Learning From The Model: Notes on Self-Compassion From My Cousin Ryan

Making You More Beautiful

One of the greatest self-compassion contributions came from my cousin Ryan, when he spent most of his working hours as a professional model.  I was transitioning from running with a rough crew, and looking to evolve my image.  An eagle scout with a keen eye, Ryan knew everything about clothes and presentation.  He told me, “Stick to the classics or new ideas that seem to be evolving classics.  They will never go out of style.  And, never buy something that does not make you look better for wearing it.”

If you have read previous entries, you know that we did not grow up as cousins, but rather as brothers.  It was my paternal grandmother’s life quest for her grandchildren to be that close, maybe because she was adopted or maybe because she loved her family as much as anyone I have ever met.  Fortunately, we have amazing, fun, and hilarious cousins.  Their inappropriate humor and wisdom has kept me afloat for some time.  So, on this occasion, as has been the case with so many others, I took this to heart.

The Model’s Guide To Self-Compassionate Decision Making

How does this revelation impact self-compassion?  Simple.  Like all things, if your decisions do not leave you feeling more accepted, loved, connected, grateful, and alive, you should discard them.  Most of the advice out there spends a lot of time describing in detail that which upsets you. 

The people writing this kind of advice know that life has been hard on all of us, and choose to ally with your anger, as a strong marketing move, and it works.  You do feel heard and validated, which is great, but you also likely have no new resources that would allow you to pursue a life of greater ease.

Ryan’s advice acknowledges that you will have to try on some strategies, behaviors, and life decisions, and they will not all fit, nor make you feel more beautiful for having chosen them.  However, if you know this ahead of time, you will be able to discard the strategies that do not work for you quicker, and accept the strategies that work for you with the same speed and deftness.

Goodness of Fit

How will you know if this new strategy is a fit?  Ask yourself three important questions.  Do I feel focused in a way that makes me feel competent and empowered?  Am I taking on enough to feel alive, but not panicked?  Does this strategy decrease my physical stress, and bring me ease in ways that I can measure?

Focused, Competent, Empowered.

So, you have seen something on social media or had a friend recommend a book or an audio recording that they swear will bring you greater well-being, and more success.  You try it, but find it uncomfortable, and confusing.  Pretty soon you are so focused on this new strategy that you cannot even remember your goals.  Let this strategy go.

Every tool you take on does not have to affirm every one of your beliefs.  If it did, you would probably learn very little.  However, it cannot be in conflict with your core values or your strengths.  It needs to use your strengths in a way that helps you feel more focused, and hopeful.

There is a simple test to make sure the new tools you use are functioning the way they should.  Write down your goals.  Then, think about the new strategy.  Has it given you any new information about how to get to your goals?  Has it made you more hopeful about achieving them?  What is at least 1 new thing you can do to pursue your goals with this strategy that makes you feel more empowered?  If these three questions yield a no, it is time to move on.  If they get a yes, then they are a go, but re-evaluate every week to make sure they are still working.

Stretching Not Straining

If you want to achieve your goals, you must take on enough to maintain your current lifestyle, and create momentum towards the bigger goals that go along with having a life of greater ease, meaningfulness, and an abundance of resources.  People tend to live in the extremes of either taking on too much or too little.  They either sign up for 10 billion programs at the same time, or scoff at the stupidity of people trying to make a better life.

To avoid these blunders, just go back to your list of three goals, and see if there is one small thing that you can do every day to move towards your goals.  Success requires momentum, which means that it must be something that you work on daily no matter how small. 

It is much easier to continue something that you do all of the time than to do a good thing once in while.  The reasoning behind this is that the more often you do something, the more automatic and thus less stressful it is on your body and mind.  So, start small, and dream big!

Measurable Ease

Can you remember a time where you cooked something that looked so delicious, but then you took one bite, and thought what is this wretched bile?  Normally, we avoid this by tasting it ourselves, while it is cooking, or we ask some other hapless victim to join in.  We do this to ensure that what we have cooked is good enough to meet our goals of being delicious.  Our body is the measuring tool, and the measurement is defined by how good it tastes not how good it looks.  Plastic fruit looks great, but it tastes awful.

You need to apply this same strategy to your goals.  Think about what you want to achieve long term, and then think about the short-term changes that you would need to see to know that you were moving towards your long-term goals.  For example, if your long term goals were greater organization and less stress, you would journal at least once a week in as few words as possible (the smaller the task, the more likely it is achieved) about things that you notice have made you feel a little more organized, and a little less stressed. 

A good example of feeling more organized might be cleaning out the garage or getting file folders for your bills and receipts.  A good example of feeling less stressed would be noticeably better digestion, fewer arguments with friends, co-workers, or significant others.  Make sure that you come up with ways to measure progress towards your goals.  We do not want you to lose time that could have been better spent on tools that would work for you.

Be A Happy Dog

Like a dog, your job in this world is to make sure that you are feeding your belly, and your heart.  If the strategies you are taking on are helping you find this kind of success then you should continue with them, but if they are just creating opportunities for confusion, self-criticism, stress, and sadness, it is time that you give them up.  Do not be fooled by clever marketing that tells you that you just need to work harder.  You could bake a compact circular pile of sand for your entire lifetime, and it would still never become a cake.

365 Days of Self-Compassion.  Day 128.  In The Books.