“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” —Brené Brown
As I work with clients on their personal and professional development or help friends and family who are working through issues, I find many people push themselves too hard. They discover a limitation, mistake, or flaw and rush to fix, change, convert or heal it and themselves – in a hurry! This is where pausing, slowing down and simply observing with curiosity and compassion would be so much more helpful and efficient. Here’s why. The four emotional intelligence phases are:
- Self Awareness
- Self Management
- Social Awareness
- Relationship Management
We must advance through these phases in this order. For example, we cannot change our behaviors or limiting beliefs without self- awareness. We cannot understand what others are thinking, saying, experiencing and doing nor know how to be in harmony with them, until we have mastered our own habits, moods and use of power. And we cannot graduate to managing relationships without successful understanding of the complexities within and between people. Yet many attempt to do just that and become overwhelmed and discouraged in their lives and relationships.
My experience is that most people don’t tolerate self- awareness well nor remain in it long enough because they have been conditioned to be ashamed of their mistakes and have developed a counter-productive habit of using pressure, judgment and self-criticism in an attempt to motivate change. This approach is common in our society and in many others and it takes discipline to think and act counter to this conditioning. It is not yet common sense or mainstream to be self-aware and exercise deep curiosity, loving acceptance, patience, calm and detachment – no matter what is discovered.
I’m referring particularly to the period between the dawning of self-awareness and the attempt to change. This space between can be a time of grace; a time we gain information to move from unconsciously incompetent to consciously competent. However, there is step in this process many want to rush past called consciously incompetent and most don’t like that phase at all. It makes no sense to us and curiosity seems an indulgence we think we cannot afford. Yet it can be a time to marvel at our private logic, laugh at our former lack of understanding, appreciate the ah-ha’s of life and strengthen our commitment to make changes. Instead, it is too often defined by fear, pressure and shame.
When we attempt to push our- selves to change while lacking full understanding and compassion, our self-management is then like removing a splinter with a butcher knife. It’s a painful, bloody mess and sets us back big time. Then because we feel unsuccessful at self-management, we get discouraged, and react by trying to fix, change, convert or heal someone else! We all know how well that works.
One of my favorite questions when I am facing this in myself or when helping others is, “Can love be here too?” Our egos would say, ‘No! Hurry up and get busy fixing, changing, converting or healing that flaw or you will become complacent and resigned and apathetic.’ The truth is we don’t change well when we are all tensed up. The truth is we are perfectly imperfect at all times. So, next time you feel tempted to rush the change process called your life, invite love into all phases through the entire continuum. When faced with “Can love be here too?” say “Yes!” With curiosity and compassion, you will discover positive change then happens gracefully and lasts. I’m here to help if you need or want it.
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This article was published in The Women’s Journal in Judy’s column Emotional Intelligence, April 2015.