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Scatter Diagram in a Scatterbrain: A Story of Self-Compassion

Scatter Diagram in a Scatterbrain: A Story of Self-Compassion

By Srija Chakraborty

January 04, 2021

Though we subject ourselves to a spartan diet of effective communication skills, we fail to shed the extra calories that result in a gamut of misunderstandings and sufferings amongst our fellow human beings: just like the unwanted flab around your waist after living on a frugal diet and practicing a rigorous workout regimen. So, what is it that will get the world in shape?

Compassion! And it begins with self-compassion.

True compassion is the tool that unmasks the very basic purpose of communication. That is, recognizing and understanding one’s own needs and those of others, leading to a spiral of more profound and positive relationships around the world or even a small little corner of it. It is imperative that we gain a fuller grasp of how we can practice self-compassion in order to effectively communicate with ourselves and in turn with others so as to build a better world.

“I love you.”

You must have uttered these three “oh-so-important” words on innumerable occasions in your life. But, how often have you addressed the “YOU” to yourself? The idea might seem strange or even narcissistic, for most of us fail to distinguish the not-so-thin line between narcissism and self-compassion. Conversely, we attach “I am” more easily and frequently than “You are” to the adjectives “stupid” and “unworthy.”

It is evident that, more often than not, we inadvertently fail to establish a compassionate communication with our own selves. This handicapped self-communication stifles our self-confidence and smothers our self-esteem, thereby negatively affecting our decisions and behavioral patterns and degrading the quality of our lives.

Now, let us take this to a slightly higher level. This distorted self-communication affects us not only at the individual level but also at the group level. When our lack of self-compassionate communication stimulates wrong decisions, attitude, and perspectives in a group, we fail collectively as well.

Going to even higher levels, let us apply this to our society. The success of a society lies in the collaborative inputs from individuals or from the groups of individuals comprising the society as a whole. Failed self-compassionate communication is bound to have ramifications. The way we communicate with ourselves has a direct bearing on how we affect our lives and our society. The more compassionate our communication with our own selves, the more compassionate and adhesive our society.

Self-Compassion through Scatter Diagram

For us to inculcate self-compassionate communication in our everyday lives, self-awareness, self-worth, and self-acceptance are of primary importance. Here’s where the scatter diagram comes into play. Scatter Diagram fosters self-compassion by facilitating the following techniques:

  1. Self-awareness: If we stay tuned to our strengths, we can avert the vicious cycles of self-sabotage and move towards extending compassion to our own selves. Scatter Diagram provides us with a shot of self-awareness and introspection to identify and stay tuned in to our strengths. These strengths are called “points” on a Scatter Diagram. The techniques of Scatter Diagram help keep us focused on our inner landscape, making it a curtain-raiser in the journey towards establishing a seamless compassionate communication with the self.

  2. Self-worth: It is a hard truth that we cannot always achieve what we want to achieve. When we confront this reality, we question our self-worth; we feel threatened by the fear of being perceived by the society as an unworthy individual. We tend to become crippled with pessimistic thoughts of being shamed and criticized by others. The “self-worth” technique reinforces our real strengths and competencies, and helps us design our life based on these strengths. Scatter Diagram, by reminding us of the strong “points” of our personality, helps us derive our sense of self-worth. This technique administers hope and optimism within us and guards us from the apprehension of rejection in the future. By applying the techniques of Scatter Diagram, we inoculate ourselves from self-critical and self-blaming communication. This is achieved by reducing our irrational self-beliefs and fear of shame-proneness and failure.

  3. Self-acceptance: One of the barriers on the path to achieving self-compassion is conditional self-acceptance. It is humane to accept only our positives and not accept our flaws and deficiencies. In doing so, we allow our shortcomings to define us. We fail to treat our identities and our limitations as separate entities. We draw our self- portrait only in terms of our weaknesses and all the positive attributes seem disjointed. By applying the techniques of the Scatter Diagram, we are able to connect all those disjointed positive attributes that seemed unrelated to us and paint our self-portrait in terms of not only our weaknesses but also our strengths. By employing the Scatter Diagram technique, we also build on our strengths and this, in turn, engenders positivity in us to diagnose our less-desirable traits, find meaning in them, and embrace them. This is how the Scatter Diagram technique fosters an objective and self-accepting communication within ourselves.

How the Scatter Diagram Technique has helped me cultivate Self-Compassion

Before you read on how the Scatter Diagram has made a positive difference to my life, it would be worth knowing as to “Who am I?”

In my early childhood, the answer to the question went something like this: “I am a friendly, caring, impulsive, hot-headed girl who is talented, decent at academics, and good at Kathak,” or something like “I am a fair, pretty, and charming young girl.”

However, in my mid-twenties the answer to the same question changed. It read, “I am an underachiever who is not talented enough to be good at anything, and an ugly-looking person who doesn’t look good in any outfit.”

In providing answers to the same question in different stages of my life, I have simply super-imposed others’ perceptional image of myself and heavily relied upon those perceptions to arrive at my conclusions. In childhood, the others, for example, my teachers at school or my relatives, thought highly of me, perceived me as a very good student securing either the first or the second position in class throughout my academic life. After Class 12, I was accepted by several prestigious universities in India for pursuing an Honors degree in Physics. I had always wanted to do so.

However, heavily influenced by my parents and unable to maintain my stance of pursuing an Honors degree in Physics, I decided to take up engineering as a career. It is then, that, the well-intentioned significant others in my life, especially my relatives and friends, changed their perception of me.

I started casting doubts upon my talent. Despite the fact that with very little preparation I managed to find myself within the top two per cent of the State Level Joint Entrance Examination candidates, I borrowed my self-image of my capabilities as a student from those others. I doubted my academic capabilities.

Over the initial years of my professional life, I put my heart and soul into all my assignments but never garnered any attention, let alone appreciation, from my bosses. I constantly compared myself with my colleagues. I saw them outshine me the way I had used to others, back in my school days. I blanketed myself in fear of failure. I paid little or no attention to the potential that I was yet to tap. Gradually, I developed a very thick coat of low confidence and low self-worth.

This influenced the way I communicated and also affected the way I responded to communications. I feared clarifying my doubts from my bosses. I allowed them to overpower me, to criticize me, or to belittle me even when I did not deserve such treatment. I retreated. I lost my voice. I forgot my positives. I perceived myself as an unworthy, incompetent, and good-for-nothing individual. I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle. I could not quit my job in fear of being shamed by others and found it difficult to continue either. This sense of unworthiness was etched so deep into my mind over a period of two to three years that even without realizing, my dreams of pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and of becoming a strategist and eventually a highly successful woman became dormant.

My focus shifted its trajectory from my goals to my appearance. I emphasized only on my looks. Even “obsessed” would be an understatement. I gambled away all my self-esteem on how good I could appear. I defined myself only in terms of my appearance. Consequently, I suffered the ill effects. I became overtly anxious of each and every public appearance, even if that meant stepping out of the house for grocery shopping. I could not take a respite from checking myself on every mirror or windowpane that I passed by when I stepped out. I freaked out when I thought I looked bad, so much so that I could not manage to step outdoors; walking confidently on the street was a dream far-gone. I strived to look perfect in every photo or selfie, failing which I felt naked as though all my flaws were exposed to the world.

Every now and then I would find myself waged in self-defeating wars on social media, constantly comparing my photographs with those of others. I anchored on the weakest weapons such as makeup and beauty filters. I forgot to leverage my most powerful weapons: my confidence and my smile. In the process, I lost my stride in my uniqueness and my self-worth became contingent on my outer—not inner—topography.

It was at this time that I got introduced to this beautiful concept of scatter diagram by my mentor. No wonder, the first thought that ran through my self-critical mind was as to how could a person like me have any point on the Scatter Diagram. But therein lies the beauty of the technique. It requires delving deep within the horizons of your brain. It was for the first time that I started an in-depth analysis of my habits (good and bad), values, passion, hobbies, strengths, and goals.

And, it was not like eureka that I had my Scatter Diagram ready. I had to dig really deep to communicate with my inner self. My brain feasted on the deepest of musings on the following questionnaire:

a) What are the things that give me perpetual happiness?

b) Self-satisfaction or recognition by others, which one blooms me?

c) Benchmark that I set for myself or on the one that others set for me—which one is my motivator?

d) What were the occasions on which I was respected or appreciated? What were the occasions on which I was berated?

e) What do I want people to remember me for?

f) What are my accidental slips?

g) Am I courageous enough to recognize and embrace my imperfections?

Step 1: In my attempts to find answers to these questions, the Scatter Diagram has helped me rediscover things that motivated me like dancing, cooking, writing, and watching movies. It also helped me find my character strengths such as diligence, meticulousness, and courage. That I am good at dancing, cooking, writing journals was a disjointed event of the past. Scatter Diagram reinstated them. My conception of my self was, until now, defined only in terms of my appearance. Scatter Diagram gave me a wholesome and complete definition of my self by reintroducing my inner qualities.

Step 2: I envisioned my long-term and short-term goals. My goal of getting admission into a top business school and becoming a highly successful woman, which I thought was intangible, seemed attainable. My past achievements (points on the Scatter Diagram) served as constant reminders and sources of hope for an optimistic future.

Rigorous practice of the technique facilitates internalizing hope. The injection of hope through Scatter Diagram enables an improved ability to deal with the fear of shame-proneness arising out of a fear of failure and thereby propels one towards the set goals.

The psychological barrier stemming from a fear of criticism and embarrassment was the number-one barrier that impeded an effective communication between my manager and me. Now that I evaluate my self-esteem in terms of my capabilities, I can deal with any negative feedback more objectively: I treat the criticism and my identity as two separate entities.

So, the fear of criticism is not so aversive. I do not feel afraid to ask my boss as to what his expectations are from the work assigned to me. I do not stumble, if I need to clarify my doubts. Because of my improved self-communication, I can ably understand the information communicated to me by my manager in a manner intended by him. Consequently, I can deliver the expected results and also communicate my ideas and thought processes unambiguously.

Step 3: I chalked out ways to achieve my long-term and short-term goals by making use of points on the Scatter Diagram. This step distinguishes the Scatter Diagram technique from other therapies or counseling techniques. Let us analyze a bit in depth to understand how the Scatter Diagram technique is unique in its operational effectiveness.

The Scatter Diagram technique, like strength-based counseling, aids in providing solutions to people who have poor self-esteem, want to overcome challenges, and achieve their goals but often feel stuck in life. Strength-based counseling helps in identifying strengths and in realizing goals by capitalizing solely on strengths. Unarguably, though working on strengths offers a plethora of benefits, yet focusing only on the strengths can sometimes be a disadvantageous attitude. Emphasizing only on what works for you may leave unaddressed underlying maladaptive thoughts stemming from what does not work for you.

Our weaknesses are our problem areas. The general human tendency is to look for solutions that have worked for us in the past. When you practice the Scatter Diagram technique, you have a natural inclination towards scouting for points with similar situations or problems and, thereafter, deriving workable solutions from them. In doing so, Scatter Diagram not only focuses on strengths but also addresses the underlying issues or problems arising from weaknesses.

Scatter Diagram by the sheer nature of it—that is, scattered—explains why you cannot always focus just on your strengths, and, sometimes, how the best way to move forward is to embrace the imperfections and address the underlying problems arising from those imperfections. In the process, the weaknesses themselves could become the points on the Scatter Diagram and serve as reminders that those weaknesses themselves can be turned into strengths by accepting them and addressing them.

A constant point on the Scatter Diagram could be the ability to take up one’s weaknesses. It is needless to say how embracing weaknesses does not result in misplaced perceptions of reality and in chasing unrealistic targets. For instance, one of my strengths is “meticulousness.” When I leveraged only on meticulousness, I tried to perfect every minute aspect of my appearance and when unable to do so, I could not accept the asymmetry and settle for anything less. I found myself invariably trapped in the self-harming vicious cycles.

Movies, a constant point on my Scatter Diagram, introduced me to Olive from the 2006 award-winning American blockbuster movie Little Miss Sunshine and made me believe in the dictum: “Let Olive be Olive.” From Olive, I learnt that it is okay to not conform to the conventional standards of beauty and that it is more important to embody one’s wholeness. Scatter Diagram gave me ample resources to broaden the horizon of my idea of beauty and encouraged me to become more self-accepting and love every bit of me. Now, I use meticulousness to fuel self-improvement without being destructive. With continued practice, the ability to find comfort from discomfort could become one of my points on the scatter plot.

The Scatter Diagram technique, in enabling me to harness the power of self-compassion, has streamlined my inner and outer communication skills. I feel safer and more-cared-for with my new self. I am bestowed with more courage to practice imperfections. I have garnered more resilience to strive towards my personal and professional goals. My transformation from a stingily self-compassionate to a self-loving person was definitely not a cakewalk and certainly not an overnight phenomenon.

However, the intermediary trek to get me there is worth savoring every bit.

The Bottom Line

The most crucial yet less-touched-upon faucet of communication is the ability to avoid misunderstanding. Lack of compassion and, more importantly, the lack of self-compassion blocks our ability to understand ourselves and others. At the heart of the Scatter Diagram technique is the process to inculcate self-compassion. Scatter Diagram technique makes you self-aware by making you revisit the arenas from where your self-esteem stems, redesigns your life based on the positives inside you, and aligns your self-image with the reality free from your biases.

More importantly, Scatter Diagram, in its uniqueness, helps you identify your negative triggers and rather than sweeping them under the rug, allows you to embrace those negatives. It also gives you the opportunity to tap the best out of our negatives.

I have shared my story. So, all the people out there with poor self-esteem jammed with distorted inner and outer communication skills and unable to navigate your way through the pits towards your goals, please try your hands on the Scatter Diagram tool to become a more self-loving, a healthier self-esteemed, a better self-managed person and, last but definitely not the least, a more effective communicator.

The key to mastering this technique is the old cliché: “The more you practice, the better you’ll be.”

Practice, till it becomes your reflex.

 

Srija Chakraborty is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.

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Empathy and Compassion Happiness Mind Relationships

Take Care

Take Care

November 23, 2020

Take care. 

These two words either warm our soul or provide empty wishes, depending on how the message is delivered. We know how to read the words in the silence of our loved ones. We learn—why, more than how—to dismiss the cacophony of hollow etiquette framed in words. Rhetorical words, particularly. We dismiss them with an equally shallow politeness. 

The onus of taking care, understandably, is on the recipient of the message.

(You) take care (of yourself). 

Nandini, a creative professional, takes good care of herself. She routinely works out in a trendy gym, where, at regular intervals, strategically placed high-decibel speakers blast out an assertive voice claiming that the gym “cares for you.” Loyal to the idiosyncrasies of the brand strategist that she is, she completes the tag line in her perky tone.  

“Cares for your money.” 

She, then, exchanges a harmless laughter with her selectively sincere trainer. Occasionally, sweaty gym enthusiasts stop puffing their chests out and break into a smile at her mimicry. Deep down, her humorous response is a reflection of her lack of faith in the empty claim. Never has the gym cared to call up David, her husband, who routinely disappears after paying an annual membership fee. 

Nandini, too, like most of us, is guilty of abusing those two magical words. Guilty of uttering without pondering first on the utterance. Guilty of not meaning the meaning. Guilty of moral hypocrisy, because tables do turn. 

When Nandini isn’t working or working out or spending a fortune taking care of her skin and her hair, she feeds on the newsfeed and consumes the delights of others’ lives. She hates herself, despite all the “self-care.”

Double, triple, quadruple hypocrite Nandini is. 

For taking care of ourselves without knowing how to take care of ourselves hurts the self. The skin glows, the hair shines while the inner world, shunned by the glow-shine veil, endlessly awaits its turn for a renovation. The internal system communicates an earnest plea to the veil to let it break free of the firewalls of social networking, to allow it to build relationships. 

The inner self knocks on the door. Thinks aloud. 

Nandini, are you home? The lights are on but you are off. Off the real world. I am concerned about you. You need to understand the impact of spending your limited attention loathing, loving, and fantasizing those virtual lives.  

First: Based on the “reality,” which arguably isn’t the truth, you constantly redefine how your life should be. 

Second: You don’t pay yourself the attention you seek from others. 

The net result you achieve is an imitation of a should-be life. The constant tussle between the imitation and the original, as I have seen, leaves you exhausted. Unknowingly ignored, the original life, if bravely attempted, is worth your time. You don’t receive a notification on your smartphone reminding you to like your imperfect life. The recipes of others’ lives keep getting you to compare yourself. Comparisons are brutally unkind and unfair, Nandini. Not so much when others decimate you to a few parameters but what you do to yourself when you indulge in comparisons. 

Yes, imitation. 

Imitation is arguably the best form of flattery but is clearly not so articulate in giving voice to people. A voice borrowed from successful people or loaned from popular movies doesn’t last beyond a temporary ego boost or an orgasmic adrenaline rush. I have noticed that if there is no precedent for your ideas, rather than cheering your uniqueness, you feel concerned that your thought process might make you look stupid. Your voice may as well be wrong, in which case, you must have the humility to stand corrected. But having that original voice is crucial for your self-development. You keep your ideas hidden deep inside a secret chamber, fearing disapproval or failure. This behavioral pattern has, not so surprisingly, put an end to your uniqueness.  

Before you realized, you became an elegant copy of copies, Nandini. Sexy, alluring, grand, mesmerizing … but a copy nonetheless. We both know how many ideas you have lifted from others. And, I know how remorseful you feel every time you plagiarize and call it “creativity.” 

The market for copies is fiercely competitive, ripe with safe opportunities; originality, on the other hand, is a relatively apprehensive and uncontested market. With every additional copy produced, the value of the original increases and that of the copy decreases. 

The cycle of a should-be life continues. Because living the original, imperfect life requires courage. 

The world needs more unique individuals, Nandini. You will do better to retain your uniqueness. The mutual interest of the human being that you are and the humankind in desperate need of changers isn’t enough to motivate you to retain yourself, I understand. My point is not that you aren’t getting better but that you are killing the unique elements in you fearing that they might make you look unsocial. Plus, you always have a tendency to validate your habits, your thoughts, your actions. 

Remember: “If,” “But,” and “Should” do less than what “Will,” “Do,” and “Can” can. 

Rejection is not your cup of tea, I know. You need a deeper understanding of rejections. Rejections and dealing with rejections are terrifying encounters. That won’t be so scary if you knew how to look at them as plain facts. And, move on. Your expensive business education, unfortunately, didn’t teach you much beyond copying and pasting. I would suggest you to invite more rejections to feel comfortable with rejections. Aim for the impossible, Nandini! You have nothing to lose but an opportunity to make peace with rejections, and hit a jackpot if otherwise. 

Nandini, the more pressing concern is that you don’t have the time to spend with yourself, to connect with the person whose body you live in, to appreciate yourself for the small wins. The imitated life you are trapped in, no matter what you do, turns out to be less than the should-be life. For you don’t know how to slow down a bit when everyone else is moving too fast—how to approve the disapprovals. 

For you have long forgotten the joy of spending time with the child and the old, you have long been ungrateful for the many gifts you are surrounded with, you have long been using someone else’s tape to measure your life. 

For you haven’t really smelt the coffee you drink every day, you haven’t seen the buildings you move past daily on your way to the office. You haven’t used your hands in a long time to create something. You must try making one of those clay idols again. Muddy fingers carving tiny hands out of a heap of silt. 

For you haven’t read works of literary fiction, you haven’t gifted your mind the imagination of experiences of others’ lives. You haven’t listened, you haven’t empathized.

Last week, your extended family members visited you. David’s maternal aunts and uncles, none of whom you are fond of. I know how much you dislike Sheela Aunty because of her habit of poking her nose into everyone’s life. After almost seven months, you met them. Sheela Aunty made a harmless comment: “You have become fat.”

You felt terrified, claustrophobic but managed to humor them. Unwillingly, you let them make you a part of a group photo. After they left, you went to your room. You shook in fear of imaginary dislikes on Facebook and Instagram. You sobbed. Shrilled, till the room deepened with your gloom. You punched yourself. Slapped yourself. Punched David. He kicked you back brutally on your stomach—repeatedly—as though his leg were a fork capable of killing you. This unimaginable domestic violence continued for two days. Non-stop. 

Why, Nandini? Why?

Nandini, my dear, have you ever considered appreciating your skills? Your cooking abilities, your work performance, your writing skills? The mutton biriyani that used to get people drooling? The touching ad that you designed based on the life of the transgender person, Svetlana, who had adopted a child? The anaphora poem that earned you the “Artsy Adsy Prize 2020?” Your ability to produce outstanding research papers? The pioneering research paper you wrote on the necessity to have gender-neutral washrooms at workplace? That, too, without plagiarizing! 

Do you think you need to look like a model or a film star to live your life? Are there identities of you that are more important than your glutei and abs? Sure, exercise, be fit by all means, but do so because you want to take care of yourself. Not to impress strangers on the Internet. Moreover, why do you need to start living your life after you achieve an hourglass figure? What’s wrong with who you are today? 

No one has the power to “other-ize” you for who you are, Nandini. Neither the educated nor the literate; neither the beautiful nor the wonderful; neither the rich nor the wealthy; neither the straight nor the arrow; neither the law nor the claw; neither the art nor the science; or the old adage and the new. No one. Often what makes us extraordinarily human is what is denigrated in popular rhetoric. Don’t rob yourself of the small joys of life for having a dialogue with the deaf.

When and if they turn their gaze away, don’t look for shadows; for if you try to find one, you will create many out of nothing. Rather, be impregnable and untouchable by their words and actions that cast a deep shadow inside your mind. 

That respectfully indifferent person is your hero: You. Nandini Arora. Make that hero a superhero.

Train your mind more than you train your body, Nandini. You have exercised—squatted, curled, pressed, crunched—but you haven’t really taken care of yourself. Not at all. All the years, you have looked at the mirror, arranged your hair but not the head. How many more Keratin treatments will make you happy? 

Nandini. You have looked at the mirror, seen what you don’t have but not what you have. You cannot get up by drowning yourself in self-criticism. You have looked at the mirror, taken care of the invisible wrinkles but not the unseen emotions beneath them. You haven’t had a warm conversation with the imperfect self that you are.

You haven’t seen yourselves through your kind eyes.

You haven’t learnt how to shield yourself from your own devices and desires. How to protect yourself from your own expectations. How to access the renewable sources of happiness within yourself, in your solitude, in your state of flow. While conceptualizing an ad, maybe. Or, while trying to be the artist whom you lost to technology?

For you, it is either a low self-esteem or a high chest-beating, unhealthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem allows one to be compassionate towards oneself, to understand how positive emotions might be thin in absence of the essential negative emotions, to clearly see things beyond one’s control, to be able to delay gratification, to gracefully accept rejections, and more. 

Above all, self-compassion, Nandini. You haven’t extended compassion to yourself. 

Fall, you will. But. Push yourself up and crawl. Let go of the incessant need to network, to run with a business card after someone running with a business card after someone else higher in the hierarchy. Invest in meaningful relationships, Nandini. 

Call up Sheela Aunty. Talk to her. She loves your Mutton Biriyani. She loves you. Don’t judge her. Hug David tightly and tell him how much you love him. Now, Nandini. Now. 

And a little self-compassion, please? Shall we, Nandini?

I look forward to hearing from you. The sooner, the better.

Take care.

Your,
Inner Self.


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A Little Self-Compassion

A Little Self-Compassion

By PPD

June 24, 2020

We put a premium on effective communication. Listening, empathizing, respecting, choosing the right words, projecting confidence, etc., do indeed lead to better relationships and more business opportunities. The positive correlation between effective communication and success is easy to establish. Individuals and businesses, through their lives and successes, have shown us how to walk the talk.

Despite the omnipresence of evidence, our communication takes an ugly turn just when we need to hold our tongue. We can’t swallow the impulse to humiliate others. Empathy is easier said than done. Respecting others costs our ego; not everyone is ready to pay the price.

Knowing and doing are rarely on the same wavelength, making our knowledge irrelevant.

Imagine then, how we talk to ourselves, given that neither anyone is listening to our self-talks nor do we have to seemingly pay any price for our internal dialogues. There are reasonably high chances that your inner-voice serves you a diet rich in self-criticism. You are convinced that the diet provides you the nutrients necessary to win the race.

The voice is both right and wrong. Right because it gives you a chance to tap the latent potential in self-criticism. Wrong because the voice tells you that criticizing yourself is the most effective way to unleash your potential. It tells you about the 1% who succeeded but not about the 99% who didn’t. Through its glib talks, the voice blocks your access to your higher self.

Ignore criticism. Embrace compassion.

Scoff at me. But let me tell you that there is nothing more important than taking care of the “I.” The benevolent “We” is not so proud of the individualistic I. But unless the I is fine, the We can’t be well. Those I-shaming theories make an assumption that a focus on the self is a selfish behavior. The I is ruthlessly criticized for being I and branded narcissistic for life. Narcissism is too complex an affair to be simplified to I.

When you respond to the most rhetorical question “How are you” by saying that “I am good,” you better ensure that the I is good.

“Take care.”

Mean what you say every day. Take care.

Treat the I with compassion. No anti-aging cream, no deadlift, no book, no partner, no penthouse, no robot, no success can do so better than you.

James, a 53-year-old C-Suite leader from New Jersey, was unhappy though he had everything one could wish for—a loving family, name, fame, and wealth. He failed to understand why he didn’t like himself.

There was a lurking fear of failure in him. The constant pressure to deliver results; the regular barrage of critical comments from the people sitting at the top turned his mind into a sponge that selectively absorbed everything wrong with him. No matter how trivial those comments were, he would go on a self-doubt trip from which he would take a lot of time to return. He would, thus, be left with little mental space to savor the blessings of life.

He didn’t know how to treat himself with compassion, though he preached positive thinking. He didn’t know how to talk to himself without pointing out his shortcomings and ruminating on them.

Asha, a beautiful lady from New Delhi, started believing that she was ugly. Few professional downturns made her hate the mirror. There is apparently no connection between the two but there is more to it than meets the eye. She had always been considered a successful professional, but the unexpected string of failures made her feel worthless. After months of self-analysis, she couldn’t explain her failures. Thereby, she scapegoated her looks. Her self-esteem plunged into the cracked ground beneath her feet.

She identified herself as a compassionate woman in her introductory note, and in the course of discussions narrated how, in college, she had saved a girl from committing suicide. In her own words, she had taught the girl how to be kind to herself. When I asked her why she was a hypocrite, she was taken aback. She understood why, nevertheless.

Criticism is easy. Most people excel in self-criticism.

Compassion is hard. It requires setting empathy in motion.

Self-compassion is harder. You need to reach your higher self, which is not so easily accessible. You need to distance yourself from your feelings and emotions, and extend compassion to the I you see from a metaphorical distance.

Talking to the I with kindness is the best place to start.

Talk to yourself as you would talk to your baby when she cries in the middle of the night. Your unconditional love for her isn’t reserved for the moments when she is a bundle of cuteness.

Talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend who recently lost his job. You would hug him and tell him that this, too, shall pass.

Talk to yourself as you would talk to your mother in physical pain. You would sit by her side, hold her hands, and take care of her.

Talk to yourself as you would talk to the individuals you admire, despite their frailties. You would keep aside your self-righteousness and appreciate their talent.

Talk to yourself in second person.

Not “I am not giving up.”

“You are not giving up, Partha.”

Take a pen and a paper. Write. Write to communicate. With the feelings hidden underneath the superficial “I am good.” With the negative emotions that have unfairly been denied their right to exist. With the uncontrollable impulses suffering from identity crisis. With the thoughts scattered all over the brain. With the ego which never seems to suffer from a bad day. With the goal-turned-mirage. With the dreams you call “just kidding.” With the unconscious buried deep within. With the inner audience trying to shame the host. With the past refusing to make peace with the present.

Write to travel from denial to acceptance. Often the dirt in your mind is stronger than the love in your heart. Self-acceptance cleanses the tinted glasses; it paves the way to see yourself clearly for who you are.

Write to find yourself.

When you find yourself speaking the language of kindness with yourself, you shall see the common thread of pain and suffering that connects the world. You shall understand that your problems aren’t privileged. You shall celebrate the small joys in the journey of your life. You shall discover how you love many people and how many people love you in ways that can’t be accurately described by the word “love” alone. You shall feel grateful for the gift of life.

Little by little, you shall find your own means to self-compassion.

Your higher self, in time, shall find you.

 

*James and Asha aren’t the real names of the individuals.

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