A few years back, Oprah interviewed Lady Gaga at her wellness tour down here in South Florida.* Gaga described how she lives with chronic pain and had learned to take things slow. She didn’t love the term baby steps though. Gaga’s self-honoring way of moving through the world evokes more intentionality and empowerment than that term captures. Instead, she calls it, “taking one brave bite at a time.”
I’m with Gaga. And the idea of taking a bite appeals to me much more anyway.
Martha Beck refers to navigating this way as, “the slow accumulation of tiny efforts.” So much more humane than our Grind Culture that has us believing we aren’t doing enough ever.
The not enough thinking is quite destructive. We are taught that self-criticism makes us better people. That the harder we are on ourselves, the more motivated we are to do better. Studies show it’s actually the reverse.**
Contrary to what we’ve been fed, self-compassion promotes personal improvement. Self-criticism decreases motivation to do anything. When we tell ourselves we are no good, we then envision ourselves acting in ways that make us feel worse.
It becomes like a massive garbage ball that can flatten us if we allow it. We don’t take care of ourselves which decreases motivation and productivity. A mind embattled in depression and anxiety creates a body that is symptomatic. We might still get the job done but man have we made it HARDER. It is a major energy drain to flog yourself relentlessly.
When we are kinder to ourselves, we feel better. And when we feel better, we do better.
Because we overlay so much of our lives with negative self-talk, it all feels more daunting. When that happens, we can go even gentler. A fellow MB coach asks clients to identify a ‘non-step’ in the direction they want to point themselves. Something that takes the pressure off but puts energy towards the life they want. When they don’t feel ready, but they do feel a little flutter. A non-step looks like researching the options or finding the people who have done “the thing.” Something light and soft that will point you there.
Because of all the plate spinning going on in my own life and the lives of the people closest to me, my brave bites become apparent only in the present moment. The second I start future casting and, worse yet, predicting bad outcomes by worrying, I become deaf and blind to all the information available to me in the here and now.
And there is not just information in the present moment, there is also beauty, even in the most trying circumstances. Like the friends who are there for us when it gets hard. The support in nature to absorb tough emotions. And, my favorite, the magical evolution of our relationships when we honor our own needs. All so beautiful.
When I am not fast-forwarding my life to something scary, I have full access to my truth. I am intuitively guided. Then, when chaos hits, I have the ability to access peace and make decisions that grow that peace instead of diminish it. I am able to direct myself toward the life my heart desires. Moment by moment. One brave bite at a time. The slow accumulation of tiny efforts. And when it’s all too much, a non-step for good measure.
SO, dear reader. Whatever you are facing, whatever you’ve got swirling all around you, you can do this. Just stay right here where all the intel is available to you. Be guided in peace and calm.
When you allow yourself to take in what is happening around you, you get the sense that it’s all gonna be okay.
WRITING PROMPT: What non-step can you take that will focus energy towards your heart’s desire?
*Find the full interview of Gaga and Oprah here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8iNYY7YV04
**In Natalie Miller’s latest episode of Mindwitchery, she describes a 2015 study on Regret Theory. Each of the subjects had done something that caused them feelings of regret. The people who treated themselves kindly adopted new behaviors. The ones who viewed themselves as the kind of people prone to screwing up just did more of the same. You can learn about Self-Compassion Theory in the May 25, 2023 Episode of Mindwitchery or check out the work of Kristen Neff at self-compassion.net.
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