When I was a kid a recognized that self-esteem, or rather the lack of healthy self-esteem was the root cause of a lot of the worlds problems. I actually wrote a paper in high school that claimed that if we could figure out a way to fix the worlds collective and individual self-esteem we could end all wars and other skirmishes. It was a BIG assumption, and I am not sure my ideas were valid, but thinking about self-esteem has been important to me for most of my life. Probably because I, like so many, struggle with it.
My journey into the world of pole fitness, and ultimately what drove Eva and I to start Heaux Apparel, was a desire to learn to love myself again. At 43 years old (when I took my first Pole fitness class) I realized that I was fairly disgusted with myself. I hated the way I looked and felt. I hated seeing pictures of myself and I rarely gave myself a break. I knew I needed something to jump start my self-love campaign and taking a pole dance class seemed like the right place to start. And it has worked. Over the past year and a half I have lost 30 lbs and really gotten back in touch with who I am. Even better, I am proud of who I am.
How it started:
How it is going now:
So last week when I went back to my favorite podcast, The Drive with Peter Attia, the episode on Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff caught my eye (um..ear?). I downloaded the episode and set off on an epic walk in my neighborhood and was immediately drawn into the discussion. This podcast is typically a very nerdy discussion with high level doctors and scientists around subjects such as mitochondria, aging and longevity and lots of other really smart topics. But every so often, Peter will have a guest on to discuss a more “woo-woo” self-analysis kind of subject. His focus is on the science of longevity but as he eloquently says in this podcast having a long life is one thing but having a good long life is another.
One of the things that struck me about the discussion around Self-Compassion is how different it is from Self-Esteem. Basically, self-esteem is fleeting and we often look for and/or find our self-esteem in the wrong places. For instance, bullying is a way to assert yourself as better than some one else thus you find your self-esteem or self-worth from being bigger, stronger, faster, prettier or whatever than the person you are bullying. To that point, we also can give and take away our own self-esteem very easily because what we base it on, as I said, is fleeting. Think about it, you wake up with a day full of promise, all your clothes fit, the sun is shining, your makeup is flawless and you head out to Starbucks to get a coffee and stumble dropping your coffee in the parking lot. Immediately you start an internal monologue about how stupid and clumsy you are. Why did you wear the shoes you can’t walk in, what is someone saw you. A moment earlier you were on top of the world, queen of everything but make one little (not important at all) slip and suddenly you feel like the lowest worm to crawl the earth.
In this same scenario when you get to the part about dumping your coffee on the ground if you have cultivated the ability to be compassionate to yourself, then you don’t go down that spiral. You are able to say things to yourself like “wow, that was a mess but its just a coffee” and you move on. Your personal self-worth isn’t tied up into something like spilling coffee, you are able to see that the thing happened but not assign negative feelings to it. Kristin says self-compassion is learning to say the things to yourself that you would normally say to a good friend. So, if you are walking with a friend and she spills her coffee would you say “wow you are an idiot” or, would you say something like “oh no, I’m so sorry that happened.
When we take on a hobby or practice like Pole dancing we ask our bodies to do a lot of really hard stuff. We also, put ourselves in an arena where we usually can’t/don’t hide our bodies. For most people who have not worked on self-compassion this becomes a mind field of chances to promote negative self-talk. Have you ever said these things to yourself during a class or private session?
“I’m so fat”
“I look terrible in these shorts”
“I’m so weak”
“I’m so stupid why can’t I get this trick”
“That looked horrible I’m never going to be good at this”
Those comments are not very nice, and we would never say them to a friend but we have no problems saying them to ourselves. Whenever I talk like that Eva always says “hey, don’t talk to my friend Susan like that”. And she is right, I shouldn’t talk to myself that way. I should be able to give constructive criticism but also a ton of self-love.
It isn’t easy but listening to this podcast really made me aware and I am making a pact with myself to work on my self-compassion journey a little bit every day.
You can check out the podcast here.
And if what they say strikes a chord, there is also a really cool workbook you can buy to help guide you through the process of learning to be more compassionate to yourself. You can find it on Amazon here.