This week I have a special treat for you. My friend, Glad Doggett, of Best Laid Scheme is sharing with you the steps to self compassion- and she writes especially for us teachers. Thanks Glad for sharing your journey with us!
Take Time to Fill the Well
How many times a day do you draw from your well of emotion? How often do you expand your heart, open it up to reach a student? Ease the mind of a parent? Reassure the student-teacher in the next room?
I bet you’ve lost count.
We expect a lot from our teachers. And most of the time, they deliver.
There have been a few teachers who stand out in my memory. But three in particular made indelible impressions on my heart:
I remember Mrs. Brown with her easy smile and mild manner. She gingerly sent my nervous mother home and gently ushered me from the doorway of her room to my tiny desk on my first day of first grade school. Her confidence and caring reassured me that I was safe and cared for in that strange new world called a classroom.
And Mr. Lovett, my ninth grade algebra teacher. He didn’t give a hoot about attendance or assigned seating. What he cared about was making sure we understood how he reached every answer to every problem. I remember his kind eyes as he looked across the faces of the class. His fingers were always dusty with chalk as he tirelessly worked out math problems none of us really cared about. But we cared about him because we knew he cared about us.
And Mrs. Howell, my rescuer. I still recall how she swooped up and cradled my freshly cracked heart the day a dumb, forgettable boy dumped me in third period. I remember her comforting arm around my shoulders as she wiped away my tears and smeared mascara. She even gave me a tardy slip so I could arrive late to my next class. She probably doesn’t remember that day, but it meant the world to me.
These stories are mine, but they aren’t all that unique. Every day at the schoolhouse, teachers don’t think twice about showing compassion to their students, to parents and to their co-workers. Then, after a long day they go home and must dig a little deeper to be available, caring and loving to their spouses, their own children, their parents, their siblings, their neighbors … and sometimes, even strangers.
Whew! All that makes me tired.
Teachers are awesome. If you are reading this, and you are a teacher, thank you.
You teachers give and give. And give.
Is it surprising, then, that there’s nothing left to give when it comes time to give to yourself?
Why is it so easy for you to nurture, honor and be kind to the rest of humanity, yet you rarely take time to give your Self the same consideration?
A recent story in the New York Times revealed how crucial Self compassion and Self love are to our happiness, success and well being.
In fact, research suggests that being kinder to yourself and accepting your imperfections may be the first step toward better health, less depression and anxiety, and more happiness and optimism.
The article also states that “preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.”
Wow. That definitely got my attention.
So, how do you learn to cultivate Self-acceptance and compassion in a world that demands so much?
By taking small, actions every day to honor and care for You.
I believe each of us can only give away what we possess. If you don’t replenish the well by showing love and compassion to yourself first, how can you expect there to be anything left to share with your students, friends, families?
Remember, Self-compassion is a practice you have to do every day. It’s sort of like brushing your teeth. You don’t do it once and then forget about it. You get up every morning and go through the same mundane routine. But I bet you always feel better when the scrubbing is done.
To help you get started on a routine of Self-compassion, I came up with a few actions items you can start doing right now:
Follow the breadcrumbs to joy – Be curious about what makes you smile or lights you up. Make a list of activities you like to do, treats that delight you, simple pleasures that make you happy. Ask yourself: “What small things can I do today that will make me feel joyful, honored and valued?” Now go do them.
Give yourself a break – None of us are perfect. We mess up. We forget appointments. We burn dinner. We are late to pick our kids from soccer practice. So what? Sometimes things get wonky. That’s life. Think about a time when your best friend or your own child messed up or was struggling with a problem. Did you berate her? Call her worthless and no good? Of course not. You most likely offered support, advice or a shoulder to lean on. Being imperfect doesn’t make you horrible – it makes you human. Embrace your quirks as part of your individuality and get over it.
Express your creativity – Blocked creativity leads to sadness, grief and melancholy. I believe all of us long to make, bake, sew, or grow something, but we block the urge because we are afraid. We fear we will “get it wrong, mess it up, feel stupid.”
Nonsense! There is no wrong way to create. There are just opportunities to experiment, stretch and grow.
Live healthy – Take time every day to care of your body and mind. Rest when you are tired; nourish your body with good food, water and exercise. Go outside and marvel at the sky. Take a walk in the woods; go to the park. Make a mindful choice to honor your health and wellness goals. The choices you make affect your health.
Get spiritual – Be inspired by the simple pleasures in your life. You truly don’t have to look too far to find beauty all around you. Magic and truth waits in the small, everyday moments that you can so easily take for granted. Practice mindfulness. Meditate, pray, read books on spirituality, or practice the faith of your choice. It doesn’t matter how you choose to honor your spiritual Self, as long as you do it.
Create a Stop Doing list – Notice the patterns, habits, activities, and stuff that no longer serve you, and then eliminate them from your life. If something blocks your happiness, then it is probably time to leave it behind. What can you stop doing today that will help you honor and love your Self more fully?
Find Support – One of the best things you can do for yourself is build a system of support to help you reach your goals. If you find talking to your friend isn’t enough, then seek out books, iPod interviews, classes, e-courses, workshops, retreats or coaches whose sole purpose is to help you and support you. Take advantage of the help that’s available. Don’t try to do it alone.
Remember, every choice you make is an expression of what you believe. Your choices reveal what matters most to you. Choice is your greatest power.
By choosing to be kind, loving and caring to yourself, you fill the well, which will ensure there’s plenty for you to give away.
Isn’t it time you show a little compassion to the woman in the mirror?