I might as well just kick rocks is our way of saying that we should just give up. Failure feels terminal. On days in which we lack sleep, an outlet for stress, proper nutrition, or a break from consecutive stressors, we may even wonder if there is a way to get out of everything all together. Our mind understands the world through patterns and it is clear that a pattern of consecutive stressors and failures is indicative of stress and poor opportunities to cope. It is not, contrary to our mindset, a condemnation of self or a startling realization that we are powerless to achieve our goals or be at ease and happy amongst our loved ones.
Our minds preoccupation with failure when it is consecutive and surrounded by stress I call the infinity knot. We can all relate to somehow developing a knot in our shoelaces, bags, or other accessories that seems to have no definite beginning or end. After frustrating moments of trying to loosen the knot, we think dangit I’m gonna have to cut this whole thing off. We may cut off the knot or come back to it later, but we never throw away the shoes, bags, or other accessories. We don’t because we know that the shoes are worth it and at worst, we will simply have to buy some new laces. When your experience feels like an infinity knot, don’t throw yourself away by accident, simply loosen or cut the knot.
We come up with words or phrases for situations to help you disengage enough to get some perspective. We choose a name that you can relate to that is also manageable. When we come up with terrible names for situations, they simply make the situations feel more difficult. We want to make your job feel easier! Also, having a name that you can refer to will help organize your experience; remind you that you have been here before; and activate coping and problem solving skills.
When you find yourself in a no good, stress frenzy day, and the next failure makes you feel like a failure. It is possible that you will feel yourself start to fall down the well of your brain where you start to judge yourself.
Gently stop yourself. Notice your experience as it is coming up without analyzing it. Name it. “Ah, this is just the infinity knot.” Remind yourself that you have dealt with other knots. “I have been here before.” Take some space to bring kindness to your experience. Then choose a kindness activity.
Here are some examples of kindness adapted for just this situation:
1. Count 10 long, 6 count breaths from 1-10, then from 10-1 (a total of 20 breaths).
2. Take a walk and notice how the ground feels under your feet and the colors around you (No 2 steps will ever feel the same and we actually see different hues of colors every day!).
3. Do the self-compassion phrases (This is just suffering. May I be free from suffering, May I be kind to myself, May I accept myself just as I am, May I live with ease. Or your own version.).
4. Call a friend for support (don’t call the same friend every time you are stressed so as not to exhaust your supports).
5. Watch a short video that just brings you a sense of ease and well being (perhaps something funny or heart warming).
6. Go to the gym.
7. Make a plan with friends.
8. Take a nap. An increase in sleep should help your mood.
The most important thing to know is that no thought or experience no matter how intense will last. They may come up with a certain frequency in certain environments, but they will always give way to a new thought, feeling, or bodily sensation. Give yourself permission to let these experiences pass, and to be kind to yourself.
Think about behaving towards yourself, as you would a small child, a parent, or perhaps a friend or an animal. When they get upset, become afraid, or begin to believe that they are failures or deserving of failure, we pick them up and remind them of how this feeling will not endure and we remind them of their true, enduring, positive nature. We don’t only do so because it is the nice thing to do. We do it because it is true.
Above all else, remember that you are not alone. We all fail. We all feel like failures sometimes, and we all want to give up sometimes. These experiences bind us, as does our desire for all beings to be free from harm and to live with ease. This is why we all love underdog movies so much.
So, acknowledge your suffering as universal and experienced by others. Do not diminish your experience for this reason, but rather acknowledge that you are part of the human tribe. As a tribe member, you both suffer and do your very best to bring kindness to your experience.
Finally, the only way to not fail is to not try. Those who try eventually succeed, so fear not if you are failing you are probably well on your way to success! Stay close to your support network. Acknowledge the infinity knot when it comes up. Step back. Give yourself the space to accept and make room for it, and then bring kindness to your experience.
As a human tribe member, some failure is inevitable, but so is success and kindness. When failure and success are removed from the equation, we still have you-unique, whole, and a necessary part of the world without whom there would be an un-fillable void. Don’t believe me? Go out and find the person who is just like you. I know we all get busy sometimes, but always know whoever you are and wherever you are, we appreciate you.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 25. In the Books.