Something hit me last week. In all of the adjustment and talk about the new normal due to the pandemic, in all of our action in the areas of racial justice, I lost sight of the basics. I started to feel like those things didn’t matter because there were so many bigger issues in the world. Pro tip: That’s a classic comparison trap and a GREAT way to make yourself feel less than <—– and that stops now!
We need to go back to the basics – and here’s why.
First, when I say the basics, the two biggies are speaking to yourself with kindness and letting yourself rest. We all have other self-kindness practices that support us, but those two consistently give you the most bang for your buck.
Allow me to explain why I stand by these two and the ah-ha moment I had around how they support the bigger issues.
Speaking to yourself with kindness.
Let’s look at this one through the lens of longevity. Yes, a certain amount of “tough love” or stress will motivate you. Over time; however, it’s consistently proven that too much negative self talk and stress is a massive de-motivator. That means that if you consistently speak to yourself critically or negatively, you’re more likely to feel stress, feel tired, give up, lose progress and more. Stress contributes to over 80% of visits to primary care physicians, and that’s just the start.
Speaking to yourself kindly, on the other hand, has been shown to improve resilience, make you more likely to stick with something and to reduce stress.
Now the longevity. Whether your goal is personal or global (and I would argue that one can’t exist without the other), longevity is likely what you’re seeking. If you make a mistake when speaking out against racism, and you berate yourself for it, you’re significantly less likely to ever speak out again and progress stops. If you make a mistake and you treat yourself with kindness and compassion, you can still feel the sting of making an error while remembering that you are standing up for your values and trying to learn. This kind, compassionate response helps you stay out of the shame spiral and helps the stress response dissipate so that you can continue to make progress.
Letting yourself rest.
This is a big one and something that most people push back on. Burnout is at the heart of my work – it’s what I’m passionate about helping people avoid. While you might think that looks like career transition, it most often looks like an internal transition. Shifting from the belief that your value is linked to your accomplishments to the knowledge that your value is intact no matter what, is liberating. But even I fell into the busy-ness trap lately. I noticed it a few weeks ago and caught myself. Last week I asked all of you if you let yourself rest. What does rest have to do with activism? The first place I saw the two linked is on the Nap Ministry. Think about it – if you’re exhausted all the time from doing all the things just to make yourself feel worthy, can you be thoughtful and engaged in local and national issues? Probably not. Even folks I know who choose public service as their career recognize the importance of rest in their roles. Letting yourself rest gives you the energy to pick up the phone, read the article, research the new information and continue being a champion for change. If we give into the default position of busy-ness there’s a personal and collective cost – and it’s not one that I’m willing to pay.
How are you doing in these two powerful areas? Celebrate all of the ways you’ve spoken kindly to yourself and let yourself rest. Let this be a reset button if you’re also noticing these have been slipping – and resetting with kindness is a great place to begin.