you are likely familiar with this statement from her on the importance of boundaries, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Your time, your health, your sanity, your talents, etc. are important so you need to be mindful of your “Yes’s and No’s” such that you are honoring your wants, needs, desires, and limitations.  Again, it is not about any kind of  failure on your part, rather it is about being honest with yourself and not overcommitting.  Saying no on occasion to things that don’t feel right, don’t resonate, don’t align with your personal mission is not only okay, it is essential to being able to say yes to all things that are meaningful to you.  Commit to the things that light you up, to the things you are passionate about.  Don’t say yes out of guilt or some misguided sense of obligation to someone else.  Say yes because it means something to you.  If you do that, not only will you find that you are no longer overcommitted, but you will also find yourself in a place of great joy and happiness.

Broken, But Fixable

So often when I look around I see so many signs that point to the fact that we are a broken society.  Life in general is hard these days and living our purpose and acknowledging our true self can be near impossible in this crazy, modern world in which we live.  And I recently sat through a presentation that thoroughly reinforced these thoughts and feelings.  The presentation included some alarming statistics about suicide, the number of people with mental health issues who are not seeking treatment, and the overall impact of such things on our work and personal lives.  Depression, drug & alcohol abuse, anxiety, etc.  The effects are wide spread.  I was struck by just how far reaching this mental health epidemic has become and by how broken we are overall as a people – not just because of the statistics themselves, but because part of what fuels the increase in those statistics is the societal messages we all receive about what it means, according to the society we live in today, to seek help.

We are all doing the best we can with what we have been given, learning from those around us who are doing the best they can as well…but still we find ourselves in this place.  So many people in our society are dealing with challenging things in their lives while at the same time lacking a knowledge of the tools that could help them better navigate those difficult times.  Instead, most people struggle to work things out on their own.  Sadly, this is something I see all too often in my work – so many people struggling to deal with any of a number of issues both personally and professionally, but unwilling to seek help, be it counseling or coaching, because they have been taught to believe that in seeking help they are indicating they are unable to handle things on their own…that they are weak or somehow flawed.

One in four people struggles with some type of mental health issue. What’s even more upsetting than that statistic is the stigma society places on seeking treatment. The societal messages are that you should just ‘learn to deal with it in your own’, “suck it up”, “get over it”, and “everyone else can handle it so why can’t you”.  Such shame and humiliation is cast upon those already struggling with so much.

The “shame of it all” is both in terms of the shame that the people struggling to decide if they should seek help or not feel as a result of those societal messages, but also that we as a society allow that stigma to perpetuate. Rather, we should acknowledge that life is hard for all of us, that we all could use a little help from time to time, and that seeking that help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

So what causes this societal stigma? Is it a lack of love and understanding of our fellow humans? Is it because we do not teach resiliency?  Is it just the chaotic, fast paced life we live in?  Is it the high expectations held for us, real or perceived?  Is it because we have not been taught how to ask questions and to make our own choices?  Is it because we have not been taught how to stand tall in the decisions we do make?  Or is it because of a loss of creativity and curiosity?  I am not sure we will ever truly know the exact cause(s), but one thing that is for certain is that the societal stigma attached to seeking help for even the mildest of stressors in our lives, such as every day stressors like finances, relationships, work, or caregiver stress, is slowly killing us.  We need to find a better way.

The reality is that everything is connected – we can’t leave our problems at home or at work. The mind/body connection is real. Pretending otherwise only makes things worse.  We need to begin recognizing how hard it is to admit the need and/or desire for help.  We need to see it as a strength and not a weakness.  If we are going to help each other through this life, we need to start by creating awareness of the problem and then developing a culture of caring.  We may be broken, but we are still fixable.  A good place to start is to become more mindful of our words and the messages we send with them.

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” – Yehuda Berg

Meet Me Here, Where I Am

“My readers – and I get 400 emails for a day, my readers normally they say, well, you understand me, and I answer, you do understand me also. We are in the same level.” – Paulo Coelho

How do we get people to meet us where we are?  How do we meet them where they are?  Without judgment, assumptions, or anything else of that nature.  How do we all get to the point where we can meet one another wherever we are?  I have had quite a few conversations recently with numerous people on this topic, and I can’t help but to wonder if other people have this struggle in their lives as well.

Meeting someone where they are requires knowing a little about them, it requires being open-minded, and it requires letting go of assumptions, pre-conceived notions, and judgments.  And sometimes doing that is not so simple for either party involved.  On one hand I want people to know who I am, what I’ve been through, how I feel, that I try hard, that I feel misunderstood, that I don’t feel like I am good enough most of the time, etc.  But then on the other hand, society tells me that people don’t care, that I shouldn’t share this kind of stuff, that all of that doesn’t matter, that I should suck it up and overcome any adversity I am faced with in life, and that I don’t have it bad in comparison to many others.  In short, society is telling us to not even bother sharing our stories.  And I believed what society told me, almost without question, until recently.

What I have come to believe now is that whether those things society tells us are true or not, it doesn’t negate what I’ve been through or how I feel, though it often feels like it does, or is supposed to. We all have different struggles, of that there is no doubt, and we all react to and cope with our struggles in a variety of ways. But it isn’t so much about comparing whose struggles are worse, as much as it is about recognizing we all struggle and then seeing what we can do to help one another where we each are.

There is a tremendous desire within us as humans to have other people know us…know our story.  There are too many assumptions made about us by others and too many assumptions made by us about others.  Again, it’s what we are taught throughout our lives, both consciously and unconsciously, to believe is normal or correct.  As Brene Brown says in her work, we are wired for story as humans, and so when we are faced with the lack of a story, we will make one up, even if it is not true or flattering, whether it is about ourselves or others.  It’s what we do, whether we realize it or not.

Life is about building relationships, but to do that we have to get to know each other and share our stories…certainly not every detail, but we need to share some things. We need to feel heard, understood, and validated. We need to understand from where each of us has come.  We all can get swallowed up in the daily monotony of our own lives – we stop noticing, we stop asking, and sometimes we even stop caring.  But we need to change that.

Most of us have spent so much of life feeling like we can’t get things right, like the cards are stacked against us, that we aren’t good enough in some way, etc. Then we look around and notice those who have it worse than us in some way and we mentally berate ourselves for thinking we had it so bad in the first place. And to make matters worse, sometimes there are others who will do this to us as well.  And so we go back to keeping quiet, continuing to struggle in silence so to speak.  What a vicious, unhealthy cycle.

I’ve spent much of my life trying not to feel, trying not to care, and numbing myself, both because that was what I had learned from society and because it made things easier to deal with, but eventually that stopped being effective for me and an alternative became necessary.  I needed to share where I am, hard as it was to do after keeping it to myself for so long. A hard habit to break for sure, but I knew it was what was necessary to heal and to grow.

We all have stories. We have all struggled. We all have felt unworthy or not good enough in some way.  That is probably one of the great universals among all of human kind in this modern era.  So much of this pain and struggle that we experience can be avoided by just becoming aware of our collective struggles…by getting to know one another even just a little before passing judgment or passing by e another in indifference.  Education and compassion are two of the most powerful tools we have available to us.  Use them for your own sake as well as the sake others.  Meet yourself and others where they are.  Know we are all on this journey called life together.

What About Me?

One of the most difficult lessons I have ever had to learn is the importance of taking care of myself first. To be honest, it is a lesson I still struggle with almost daily. That concept seems so counterintuitive. We live in a society that prides itself on giving to others, doing for others, sacrificing for others, and serving others. Through messages at home, at school, via religion, and in the media we are clearly expected to give of ourselves before we do for ourselves.  In fact we are taught that do or be otherwise is selfish.

What I learned over the past few years is that the reality of how things work in the universe is actually quite contrary to that societal truth we have been taught practically since birth. The reality is if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves first, we cannot provide for others. It’s just not possible. Oh we try…because society has taught us that is the way it should be, but we continually fail…if not right away, eventually.

Think of yourself as a battery. Eventually there’s no charge left in the battery if it is not put on the charger. If we would regularly recharge the battery it would never die. The same is true for us. If we keep going, giving to others, helping and serving others while never recharging our own batteries, never caring for ourselves, we will eventually “die”…there will be nothing left to give…we can become irritable, lose our tempers, or respond to those around us in any of a number of other negative ways. And these responses are not well received…its not normal for us to behave in such a way…the expectation is that we keep giving as we always have. So you have your “moment” (call it a freak out, a break down, a temper tantrum, or whatever you want to call it), then you go right back to giving and serving, never really recharging yourself…and thus the cycle continues. Is it any wonder why so many of people are stressed, on medications for depression or anxiety, and/or just plain miserable much of the time?

Instead, if we just took a little time to regularly recharge ourselves we could continue to give and serve others…likely even more than we do now. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but that recharging is essential. It will look different for each of us…for some it may be going to a yoga class, going for a run, taking some quiet time to read a book, taking a nap, heading to the spa for a massage, or maybe spending time with a loved one. Regardless of what recharges your batteries, it is imperative you take a little time to do those things.

The bottom line is you can’t help or serve others if you are not cared for yourself. It’s not selfish, contrary to what society tells us, it is necessary. So be kind and gentle to yourself. Show yourself some love and compassion. As Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Care for yourself so that you can continue to care for others.