The Gifts of Self-Awareness

…And Why Self-Compassion is a Necessary Part of These Gifts

There are times in my life when I wish I wasn’t so aware of my experience. Something unexpected happens. Or someone says something to me that is hurtful.

I notice what is happening in my body. My heart races, my face gets flushed and I clench my fists. I wonder, ‘How could they be so rude?’ I feel upset and anxious and I want to disappear from sight.

I do not enjoy this!

Or it could be that I don’t keep my word with someone I love. I act out of integrity. I lie in bed that night and become aware of what really happened. I don’t like what I see. I feel mad at myself and I wish I was a kinder person. I want to hide. Sleep is elusive as I squirm in shame.

Life would be so much easier if I could just ‘let stuff go’ without analyzing so much.

Or would it?

I think back to past times in my life when I was not as aware of my experience. I wonder if there are people I hurt without realizing it. Maybe some of the upsets in my life could have been prevented if I had been more aware of the impact I was having on others.

I have come to believe that Self-Awareness is a gift in my life.

  • With Awareness comes Choice
    Once I am aware of what is happening, I can choose how to respond, rather than react in an unthinking way.
  • With Awareness comes Clarity
    I can be clear with others about my experience. You may be wondering what is going on for me, struggling to know how to relate to me. When I know what my experience is, I am able to tell you and we can move on from there.
  • With Awareness come Care
    I notice situations that may be stressful for me. Because of my awareness I take extra time to prepare. I may get some rest, or ask for some coaching before a challenging conversation. I take care of myself intentionally.
  • With Awareness comes Collaboration
    When I am self-aware, I find myself more committed to understanding others. This makes it easier to work together with clarity and purpose.
  • With Awareness comes Connection
    This gift has come into my life when I realized that self-awareness was not enough on its own. Self-compassion is an integral part of this journey.

You may be wondering, ‘What does self-compassion have to do with self-awareness?

Think back to the image of me ‘squirming in shame’ during a sleepless night.

I was aware of my experience. I knew there had been an impact because of my actions. It was my self- awareness that led to a painful experience for me.

This is the point where Compassion can be a healing touch.

Here’s how it looks for me.

I talk to myself kindly. I acknowledge my suffering and remind myself that I am not alone. I am human and the human experience is imperfect. I focus on the pain rather than my failure. As I have mentioned in another blog post, Kristin Neff has been a teacher of mine as I am learning about self-compassion.

I may give myself a hug. I breathe deeply and I tell myself I am worthy of love and belonging. I plan the conversation I want to have with the person I disappointed. By being vulnerable and asking forgiveness from those I have hurt, I experience connection and a sense of belonging.

Connection happens when I am courageously vulnerable

Brene Brown, in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, says that as humans we are hard-wired for love and connection. Her research shows that connection happens when I am courageously vulnerable. She is another wise teacher for me as I dig deeper and learn about these principles.

As I show compassion to myself, I relax and peacefully fall asleep.

I am eager to continue on this adventure of deepening self-awareness.

How about you? Do you know what you are experiencing? Are you curious how self-compassion could support you?

 

Playing Together as a Family

I am home after my vacation. As I sip my coffee in a local coffee shop, I find myself wondering, ‘Did it really happen? Was our whole family actually at Disneyland last week?’

My husband and I fulfilled a dream of ours when we took our family to Disneyland for the week.

Dreams do come true!

We planned this for several years. At times we wondered if it would actually happen. We watched our savings account go up and down. We budgeted and made financial choices to support our vision. We wondered if it would work to travel as a group of 15. What if we wanted this more than our family? Could it actually work out?

The vacation was a fabulous success!

I have been reflecting on what created this experience of play, love and fun for all of us.

  • We were in partnership with our family as we planned the time away. We chose dates that worked for everyone and there was a willingness to be flexible so all could join.
  • We shared our excitement with our grandchildren. Each of them received a ‘stuffie’ for Christmas. These were Disney characters that they could play with and have as a reminder of the trip that would be happening.
  • We set the intention to look for what was going well. We trusted that everyone would have fun and that is what happened.
  • Look for what is going well

    As grandparents, we let go of specific expectations about what the week would look like. Each family had their own schedule and energy levels varied among all of us. We released each person to enjoy the time in their own way.
  • We also created times of togetherness that allowed cousins to share the awe and wonder of this Magical Kingdom. Flying down a river raft ride and getting wet as we all shrieked and laughed was a highlight for me.
  • Each family had their own hotel room. This balance of alone time and time as a group was a huge help in all of us feeling rested and able to be together for a week. A hotel that included a hot breakfast was a wonderful gift to us all.

For me, the true joy was in seeing each person playing in a way that fit their personality.

I loved seeing the individual families together, laughing and enjoying the excitement.

I am struck by the synchronicity of my theme word for this year being ‘PLAY’. What a great opportunity for me to express my intention to play as I spent the time with my family at Disneyland.

I have also become aware of what I call the ‘shadow side’ of play in my life.

The rest of the family left two days before my husband and I flew home. That meant we could go back to the park for another day. I was surprised at my resistance to this idea. I was curious as to why I would hesitate to spend another day playing. Especially since it would be a day for just the two of us! What could keep me from jumping at this opportunity?

I choose to keep playing

I was able to get in touch with my feelings, and describe them to myself. I realized that I had a ‘story’ that I had reached my ‘upper limit’ in terms of how much play I could participate in. It was an unconscious belief that three days of play was all I deserved. Surely it was time to get back to work by now………

Instead of shaming myself for this belief, I practiced self-compassion and I chose to keep playing. What a magical day we had! I was able to relax into the spirit of fun and I loved every minute of our time together. Disneyland is not just for kids!

 

What now?

I am aware of my tendency to slip into ‘work mode’ now that I am back at home. Even though my husband and I are partners in managing household tasks, I pressure myself by making lists, rushing through the piles of laundry, and hurrying off to buy groceries the minute I am home. I think it is up to me to get it all done as quickly as possible.

I am experimenting with a different approach this time. I want to incorporate play into my chores. What does that look like?

Let go of specific expectations

I take time for a walk in nature even if the chores aren’t all done. I create time for a call with some dear friends. I take an afternoon nap. And, I accept my husband’s offer to be in partnership. It is not all up to me. I am still figuring this out and it is not always easy.

I am so thankful for the wonderful time we had as a family. I believe that the memories will become more meaningful as time goes by. And, I want to remember the lessons I learned  about Play.

Thank you for sharing in my joy as I shared about our family vacation. As I reflected on our time, it has become even more real to me. This has been a chance for me to experience it all over again.

How does Play show up in your life? What lessons have you learned about Play? I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments below.

 

Celebrating Play

This week I am celebrating! I hosted my first day long retreat on Saturday and I feel happy and proud as I reflect on what happened.

As you may already know, the theme for the day was Play and Pleasure. And, we had fun playing together in a beautiful setting with delicious food and playful activities.

The pictures I am sharing tell the story of what we did.

Collecting treasures from the beach
Creating a mandela with items from Mother Nature
Blowing bubbles from the 19th floor into the mischievous wind
Remembering playtime as children as we shared photos of ourselves as young girls
Doodling and colouring, and writing in our journals

 

However, the pictures don’t tell the whole story of what happened that day. Play invited us to take risks by trying activities outside our comfort zone. There was laughter and there were some tears. And, in the safety of our circle, there was a deep sense of being seen and of belonging as we opened up to each other.

I am celebrating myself for hosting this day. And, I am celebrating the women who  courageously joined me. Thank you!

Today I offer another opportunity for you to listen to my podcast with Amanda Johnson. We explore the concept of PLAY and the important place it has in our lives. My desire is that you will be inspired to play each day!

And now, I am off to pack for a trip to the ultimate place to play……Disneyland! My husband and I are travelling there with our children and grandchildren next week. I am so excited to play together as a family, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you when I return.

 

I welcome your comments about how play shows up in your life. What do you do for play? What motivates you to play? What keeps you from playing? Please share your thoughts below.

 

 

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