Fear can be a powerful prison that keeps us from taking the steps we need to know our True Self and to make the changes we need to heal and flourish. But it is not unbreakable. And part of what helps us to break out of the prison of fear is this trio of virtues - Curiosity, Courage and Compassion.
In this episode, I share about my first significant breakthrough from the fear of self-knowledge and how Curiosity, Courage and Compassion can give us real practical help in our journey to authenticity and wholeness.
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00:45 - Introduction
02:37 - Story: Entering the Attic of My Soul
09:06 - Curiosity
11:14 - Courage
12:38 - Compassion
16:19 - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act.
- As you listened to today’s episode, what struck you?
- What emotions or thoughts came up in response as you listened?
- Among Curiosity, Courage, and Compassion, which one comes most easily to you?
- Which one do you find the hardest to practice?
- Which one do you think you most need to develop for your interior journey right now?
- Choose one virtue to grow in for the next month and commit to checking in with yourself daily on how you have fared that day.
For full details of this reflection prompt, please see transcript.
My latest blog entry is a reflection on the story I shared in this episode about facing my inner demons head on for the first time in my life. Read Facing My Shadows.
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EP 7 | BE CURIOUS, COURAGEOUS AND COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF
Are you curious about yourself? Do you have the courage to know the truth about yourself? Are you willing to be compassionate with yourself?
Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on to Becoming Me.
Hello again dear listeners. In this episode, I'm going to be talking about three virtues that we need in order to make the interior journey. They are Curiosity, Courage and Compassion. If you haven't realized it yet, making the interior journey into authenticity and wholeness is hard. People who commit to making the interior journey, don't do it because it is easy.
They do it because they have discovered that in the long run, not knowing their true selves causes them as well as those they love, even more pain. Long years of abandoning our inner selves and living lives that are unfaithful to our core strips us of peace, and ultimately joy. But even though many of us may already realize that we are unhappy.
We simultaneously find that we have great inertia to change. Most of the people I have accompanied often express that the emotion that keeps them stuck even after they have become increasingly unhappy is fear. There is a fear of change. A fear of moving from a known suffering into the unknown, which is even scarier. There is a fear of looking within themselves without knowing what they might find. A fear that they will find out that they are what they hate or despise. A fear that intimate relationships may change.
And the list goes on. Fear is a powerful prison, but it is not unbreakable. And that is the good news. Isn't it? Part of what helps us to break out of that prison of fear is this trio of virtues, curiosity, courage, and compassion.
[00:02:37] PERSONAL STORY: ENTERING THE ATTIC OF MY SOUL
Before I talk about each of them in turn. Let me share my experience when I had the first deep insight into my own inner reality and how I learned to use curiosity, courage, and compassion to help me grow.
Throughout my life from my childhood to my youth and even into my young adulthood, there has always been a particular pattern playing out in my friendships. There would sometimes be a friend or some friends whom I would grow very close to. And then at some point the friendship would just become too intense and it would break.
Although I noticed this pattern, I had never realized why it kept happening. I had a vague fear that there was something wrong with me. And so I never really dared to look. Then that came a time when this pattern happened again. And this time when the friendship broke apart, it was especially painful. I had poured heart and soul into that friendship.
Always doing what I thought was best for my friend. But when it ended, I found myself on the receiving end of what I felt were really unjust accusations. Others who were close to me, comforted me and told me not to dwell too much on all that negativity. In fact, my close family and friends told me to just ignore what the other party was saying, but my heart could not be at rest.
I could not help thinking that there is no smoke without fire. And even though I knew I never intentionally meant to do any harm. What if my heart had motives that even I was not aware of? That thought was a frightening one for me, but I could not seem to shake it off.
It was one particular graced encounter that opened the door for me to enter my interior journey for the first time. One evening when I had prayed and cried until I had no more tears or words, I sat in silence. And suddenly I felt the silence shift and I felt a great comfort that I was not alone. And that silence became full of presence.
Then a thought entered my mind, "Ann, you know that I live in you, but did you know that I live in the deepest, darkest, most abandoned part of you, the very place you are afraid to enter?" The message stunned me. I have mentioned in previous episodes, how in my lived relationship with God, I have always been greatly afraid of disappointing him. Although it may sound rather ridiculous.
I was always trying to put on my best behavior for God. If my soul was a home, I would only welcome God into the rooms, which I had cleaned up and made presentable. But there was an attic in my soul, which even I never entered. Shut in the attic were all the nameless things that I had rejected in myself, all my flaws, my imperfections, my sinfulness, all the things that I was ashamed of.
And here I was now hearing in prayer, God blithely announcing that he has chosen to make that very place in me that I fear the most his dwelling place, and that he has been living there all along.
That revelation had a singular effect in me. That attic in my soul suddenly did not seem that scary anymore. And I asked for the courage to enter, knowing that I am not alone, but that Christ was with me. That same day. I recognized for the first time in my life that I was in bondage to the need to have others know that I love them.
It wasn't enough that I loved them. I needed them to know that I love them because I thought that only if they knew how much I cared, would they reciprocate and not abandon me. I realized that I had a deep fear of abandonment and that fear drives all my relationships. I could never truly just love freely and fearlessly.
My love was always tainted by the fear of rejection and thus, without my conscious awareness, I often love with implicit conditions. Without knowing I often ended up in codependent friendships, which then turns toxic over time. This realization was a sudden illumination into my soul and it was as if heavy chains were broken around my heart.
I suddenly saw and understood why I had always felt anxious about my most cherished friendships and why I had always felt the burden to make sure my friends knew that I cared for them. All the while I thought I was loving them, my actions had been secretly driven by my need to be loved by them. That experience transformed me both in my person and in my relationship with God.
It was the encounter that introduced me into the beauty of solitude and silence, even though it would still take many years after that encounter for me to be truly at home in them. But that encounter also empowered me. It showed me that learning the truth about my wounded inner being liberated me, but most significant of all that encounter led me into a deeper experience of God's love for me.
After all he had known all along that thing about me, about how insecure I was and still he had chosen to dwell in me. In the many years since that encounter, I have learned that the path to interior freedom, and the path to loving others more truly, lies in entering that attic space in my soul.
When God invites me in, I allow him to reveal to me my brokenness in the light of his love, and in all my experiences of transformational, personal growth, curiosity, courage, and compassion have all been instrumental.
So let us now look at each of these three virtues in time. Curiosity. As a trait, curiosity can be used for good or ill. It could lead to wonder and understanding, but it could also lead to an inappropriate or uncontrolled desire to know things which could lead to all sorts of trouble, such as gossip and losing our own inner peace.
But curiosity is a virtue when it opens us to the desire to know the truth. In the context of the interior journey. Curiosity makes us open to learn the truth about ourselves so that we can better understand who we are and why we behave the way we do. Curiosity is the virtue that opens the door for us to enter the pursuit of self-knowledge.
A pursuit that if we were to undertake would require many other moral virtues as well, including courage and compassion but also other virtues, such as humility and honesty.
When life brings me to some painful experience, which makes me feel that I have messed up yet again, my first reaction is usually shame and fear. But instead of running and hiding, I have learned that I can be curious - "How did this happen?"
If I realize that it's something that is a part of a pattern in my life I can ask, "I wonder why this pattern keeps repeating in my life."
"What is it about myself that I don't see?" Curiosity shifts my energy from anxiety to a desire to learn and grow. When my curiosity grows, I find that I begin to look for ways to move forward instead of remaining stuck in shame and fear. Curiosity often leads me from despair to the beginning of hope, because I'm reminded that if I really cared to understand my real self, there is always the potential of learning how to live my life more fully, and in a way that is more true and more loving.
Courage. I don't need to explain why courage is a moral virtue. Courage is the virtue that gives us the strength to do what is right, even when it is very difficult. It is what transforms our reflex to flee in the face of something really challenging; to a freely chosen response to stay our ground, face our fears, and do what needs to be done.
As we make our way in the interior journey, we will often find ourselves at crossroads where we can make the choice to continue living on the surface and to reject the invitation from our souls to look deep within ourselves. Our instinctive human desire to avoid pain often keeps us from doing the hard and necessary work of knowing our real selves and living from the inside out.
How can we muster up this courage that we need? For me, it often helps to remind myself that the truth, no matter how harsh it is, will set me free. My longing for interior freedom and peace often helped me to become brave when I most wished to run. When I am convicted enough or maybe desperate enough for change, when I decide is no longer tolerable to live life, as I have been, then I often find that I am able to receive the courage I need to look within.
Compassion. The word compassion comes from the Latin words" com passio" which means to suffer with. To have compassion for someone is to be willing to suffer with him or her; to share in their pain. In this journey towards deeper self-knowledge, we need to be willing to bear our own faults patiently and lovingly.
We need to be willing to suffer with ourselves. When we have compassion for our own weaknesses, we will find that over time, it becomes easier to enter that attic in our souls. It becomes less frightening to learn new revelations about how broken we are, because we know that whatever we find out, we are going to become willing to accept.
We know that we will not reject ourselves. When we lack compassion for ourselves, we meet any whiff of weakness or fault with rejection and shame. We beat ourselves up. Instead of trying to understand where our pain may come from, and where we may have been wounded without us realizing, we deny the truth of our brokenness, because we don't know how to live with our own pain.
Many of us lack the capacity for compassion, because we have little experiences of compassion being offered to us. And when we do not know how to be compassionate towards ourselves, we will find that we also do not have that capacity to be compassionate towards others when they reveal their flaws. It is an unfortunate vicious cycle that entraps us until we learn how to break out of it.
In the early days of healing of my relationship with my inner self, I would often write notes to myself in my journal. I would imagine having a conversation with myself and say things like, "Ann, no matter how badly you behave, I promise that I will not abandon you. Even if everybody else rejects you, I will remain with you. I accept you as you are. I'm here to stay."
Sometimes I would look at myself in the mirror and say those words to myself. I needed to hear them. I needed to hear myself say them. I needed to show myself that I would try to live up to this promise. And when I failed, which I still do, I would seek reconciliation with myself and try again.
Of course it helps me greatly when I experience God's compassion for me. But I realized that it was not enough to experience God's compassion. I needed also to learn how to offer that same compassion that I have received from him to myself. Without this step, I still cannot grow in self-knowledge.
As I grew in compassion for myself, I found that my capacity to accept others also grew. I even found that I was able to accept other people's rejection of me sometimes because I could understand how I make them suffer. It still hurt me, but I was now willing to bear that pain in both myself and others.
Compassion led me to grow in patience and patience makes pain more bearable. In time, I learned that compassion creates the space within me that I needed to grow.
Well. That's it for today's episode. I hope that I've been able to help you understand a little bit more about how curiosity, courage and compassion are necessary virtues to develop in your interior journey.
[00:16:19] PRAXIS: LISTEN. PONDER. ACT.
And here are the praxis prompts for you to be nourished more deeply by today's episode.
One: Listen – as you listened to today's episode on curiosity, courage, and compassion, what struck you? What emotions or thoughts came up in response as you listened.
Two: Ponder – among these three virtues - curiosity, courage and compassion.
Which one comes most easily to you? And which one do you find the hardest to practice? Which one do you think you most need to develop for your interior journey right now?
Three: Act – choose one virtue to grow in for the next month and commit to checking in with yourself daily on how you have fared that day.
Here are some suggestions. For curiosity, look over your day, especially at the difficult moments that you have had, and ask the question "I wonder what made me react that way?" Try not to stop at the first on so you can think of, but keep burrowing down a little deeper. Sometimes the real reason for our emotions and reactions are not what we think they are.
And when we unearth a deeper reason, it feels like finding hidden treasure. Remember that the truth sets you free.
For courage. Look over your day and identify where you may have been lacking in conviction. Where have you failed to step up and do what you believed was right?
Can you identify what it was that held you back? Try and be as specific as you can in your reflection. Courage like any virtue is grown through practice. So you may want to try and commit to doing a small manageable act of courage every day.
For compassion - at the end of the day, speak honestly to yourself about how you feel about the highs and lows of that day. Pay attention especially to where you felt you have done badly.
Can you reenter that scene and remember how difficult the circumstances had been for you? Offer yourself, some words of understanding, forgiveness and encouragement.
If you find that you're speaking harshly to yourself. You may wish to pause. Take a few deep breaths and start again. Remember to be gentle with yourself.
Speak with the tone that you would use with someone that you love very much. Such as with a young child or a really dear friend. And you may wish to write to yourself or to speak to your reflection in the mirror.
Well, that brings us to the end of this episode of Becoming Me. As always go at a pace that is right for you. Do as little or as much as you are ready and take breaks whenever you need to. I hope that after listening to today's episode, you will remember to be curious, be courageous and be compassionate with yourself.
Remember the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingme.sg and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, happy becoming!