Posted: Tuesday 25th August 2020
Last week, I was offering clinical supervision to a colleague, when she began telling me about how she had noticed a shift occurring in herself. Where once she was quite self-critical, she now found that she was being more generous towards herself. And this inner shift had led to a corresponding outer shift in how she behaved. She now tended to pause before launching in to the cut and thrust of professional meetings. She tended to stop to register how she was feeling in that moment, and when she did this, she often noticed a sense of unease or difficulty. She had stumbled on a knack of acknowledging and soothing herself before speaking to others. She might say something to herself like ‘o wow, I’m finding this really hard today’ or ‘I don’t know if I’ve got the courage to have this discussion today, but that’s ok, I can’t be my bravest all of the time’. With this generosity towards herself, my colleague noticed that she felt much better in her work.
The story unfolded further. My colleague noticed that since she had practised more generosity towards herself, her meetings were also working out better. Eventually, as our discussion continued, we came to an understanding of why this might be. With greater generosity towards herself, she could hold her difficulties more lightly. She had diluted their grip on her by adding a mixer of generosity. Less threatened by her own feelings, she found that she didn’t need to defend herself so much in meetings. She didn’t need to fight the uncomfortable stuff away. At this point in the discussion, a favourite riddle of my son’s came to mind: How do you defeat your worst enemy? You make friends with him.
What happens out there amongst our interactions if we can manage to befriend our ‘enemy’ feelings and resist being defensive? My colleague filled me in: As her generosity towards herself grew, she felt more generous towards others too. When she ceased defending her own corner she was freer to explore other people’s experiences and perspectives. With this, balls were starting to roll in different directions and things were getting better in her work with other professionals.
So perhaps it’s true what they say; charity begins at home. With generosity towards our own struggles, we have less need to defend ourselves from perceived threats and can listen to our colleagues with a more generous ear. A win-win situation. So how about making a regular donation to the charity of you? It might be that that everyone benefits from your generosity.
Jen & Jael