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Creating balance

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Creating balance

MAMATA VENKAT opens up about the challenge of finding self-compassion and self-acceptance in a world of judgment and criticism. She also offers 10 tips from her own experience about how to cultivate a self-nurturing approach to life.


I want to challenge all of us with a question: Why are we so good at being kind to the people we love, but not to ourselves?

Whenever a friend calls me to vent, to talk through a mistake, or to self-criticize, I am always prepared with an arsenal of compassionate phrases: “It’s important that you aren’t so hard on yourself.” “You are not a bad person.” “It wasn’t a mistake – it was a learning lesson.” “You are an amazing person, and you will grow from this.”

I soothe, I comfort, I take away blame. I remind them of their worth. I encourage them to accept responsibility for what could be better, and at the same time to remember that it is okay to be human. I tell them that, in every situation that seems black and white, there inevitably is always color.

And yet, when the roles are reversed, and it is my turn to feel the weight of an error, the cut of an insecurity, or the (completely normal) wetness of tears triggered by the overwhelm of figuring out life, I only view my world through that black and white lens. I spend hours – sometimes days – mentally punishing myself for even the slightest mistake, without leaving any room to let the light of Grace in. By not giving myself compassion, I limit my ability to create balance, and my world becomes even more colorless.


Many of you may probably identify with this. How do we find that healthy balance of trying to create our best journeys while simultaneously finding the right salves that can quickly smooth the inevitable internal bumps and bruises that appear along the way?

I imagine that the forced isolation of a global pandemic has exacerbated this for many of us. We have all spent nearly a year attempting to wade forward through uncertainty, while at the same time we see the need to face ourselves and our shortcomings that need work. Marry all of this with physical distancing, lots of global uncertainty, and the usual myriad of day-to-day stresses, and it becomes even clearer that the need for both balance and self-compassion is at an ultimate high.

So in a year when we all deserve a little slack, are we actually giving ourselves the Grace and compassion we deserve? In other words: amidst all of the black and the white, both internal and external, are we actively searching for color?

I am the first to admit it: I am no artist. Even my stick figures could use some work. But I always appreciate a good metaphor, and thinking about things that make the dark moments brighter always helps me to create balance.

So what does “finding your colors” look like? Here are 10 tips that have worked for me:


Own the bad moments

They happen, and it’s okay to make a mistake and to own it. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, hurt, or miserable, and to own it. It’s okay that we have bad moments. They don’t make us weaker or minimize our worth. They simply make us human.


Speak to yourself the way you would speak to your friends and family

In hard moments, take a step out of your mind for a moment, and speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend. Would you approach them with judgment, irritation, or harsh criticism? Or would you give them honesty with kindness and compassion? It is important that we recognize our responsibility to be a friend to ourselves as much as we would be a friend to others.


Reframe “mistake” as “learning lesson”

I have found that when I look at a misstep as a mistake, I have a tendency to be even harder on myself. When I instead choose to look at that misstep as a lesson to be learned from, not only am I less likely to be self-critical, but I am also more inclined to grow from that moment, and to not repeat it.


Take the compliment

Many of us have a tendency to shy away from a compliment. We brush it off without embracing it, thinking that we either don’t deserve it, or that it will make us arrogant to accept. These days, when someone gives me a compliment, I am working on hearing it, pausing to accept it, embracing it, and simply saying thank you.


Give yourself the compliment

Own when you have earned it. If you do a good job on a project, at school, at making a dish, or doing something as simple as taking out the garbage, pat yourself on the back and give yourself the “good job” you deserve – it is completely okay to do this.


Throw judgment out the window

In the Heartfulness practice, we often talk about attitudes that are poison to our spiritual growth, such as prejudice. Judgment, whether is toward ourselves or toward others, is a poison to our growth. The more we foster it, the harder it becomes to learn and move forward.


Create self-compassion practices

Are there practices that help you feel more grounded in yourself ? For me, those practices include meditation, writing in a diary, going for a walk to think, and singing. When I need additional affirmation, I often write positive words on Post-It notes and stick them around my room. All of these practices help me feel closer to myself, and help to heal those moments of self-doubt or self-criticism. Find a few practices that help you to feel closer to yourself, and allow those practices to center you during difficult moments.


Have vulnerable conversations

Over the years, I have found that having conversations with friends and family who are experiencing similar feelings is a helpful way to clear out self-doubt and self-criticism. It can be hard to open up and be honest with people about insecurities, negative thoughts, or feelings, but by treating this like a practice, the easier it becomes, and the more we find healing by relating to other people.


Push yourself in healthy ways

Something I am trying to do is not to let tough moments derail me – be it a mistake or moments of insecurity. Instead, own it and push forward. In the past, if I would goof up at work, I would immediately start the process of self-deprecation, which would cause a lot of anxiety and find me repeating my mistakes. It has taken practice and intentional work to arrive at a place where I can own a mistake, be gentle with myself about it, and immediately figure out a solution so I can actually learn from the past and not repeat it.


Make space for gratitude

The best way to combat the negative is with the positive. In the last couple of years, I have tried to find different moments to acknowledge gratitude, whether that is in a diary, on pieces of papers, or in words shared with the people I care about. While it can be easy to wallow in the bad, it is healthier for our mind, body, and soul to focus on what is positive.


Much of this is easier said than done. All of us have our own unique journey to take on the path to self-compassion and inner security. As individual as our paths are, there is one thing all of us have in common: We all have the ability to create color in our lives. We just have to make the choice to do so.

Article By MAMATA VENKAT Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL

Mamata Venkat


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