Imagine a Buzzfeed article: ‘The Easiest Introvert/Extrovert Quiz You Will Ever Take’. The quiz will have just one question: “You’re in a room with 5,000 people, what face are you making?” And the options will just be emoji’s.
You can probably already guess which one I am; it’s the outwardly smiling, inwardly bawling face that so accurately captures the human experience it has officially become the word of 2015.
I just got back from a 2-week conference in Florida, which, coming from Upstate New York, is a dream come true for anyone who dies a thousand deaths every winter (read: me). All in all, the conference was amazing. We were celebrating the 75th birthday of Young Life, an organization I have been involved with for a number of years, and whose mission I believe in wholeheartedly. In honor of the 75th birthday, they pulled out all of the stops. Imagine 5,000 professional adults jumping out of their chairs screaming because Mickey showed up and announced that they rented out Hollywood Studios just for us. Imagine pure joy.
But I was the laugh-cry emoji. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, and almost at our breaking point, we often experience the temptation to enter what I like to call “Spiral of Death Mode.” My Spiral-of-Death-Mode is almost always body shame.
There is something so blatantly irrational about body-shame that I somehow continue to overlook again and again and again. It’s not even a good liar, so why am I so quick to believe it? I say this because I was sitting in Florida with 5,000 of my friends, with 5,000 of the kindest, most generous, fun-loving, accepting, joyful people on the planet and the thoughts running through my head went something like this: “Oh no here I am with the 4,999 most talented, funniest, most beautiful, attractive, coolest, most accomplished, better-than-me, etc. people on earth, and then there is me, the worst.”
I can really be so self-absorbed.
My experience was real, I have spent too much on therapy and treatment to refute that point, but the words, the thoughts, those were nothing but lies. As I learned from one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, shame is never productive. Not only does it steal and destroy my joy, but it weasels itself, like an under-the-fingernail-splinter, into my relationships and slowly tears them apart.
There I was, Mickey was dancing, confetti was falling, people were leaping for joy, and I was laugh-crying. I realized, in that moment, if I was going to survive, if I was going to actually get any work done, or talk to another human being, or even keep my original plane ticket and not make a run for the airport, the only option was compassion.
Striving, criticizing, and comparing would only result in more shame, deeper sorrow, and a whole heck of a lot of isolation. My only option, for emotional, social, and spiritual survival, was to have compassion.
I’ll leave you with this quote by the ever-truthful Anne Lamott, which became my personal mantra for the rest of my time in Florida:
“…make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to all problems. Doing a three minute meditation every day will change your life. And naps are nice.”
Happy Wednesday! Have compassion for yourself today! It’s really the most productive thing you can do.