The Dalai Lama Is In Town
“Wait, wait, whose pants are these?” is the pivotal question in one of my favorite self-compassion stories. In fact, it was so memorable that I turned it into a self-compassion coping skill. Let’s start with the story.
The Dalai Lama was in town, and I was attending a conference at which he and many Mindfulness prodigies were explaining Mindfulness research, and various ways to use mindfulness to address mental health issues. I had befriended a couple sitting next to me, but realized as lunch began that the husband had planned a picnic to surprise his wife. I excused myself politely, and wandered to Newbury Street to browse. I love fashion, so I was in a clothing store checking out Henleys, when the alarm went off.
Sound The Alarm
If you have never heard a clothing store alarm, it sounds like someone playing the horn, while falling down the stairs. As the security guard approached the man waiting by the exit, the man looked noticeably shocked. The security guard checked his bag, and found everything in keeping with his receipt. The cashier made sure that there were no security devices left on any of the items in the bag. Yet, when the man tried to leave, the alarm went off again.
The manager came out of his office looking particularly upset. He shared a few stern words with the cashier, and brought this man, who was even more befuddled than before to the side of the register, where he had stored a security wand. The man was in the clear from his head to his belly button, but once the manager hit the waist area, the wand starting making the noise 80s games made, when your guy dies. The man finally noticed the pants, and what did he say? You guessed it. “Wait, wait, whose pants are these?”
The Man Behind The Pants
The man was actually a doctor, who worked an overnight shift at a hospital nearby, and was badly in need of some fresh clothes for an upcoming shift. So, he went to a store close to the hospital. He did pretty well for himself by his account, but he made one fatal mistake. Instead of putting on the pants with which he came in, he put on another pair that someone else had previously discarded in the dressing room.
I thought the most amazing part of the story was (aside from not realizing they were not his pants) that these random pants fit. He had no idea that he had put these pants on because he returned all the clothes he did not wish to purchase to their appropriate racks. In his mind, there were no other clothes to return, so he must have been wearing his own pants.
The story was too crazy to not be true. I have never seen an angry man laugh so quickly, as did this manager. Always the savvy businessman, he was quick to ask if the man desired to purchase the pants, since they were so comfortable that he did not even realize he was wearing them. That is thinking on your feet!
A Self-Compassion Strategy For Managing Life’s Unintentional Foibles
The man, after all of this trouble, was embarrassed, so I offered to buy him a coffee, and hear his story before he had to return to the hospital. At the end of his story, I told him about the conference on Mindfulness and about Self-Compassion. I explained that he had come by his accident naturally, and given his competency, it would be a great example for others to use to be kind to themselves. I told him how people really worried about leaving their keys, purses, and wallets in the refrigerator, or making other mistakes that made them question their competency and worth. I also emphasized how encouraging it would be for them to hear that even doctors, who seem to know everything, were equally vulnerable to such mistakes.
Seeing the value in self-compassion and mindfulness in our talk, and being a man, who loved his patients, he agreed. He just had one question. “What will you call this story/strategy?” I replied, “Wait, wait, whose pants are these?” He just laughed, and nodded.
So, whenever you find yourself forgetting important things, or leaving important items in inopportune places, or even putting on clothes backwards or inside out, simply ask yourself, “Wait, wait, whose pants are these?” Hopefully, this will bring you back to this story, fill you full of mirth, and self-compassion, and allow you to return to your day. Wishing you the awareness that we all struggle with these issues, and the wisdom to know that self-compassion is the perfect antidote for our tendency to fall into self-criticism and regret.
365 Days of Self-Compassion. Day 148. In The Books.