BY KRISTIN LARSEN
Life has a distinct way of revealing challenges and difficulties within business or everyday living. How someone chooses to represent themselves in those challenging moments demonstrates who they are to themselves and others around them.
Sometimes self image can be everything. It can be the external perception that is displayed to keep the identity intact. A person’s beliefs support the daily living of this identity and the ego keeps it alive. But at what cost? A man needs to be strong. He can’t show weakness. He must provide. He must never show fear. He must display strength in the eyes of others. The challenge presents itself when these ideals are threatened. What does it mean to have strength? There are many attributes that can describe strength. These may be honesty, trust, patience, determination, dedication, respect, resilience, optimism, and self confidence. However, there is one attribute that is often overlooked because it is either misunderstood or viewed as a weakness instead of strength. This one attribute is self compassion. It holds many of the important attributes of strength. When it is embraced for self, there is a new perception that is created. There is a greater awareness that detaches from the ego. The need to be strong is transformed into the need to accept oneself in the present moment. The mask of concealed weakness can be removed.
Through my own personal experiences in life, I tried to suppress or push away what impacted my belief of strength. My internal thoughts believed “that by revealing a moment of weakness, I was not enough as a person, unworthy to be a man, sometimes to the extent of being human.” I needed to have my armour on at all times. Removing the armour would mean hurt or pain could intrude from the outside even though I was suffering on the inside. The world I interacted in had two distinctions for men, those with strength and those with weakness. The question was always asked, “Which one did I want to label myself as? Strong or weak?” My thoughts carried shame and guilt everywhere I went. My doubts and worries in my life meant I was weak. Feeling into the emotions of inadequacy and insecurity meant I was weak. Silently I sought for validation of my worthiness with needing to be right, knowing the answers, being in control and needing to display my toughness and power. I resisted and fought internally, always trying to maintain strength on the outside. Self judgement propelled me deeper into isolated mental struggles. Depression welcomed anxiety. Anxiety welcomed depression. The standards I created were too much to live up to. I learned how to cope and survive by hiding, pretending to be someone other than myself, not revealing my true self, and numbing myself and my emotions so I could maintain control in the name of strength.
Eventually I realized my view on strength was not serving me. It was not allowing me to show up in my life the way I wanted. My curiosity guided me to explore how strong leaders and individuals at the lowest depths in their lives found the courage and strength to alter their self perception in order to change what they were experiencing in their moments of undisputed weakness. What I found was that they first realigned with their core values. By placing focus on their values and combining them with their strengths, this created an actionable path to follow while staying true to self. They also took moments to be present with self. This allowed them to be able to acknowledge what was being experienced in those moments of difficulty or challenge and accept the “what is” in order to readjust their focus to what is wanted instead. Lastly, their focus was redirected from the suffering and shifted towards what was truly desired. I realized that by shifting my perspective to what I wanted to be experiencing, I was able to take the necessary steps to let go of: insecurities, the constant inferiority struggle, always being angry inside, constantly frustrated at myself or others, self righteous ideals, and the compulsion to tear myself down in the midst of failure or setbacks. Self compassion was one of the necessities that allowed me to do the internal work that was necessary to make the transformational change possible. I needed to give myself permission to practice self compassion and overcome the misconception that self-compassion is weak.
According to Kristin Neff, one of the various experts in the research field of self compassion, there are three components which comprise the principle of self compassion:
- Self kindness is the act of extending internal treatment to oneself similar to that of a good friend.
- Mindfulness explores challenges and difficulties with curiosity as opposed to judging them from a place of unapproved worthiness.
- Common humanity invites and acknowledges the inclusion of one’s personal suffering with those of others who also experience the same challenges.
These principles of self compassion allowed me to step into what I wanted to be experiencing while letting go of my beliefs that were preventing me from truly embracing strength. I no longer feared living with an open heart, being vulnerable, showing my authenticity, and being capable of seeking help when I thought all options were exhausted. My new belief of self compassion is that it offers immeasurable strength and resilience. It helps to clarify the essential qualities to be a worthy man and leader in my own life and the lives of others. I created a deeper connection to myself and others through daily acts of courage that began to impact all areas of my life. My desired intention is to be a model of greatness for myself so that I can model it for my son as well. By practicing and incorporating self compassion into my daily life, it is creating a freedom I am responsible for and can take ownership of.
Kristin Larsen is a Transformational Health Coach who helps men and women adapt to new habits that align with their health and life goals. He leads them to transform their mindset to clarity, freedom, empowerment. Cultivating an unstoppable approach to achieving results that continually multiply in health and life.
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