A Soggy Macbook and a Reminder in Self-Compassion
Professional Coach, MSW, RSW
“Oh no, oh no!” (followed by a spring of expletives) were the words that rushed out of my mouth this week as I spilt a cup of tea on my 4 month old Macbook. Any Apple user knows that water is the kiss of death and a sure sign you are about to be purchasing a new computer.
Worse than the words coming out of my mouth, were the words that I was using to talk to myself in that moment. “You are such an idiot. That was totally preventable if you had just slowed down a second and not rushed. You always do this. This is sooo Melissa. You’re reckless and irresponsible.” Yep, my inner critic was loud that morning. I even found myself thinking about what ‘they’ would say about me. Who the heck was the they in this situation? My friends and colleagues would never talk to me like this!!
And, in fact, they didn’t. In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought about not telling anyone and going out and quickly replacing my very expensive computer so no one would know. Fortunately, after many years as a therapist, I’ve learned a few things. One of which is: don’t believe everything your inner critic tells you! I knew I needed some self-compassion in this moment of struggle.
Researcher Kristen Neff, outlines the three components of self-compassion as:
Self Kindness- talking to yourself the way that you would talk to someone you love
Common humanity- a knowing that the human experience is made up of strengths and struggles and that you are not alone in what you are going through, and
Mindfulness (particularly of emotions)- paying attention to your transient feelings without minimizing or exaggerating them.
Personally and professional I find myself drawing on Neff’s work often. In my coaching practice, I will often encourage clients to slow down and notice their inner dialogue in tough moments at work. “What is the story you’re telling yourself about this?” “What does your inner critic want you to believe about that?” “What do you end up doing or not doing when your inner critic gets loud?”
Noticing is a necessary (and sometimes uncomfortable) step in changing the way we treat ourselves. In professions with high rates of burnout, the importance of self care is often promoted. Yoga, vacations, funny tv shows, going for a run are all important ways of taking care of ourselves, but taking a timeout in the middle of my work day to have a hot bath was not an option. What I needed was to notice how I was responding to myself in that moment and muster up the strength to be kinder. So I took a deep breath, acknowledged that this SUCKED but it was not a reflection of my character and just an unfortunate accident that happens to a lot of people. Changing my inner narrative allowed me to change my behaviour. Instead of wanting to hide in shame and fix this on my own, I was able to reach out for help. And as expected, my colleagues were kinder to me than I was to myself and even brave enough to lend me their electronics.
PS. A huge gratitude also goes out to Ahmad, the computer genius at Mac Repair Man, who did the unthinkable and saved my soggy Macbook.