This week I had a cold. I will spare you the gory details but it was one of those colds that hangs around, saps my energy and leaves my brain in a state of mush. It was hard to sleep, I had no appetite, and I just lay on the couch reading fluff.
Now I work for myself so each day I was in that state there were a pile of projects not getting done back at the office. There were cancelled meetings and postponed phone calls. There were unpaid bills and clients needing follow up. There were people that depended on me that I could not provide service.
At home there were dishes, clothes and a household needing attention. My husband also got the bug and the dog needed walking. I should have contacted friends and family for Easter, and enjoyed good food and time out. There was (a bit) of sunshine to be enjoyed and yet I stayed indoors.
It was an absolute perfect storm to thoroughly and completely beat myself up.
However, over the past few years I have been consciously working to bring more compassion into my life. And this week I noticed the difference that this practice has made.
Instead of beating myself up I gave myself the space to be “unwell” and only deal with the essentials of life. I allowed myself to rest, drink fluids, eat lightly and generally take it easy. I allowed myself to feel some frustration and even sadness with what I was missing, and then move on.
I was gentle with myself, no longer pretending to be super strong.
I am lucky that in life I am generally healthy and rarely have these types of experiences. I cannot say I am glad I got a cold (that would be weird) but I am glad I got to experience my more compassionate self at first hand.
It actually came as a surprise to myself that I no longer felt the urge to sacrifice my wellbeing for some goal or other demands. I was waiting for the inner critic to get in there and tell me off for going “to easy” on myself, for letting others down. But for once, she was not there.
Instead there was just a sense that taking care of myself at this time was the wisest and most sensible thing I could do. In fact why would I even consider anything else.
Despite what a lot of self-development gurus would like to tell you (and sell you), transformation takes time. Insight and inspiration can come in a moment, but it takes commitment to new practices to truly change your life.
It has been more than a year since I began regular meditation and other practices to develop a sense of self compassion. It includes learning more about my critical and judgemental voice, my unrelenting standards, my competitiveness and perfectionism. It is understanding that all of those ways of being have a place, yet they are not all there is.
Having a sense of self-compassion means I can be with the bumps in the road that life brings: the worries, stresses and frustrations we all experience from time to time. It does not make these things magically go away, but it does make it easier to be with them and find a way forward.
Taking the time to develop my capacity for self-compassion is one of the best investments I have ever made in my own development and well-being. So I encourage you to take some time to learn as well.