June 1, 2021

Safe Spaces for Growth: Trust, Truth and Compassion

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If we want go beyond feeling accepted for being who we are and to actually grow in authenticity and wholeness and become our best selves, we will need safe spaces that will give us the courage and faith to confront the things in our lives that need confronting.

In this episode, I expand on the theme of safe spaces to look at three essential ingredients that are required for a safe space to be conducive for interior growth and talk about why they are necessary if we want real transformation in our lives.

Share this episode via this episode page.

(00:00:42) - Safety Beyond Comfort
(00:04:41) - Trust, Truth and Compassion
(00:09:43) - My Inability to Trust Myself
(00:16:31) - The Power of Safe Spaces to Set Free
(00:22:45) - Are You Ready to Take Action?
(00:28:33) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act.
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to today's episode, what struck you? Does something resonate particularly strongly with you?

- How would you rate the level of trust you have in yourself right now? Take a moment and ponder why you gave yourself that trust rating.
- Are you happy with how much you trust yourself? Why, or why not?

- Identify an area in your life, which you wish could be met with truth and compassion. 
- Reflect on what is holding you back from seeking the help you need. 
- Let yourself write down whatever it is that you are feeling and hold those truths that has come up from you with love and compassion. 

Blog Post: 
Unbound and Set Free
PARRHESIA www.parrhesia.sg

Other episodes that would help you understand and apply the lessons in this episode:
- Ep 21 Safe Spaces For Becoming (with Edwina Yeow)
- Ep 22 Being a Safe Space for Myself (with Edwina Yeow)
- Ep 7 Be Curious, Courageous & Compassionate with Yourself

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Do you trust yourself to make the decisions that you need, to flourish?

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. So, it looks like the last two episodes that are recorded with Edwina about safe spaces really struck a chord with many of you. I haven't had this many people reach out to either me, or Edwina, to say how much they identify with what we were talking about in terms of the need for safe spaces, or the experience of safe spaces, or perhaps, even the lack thereof.

 I had a couple of listeners tell me that until they listened to this podcast, they didn't even realize that they didn't have a safe space. Having a safe space for ourselves is such a basic need for us to flourish and yet, so many of us don't have it. And we may not even realize that we don't have it until we hear about it.

 An underlying theme in the conversation that I had with Edwina was how we needed a nurturing and supportive environment to become our best and truest selves. At the very least, we need to be in a space with someone whom we feel will not judge us for being less than perfect, right? We need to feel comfortable turning up just as we are.

 If we can't turn up relaxed, as we are, there is no chance that we can really work on this interior growth journey because we would be so preoccupied with trying to impress the person before us, that we wouldn't be able to experience being seen, and accepted, and loved for who we really are. And if we don't have the experience, we wouldn't be able to have the three – what I would call; the three necessary ingredients of the kind of safe space that is conducive for real interior growth.

 So during the conversation I had with Edwina, there was a lot of emphasis put on the aspect of the experience of being able to feel comfortable and to trust someone, so that we can just turn up as we are. But what we’re interested in, in Becoming Me, it is not just being comfortable, but being ourselves. We are also interested in the process of becoming more ourselves.

 And what do I mean by that? Not just becoming comfortable, turning up as we are, but being able to make that challenging journey to see ourselves as we truly are to recognize the areas in which we are distorted; the ways in which we are not really living in a way that is bringing out our best selves. And to be able to make the corrections that are necessary so that we can really flourish.

Right. So, we're not interested in just saying everything is okay to remain as it is. It would be like if we turned up at the doctor's office with some kind of illness and the doctor sees us and says, yes, you have this diagnosis, you have this issue, but you know what – that's as it should be. You're fine. I accept you as you are.

Now, that wouldn't be a very good doctor or we wouldn't want to go to such a doctor, right? So, we want to be able to see a doctor that would be able to give us an accurate diagnosis about what is ailing us, and who would help us to get back on the path to wellness. We want to be able to get well; to become healthy.

So, if we are interested in becoming more authentic and more whole, it's not enough that we are in a space where we feel that we can be accepted as we are. We also need that safe space to be able to reflect to as accurately our situation and encourage us to move towards health – towards wholeness. So, the three necessary conditions for a space to be safe, as well as conducive for interior growth; would be trust, truth, and compassion.

Right, and these conditions are interdependent with one another. We can't have trust without compassion and truth – and truth without compassion is not going to make us grow. Compassion without truth is just going to make us feel good temporarily, not help us to move beyond where we are. So, we need all these three conditions together.

Let me give you an example first of what I mean about having a safe space where all these three conditions are met. One of the most memorable and also, what I would say, is the most romantic thing my husband has ever said to me was when I really needed to feel good about myself, but actually it was – I was fishing for a compliment.

And the reason was because I was feeling really lousy from work. Okay, and he knew – he knew I was fishing for a compliment and he could have easily given me that compliment. And a lot of other times, he did. He would have given me the compliment. But that particular day, he knew that I was trying to run away from what the pain was trying to tell me.

And because we've had conversation, just, I think, you know, those few days before; when I was telling him that I really wanted to be able to grow, but it was so difficult, right? That when I was having dinner with him and fishing for compliments, he looked over at me and he told me, you know – Ann, I love you, and I know what you're asking, but I love you more than just wanting to make you feel temporarily better by giving you that compliment that you're looking for. I want to see you cross that finish line.

Okay, and by that finish line, he meant; I want to see you complete this interior journey of authenticity and wholeness. I know that you long to become the best version of yourself, to draw closer to God, and you know, as well as I do, that it's difficult. And right now, I know you want to run away from it, but I love you enough to hold you in this difficult space, instead of helping you to run away from it.

So, in that encounter, there was obviously trust because there was honesty, right? And I trusted him enough to quite brazenly, be fishing for compliments. He gave me the truth. It was difficult for me to hear because I didn't get what I was looking for. But I knew as soon as I heard it, and then not just intellectually knew, but I felt the love and the compassion with which he spoke the truth.

And I felt like I was such a fortunate person to have this man be a companion on this interior journey. That encounter made me trust him even more because I knew I could trust him to make decisions that were really intended to help me to flourish. Right. So, safe space in this context of the interior journey, is first of all, a place where we have that trust in another, and this other could be another person, but it could also be ourselves. 

Have you ever asked yourself how much you trust yourself? Do you trust yourself to make decisions that will lead to your flourishing? Or do you distrust yourself? – Because when you look back at your life, you see plenty of evidence of how you keep sabotaging yourself.

So we often overlook this truth, right? – This fact that we are actually in relationship with ourselves as well. And depending on our track record in this relationship with self, we could either have a high level of trust in ourselves being able to choose what is truly the best for us, or not trusting that, that would happen.

So I speak from personal experience, because for the first three decades of my life or so, I didn't have much trust in myself at all. And well, for a big part of that, I didn't know that I didn't trust myself. I think it just was the way it was. I wasn't conscious of it. And a big part of that reason is because fear drove most of my actions; fear of being rejected, fear of being shamed – even by myself, because that inner voice in me, that inner-critic in me, can be really harsh and not accepting of any weaknesses. Right, it was almost like if I was harder on myself, maybe I would keep myself from being rejected by other people. 

So, because I was always pushing myself so hard, there would always come a time when I couldn't deal with that pressure of living that way anymore. And I would swing the other way from trying to be perfect and hitting all the right notes, to overindulging myself in permissiveness, right? I would indulge in my cravings, I would binge on junk food, trashy literature, binge-watch dramas. And I would just – it was really just consumption, right?

More and more and more to keep myself numb from my inner pain. And whenever I was doing these things – which I actually really judged myself for, by the way, because I think that's behavior that's irresponsible and undisciplined, and a waste of time, and all that. So, when I was doing all these things, I would deliberately ignore the part of my brain that judges these actions as, you know, shame.

But it isn't a permanent solution because at some point the guilt and shame at my lack of discipline would build until I couldn't take it anymore. And I would swing back into the other extreme. So, I would go back to trying to make up, right? – Try to make amends for doing all these terrible things; to try and earn back my own self-respect, in a way. I would make these resolutions. I would purge myself of all these things that I have indulged unhealthily in, and I would try and keep myself on the straight and narrow; obeying the voice of my perfectionist inner-critic until that gets too much.

And I swing once again into license and indulgence. So, it was this – this pendulum swing that I was constantly on, you know, that I couldn't help being in the mercy of. So these cycles of fear and shame were what drove a large part of my existence for the first three decades of my life.

It wasn't something that I shared with anyone, except maybe when I went to confession with a priest. Right, but, I wasn't proud of this. I wanted other people to, you know, to believe the façade that I often put up; which was that I had it all together. I strove to be praiseworthy in the eyes of other people, well, because of actually, shame and fear.

And I never could really connect with the longing and desire that was in my heart because I did not trust my longing and desire. I feared that if I listened to the desire in my heart, that they would lead me astray, and then lead me to being rejected by God and by other people.

So, I felt back then that unless I was constantly policing myself, I would do something wrong. And every time someone had a negative reaction to me, I would immediately see that as confirmation that I messed up again. And each time that happened, I would think: see, I can't be trusted.

So, there's an inner-critic part of me that did not trust my vulnerable inner-self. And at the same time, my vulnerable inner-self; that part of me that held the deepest truths about how I was feeling – it did not feel safe to let me access the truth of how I was really doing, because it was afraid of being judged and shamed. This meant that I often did not have a true picture of my own emotional and spiritual health.

Right. I didn't dare to really look at what was there. And even though I didn't really look at what was there, there was always this underlying shame that whatever was in there, was bad. So, it's such a weird paradox. So that's a problem though, for the interior journey, because if I cannot see the situation accurately, I wouldn't be able to know what I need to grow towards authenticity and wholeness. Trust is important because it makes possible for truth and compassion to come together simultaneously for my good. What do I mean? Let's go back to the example of seeing a doctor.

If I'm unwell and I go and see a doctor, I'm not going to benefit if the doctor just gives me, you know, a sugar coated diagnosis about how I'm doing – if he was afraid of hurting my feelings or making me scared and, you know, he just said what he thought I wanted to hear. I would need to know the truth, if I were to change anything in my diet or my behaviour, or to consent to some kind of treatment, right? – Or to take medication.

But at the same time, if the doctor delivers the truth to me in a very condescending and judgemental way; blaming me and scolding me for getting myself into the condition, you know, in whatever way; I would probably feel terrible about myself and I would be very upset with him, and not wanting to come back to him.

I may not want to come and continue treatment with him if it affected me badly enough – I could get mad enough to really delay coming back and seeking the treatment that I needed to help me. If on the other hand, the doctor speaks the truth to me, but is compassionate and encouraging, and the way he delivered that truth – I would much more likely be able to accept that truth and be motivated to seek the treatment that I needed. And, you know, it may lead to me being even more enthusiastic and determined in getting well.

So, one of the most powerful experiences in my life was when I revealed something about my past which I was deeply ashamed and guilty about. Right. So, it was something that I had kept secret for almost a decade at that point.

And the reason I kept it a secret was because I was just so ashamed of it, that I felt that if anybody knew surely they would turn away from me. They would be disappointed and disillusioned about me, and I would lose my friends, I would lose the people that I loved. But keeping it a secret did not keep the wound inside me from festering, right? It did not keep me from thinking of myself in the worst way.

And eventually I was desperate enough to seek help because throughout that time, although on the surface I was doing well, I was actually getting more and more self-destructive and I was engaged in a lot of acts of self-sabotage. So, it came to a point that I thought, okay, enough is enough and I need to seek help.

 But I also knew instinctively that I had to be careful about who I spoke to. I knew that the response that I received when I revealed this really vulnerable place or, you know, this vulnerable thing about myself; I knew that the response I received could either liberate me or it could really just break me.

And by the grace of God, I was led to someone who listened to me and spoke truth so clearly to me about my situation, without judging me, that I felt immediately liberated. I remember wondering how is it that I can hear these unvarnished truths about my situation – about what I have done, without feeling humiliated or condemned?

How is it that I could hear it being named? – Hear my sins being named so clearly, but instead of feeling ashamed or even guilty, I felt relief and hope. I felt restored. And I realized later it was because those truths about my condition was spoken without any hint of judgment or condemnation. He did not sugar coat anything.

And yet from this person, I received more compassion than I had ever experienced. Certainly, more compassion than I had expected to experience, and more compassionate than I had ever offered myself.

 Truth and love together, at the same time, had set me free. And it was that encounter, which was such a powerful encounter, not just with this person, but you know, for me, that was an incredible moment in my spiritual journey as well, because I realized that what I had encountered, who I had actually encountered in that meeting was God himself. That's how God saw me, that He would shed light into the darkest corners of my soul.

He would name my sin, but He calls my name at the same time, and he makes it clear that I am not the sins that I've committed – that I am not the worst things that I have done. I am still his beloved child. Right, so that encounter sparked off my own long journey of learning that I needed to remember how to be that kind of person to myself: someone that I could trust to be honest and speak the truth, but always with compassion, right? And that's not easy to do. It wasn't something that I learned to do over night, or even in a matter of just a couple of years. But that is why the name of my consultation and coaching practice is Parrhesia – which is Greek for speaking boldly without fear.

And it's also why the slogan that I have for Parrhesia is: communicating boldly, loving tenderly. Because I have experienced that truth spoken clearly and boldly to me, while loving me tenderly, is what has set me free. And that is the same principle that underlies this podcast. I share candidly because I hope that sharing the truth of my experiences, with the self-compassion that I've come to cultivate and develop for myself, that I've learned to offer myself – that this combination will encourage you to want to see your own life more clearly, and to learn, to grow in compassion for yourself.

Because that is what we need – that's the kind of safe space that we need to become our most authentic and whole self. So, this isn't something that is easily or quickly done, but it is a journey which we all can begin wherever we are.

And it is a journey that is made one small step at a time. But we need a lot of external resources and support throughout our lifetime to make this interior journey well. And perhaps the most important thing that we can do is to begin the process of becoming our own greatest cheerleader and ally in this journey.

So, I'm at this point now, in this whole endeavour of, you know, creating Becoming Me – I'm at the point where I'm embarking on creating more resources and support for those of you who want to take a step beyond just listening to this podcast. I mean, this podcast is meant to help you start thinking about your own life and begin to connect with your own story.

This podcast is meant to let you have the experience that you are not alone. But that's not nearly enough if you actually want transformation in your own life. And it would be easy for you to just feel encouraged or inspired by my stories and sharings, without getting started or making progress in your own journey.

 Now, if that's where you need to be at this moment, that's perfectly fine. Maybe just listening to my story is a lot, right? But at some point, in order for there to be real change in your own life, you're going to need to go beyond listening and take action. But there are many reasons why you may find it hard to move from listening and identifying, maybe some things in your life, to actually taking action for change.

 And I know that because I know that too well from my own experiences. There can be a lot of inertia, but until we can bridge that gap from, kind of like, knowing that we have a problem, to actually doing something about it, you know, nothing's going to change in our lives – the patterns in our life are still going to be there.

So in the coming episodes, I will be exploring various reasons why you might be having trouble taking action in your own journey, or maybe feeling like you have plateaued after having started before. Okay, so some of you may have taken action before, and maybe have experienced a spurt of growth before, but after a while you feel like you've plateaued or maybe backslided, and then it's just so hard to get going again, you know? 

And I will also share more, eventually, about what I am working on to help those of you who are ready to go beyond what this podcast is able to provide, and who wish for me to be your guide as you take those next steps. Clearly, I am not the only person who can potentially help you. And I may not even be the best person to help you. But how will you know if I am?

Okay, so there are questions to ask also, right? – When you choose someone to be a resource for you. So that's also a question that I will unpack and explore in one of the upcoming episodes. I just thought that at this point, it would be a good reminder that this is a journey that I'm hoping you're not going to just spectate, right? – But actually, learn to make for yourself.

I think we all have an experience of maybe watching some expert in a video, right? I could be someone that loves watching the Olympics or some other sport. And I could even be an armchair expert – I could understand the game, at least theoretically, I can give commentary on it, but I may not be able to actually play that sport. In that specific context, that's fine. It's fine being an armchair expert.

But, I am hoping that you're not listening to this podcast just because you think it's an interesting thing to hear. I'm hoping that you keep coming back – if you do keep coming back to listen – because it's saying something to you about your own life. And maybe there's something about your own life that you also hope will be transformed.

Maybe there’s part of you when you listen to my stories, you're thinking: Oh, I hope that I will also get there myself. I hope that I can also make that journey into greater freedom. And if that's what you want, then sooner or later, you're going to have to go beyond just listening, right? Get off that couch, so to speak, and find a coach and learn the game and play it.

And when you do, you will experience that transformation that you yearn for. So, we are going to keep going on this podcast. I mean, there are so many things I want to be able to share with you. Sometimes, I don't know how to get it all out, in episodes, but I guess that's a good thing because that shouldn't mean that I wouldn't run out of topics anytime soon.

But, for now, I just want you to stay with what I've shared today, about what you need to make the transition into action, okay? You will need a safe space where you can feel that you can trust that person and where you can begin to learn to trust yourself, and the person that you seek in whatever capacity, because there could be different kinds of people that you may look for to help you; should be someone that will give you the truth, and at the same time, give you that compassion that you are not yet able to offer yourself.

Truth with compassion so that you can come to see yourself more truly, and find that you have the courage to acknowledge what is real, where you are, that you don't have to be ashamed of being imperfect – of having even really screwed up, perhaps, and be met there.

And give you that sense that you can move forward. Okay? So that's all we want. All we need is always to be in that space where we can be met where we are and know that we can begin where we are. That if we fall, we can begin again, over and over. We just need to know how to take the next step. So that's the end of this episode.

Let's now turn to the praxis prompts. One: Listen – as you listened to today's episode, what struck you? Did something resonate particularly strongly with you? Two: Ponder – on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the level of trust you have in yourself right now? Take a moment and ponder why you gave yourself that trust rating. Are you happy with how much you trust yourself? Why, or why not?

Three: Act – identify an area in your life, which you wish could be met with truth and compassion. In your journal, reflect on what is holding you back from seeking the help you need. There is no right or wrong answer here. Just let yourself write down whatever it is that you are feeling. Okay, whatever doubts there may be, whatever fears, whatever beliefs you might have about what would happen if you tried to seek help – just write it all down, and don't worry about what that means.

This a start to begin to be able to just be honest with yourself. And then I invite you to read what you have written, and to hold those truths that has come up from you with love and compassion. Okay, and let yourself know that you're in for the journey for as long as it takes. You will honour the pace that you're ready to move at, but that you will not give up that desire – that hope that you can become more free, more authentic, and journey into wholeness.

[00:30:48] 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!