July 20, 2021

Can You Be Gentler With Yourself?


Do you try to dominate and push yourself into living more authentically? Or have you learned to accompany yourself with reverence and compassion?

(This episode first appeared as an IGTV and Facebook video)

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Other episodes that would help you understand and apply the lessons in this episode:
- Ep 7 Be Curious, Courageous & Compassionate with Yourself

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The following recording is actually the audio track of a video I made – a short video that I made. If you would like to watch this on video, the link would be on the show notes below.

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, fellow Becomer. Clearly, I miss you guys; I miss talking to you guys because I am taking a break from recording new podcast episodes in July. But I found myself having some thoughts that I want to share, and I thought, you know, why not have some fun with this – and try a new way of communicating, and hopefully maybe find my way into a more effortless and fun way of doing this work and sharing my thoughts with you. So, this is also the first time I'm sharing my thoughts over a video, and we'll see how it goes.
So, today I just want to talk briefly about this question: What assumptions do you need to challenge in order to live more authentically? I mean, it's a question I ask myself constantly because when I engage with the patterns that have been ingrained into my life – things that I now desire to unlearn in order to live more organically, with more reverence to myself; to the way I am created. I find that I have to challenge a lot of assumptions that I have grown up believing. And today, I just wanted to talk about this particular assumption.
Okay – the assumption that in order to live well, we need to have a drive to dominate or a drive to master. It's very much in our modern civilised culture – there is a lot of mastering and teaming. I mean, just look at industrialisation and science – it's all about powers, and it is all about gaining power and control over nature and to dominate. And that often leads to exploitation; the abuse of power. It leads to inattentiveness to the way things are, right? So, we look at how we have plundered the earth in order to – well, make modern living more comfortable; not just  more comfortable but, I suppose our unstoppable greed and desire to be distracted from maybe whatever else is playing us, has led us to continue to seek to master and dominate and wield power over those who are weaker.
And I don't want to talk about this at a global level because – I mean, sure, it's there, right? But what happens on the global stage begins very small – it begins in our own hearts. And today, I just want to reflect on how we experience that same drive to master and dominate even in our own lives, even over our own lives. So, I'm not even talking yet about how we try and master and dominate others – which we do. I mean, just think about yourselves as parents or as leaders – in many contexts, we may not want to see that about ourselves but I think it's so ingrained in us; that to do well, to live well, to be a good parent, is to some extent, is to have control your children, right? – Over your family; over your spouse in your marriage.
But let's just talk about ourselves, right? Because Becoming Me is about the journey to authenticity and wholeness. Has it ever occurred to you – or do you find yourself sometimes trying to dominate yourself into authenticity? Like, do you find yourself trying to master yourself into becoming more authentic? You know, kind of like, pushing yourself to live, you know, in a more organic way.
I know it sounds really funny if you think about it. It's very ironic, right? It's very ironic but when that's all we know, that tends to be the way we approach everything, you know? So, just for example, for myself, I recently read a wonderful book called Effortless by Greg McKeown, who is also the author of one of my favourite books, called Essentialism  – the disciplined pursuit of less. In his new book, Effortless, he talks about how we can find ways to make things less difficult for ourselves or you know, at least identify ways that we are making things more difficult for ourselves. 
And one of the tips he recommended was to define an upper limit – a lower limit and an upper limit. Let's say, for example, in work, everyday – so we do a minimum amount that we want to be able to do, so that we have a consistent progress. But that we need to look at an upper limit so that we don't push ourselves beyond a limit that makes us very tired and takes us a lot of time to recover. Because when we keep doing that then we become less productive actually. We actually become – we find things a lot harder to do; we may fall sick, you know, etcetera, etcetera. And that's a problem I’ve had all my life – it's setting an upper limit. And I thought this was a good idea; to try and set an upper limit. 
And just yesterday, I found myself pushing myself again, past what must have been the appropriate upper limit, because I was so exhausted. And you know it's too much when the exhaustion that you feel is not a "happy" kind of tired. Right, it's kind of like a bone-tired and the body just didn't feel right anymore. So, exhaustion led me to realise that I don't know what my upper limit is. 
And when I reflected about it, what came to me was; ever since I was young, what I was trained to do was to overcome – was to push past discomfort in order to achieve. That has been taught to me as a virtue And I’m not saying that in all contexts that is not a good thing. What I am saying is that, if that's the only way we know how to be with ourselves; the only we way we know how to influence ourselves, then we are in trouble. Right, because that means we do not know how to be gentle with ourselves.
So, if we do not know how to be gentle with ourselves, that usually means that we do not know how to see ourselves with reverence, right? We don't know to look at ourselves just with curiosity and with compassion first – to even ask the question: What is it that I need right now, in this moment? How's my body doing? Where am I on my energy levels? Is there anything that is piling up in my emotion tank that is sapping my energy, and maybe which I need to process and clear first? 
You know, so these are questions that we need to ask in order to live more authentically, in a healthier way. And why? It's not just about treating ourselves better – which is important. But the reason this is important beyond our own lives is because there are knock-on effects. When we do not know how to hold ourselves in reverence, we end up pushing other people harder as well. We don’t recognise their pain, we don’t recognise their exhaustion, we don’t recognise that they maybe need some care; someone to ask them how they’re doing. Maybe we missed the signals – that there could be something going in their lives that is really weighing on them. That maybe they could even be in depression.
If all we are aware of is what we need to do, what we need to control, what we need to dominate, we lose the ability to have reverence – and by reverence I mean just this attitude of openness and wonder when we look at ourselves, when we look at the world, when we look at others. And I just want to, I guess, you know, share that; in order to live authentically, to become ourselves, I think we really need to learn to move beyond just trying to dominate and master everything about ourselves, to holding ourselves gently and reverently.
And perhaps, what we can call it is: compassionate attention. That instead of just thinking of what I can do to make myself achieve or excel – and that could be the best areas, okay? I could be trying to dominate myself into being more compassionate to others. I know, again, that's so ironic, right? It's so crazy but we do that, okay – we try and dominate ourselves into being kinder people. We try to dominate ourselves, master ourselves into being more patient. You know, when really, I think the way to grow in patience is to learn to stay with ourselves, even when it's uncomfortable – to wait for ourselves, to give ourselves a time that we need to take the steps that we need to take.
So, I just want to leave this with you today; this idea of compassionate attention. Right, I want to propose that perhaps, we need to challenge the assumption that we need to dominate and master ourselves in order to live better. And that perhaps instead, we can think of how we might be able to show compassionate to ourselves today. And then, from there, to others as well. So, have a blessed day!

[00:11:11] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. 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!