Cultivating your Ability through Vulnerability

by | Mar 29, 2021 | Mind Body Medicine Sioux City | 0 comments

Photo Taken by Nesrin Abu Ata, MD

Do you ever wonder how you can cultivate what you feel as a weakness and vulnerability in you into courage and ability? Brene Brown points out how we all admire courage and daring in others, But, she says, when it comes to ourselves, we may be paralyzed by shame, or fear or other self judgements passed on to us from cultural expectations.  If you are wondering how to cultivate your vulnerability into ability, you’re ready to begin transforming your heart. We will explore how through Mindfulness-Self Compassion.

Are you still with me, or did you move on to the next article because you are feeling uncomfortable or afraid reading these words? Sit with these feelings, feel them in your body, what are they about anyway? What message do they have for you?

Vulnerability takes courage and bravery

Did I say you’re transforming your heart? Yes, I did, because this kind of vulnerability work takes courage and bravery, which come from the heart. Consequently, while the mind is great at analyzing and planning things, it’s not equipped to step into uncharted territories. The latter is the territory of the heart. The mind likes to navigate the surface of life that it can grasp, measure, compare and map out. On the other hand, the heart holds the compass of what is important to us. It shows us the way to what is most important – from relationships to hopes, dreams, values, and much more. Moreover, the heart has the ability to be the crucible holding the fires of transformation, burning needless fluff that gets in the way, while the most important precious valuable gifts of your life emerge having survived the purification in the crucible of trials.

Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer developed Mindfulness-Self Compassion (MSC) practices that teach you to transform your vulnerability into amazing abilities. They refer to it as the Yin and Yang of Mindfulness Self-Compassion. MSC helps you cultivate new relationships with yourself and your experiences in your life.

Photo Taken by Nesrin Abu Ata, MD
PART 1: There are three elements of Mindfulness Self-Compassion
  1. Self-Kindness: You are likely kind and considerate toward friends and family when they’re suffering or struggling. You probably ask them what they need and consider what you can do to help. Interestingly, most people don’t apply that kindness toward themselves. Take a moment to reflect on how you’ve approached yourself lately during a challenging time. Were you self-critical?
    If you answered yes, you are not alone. Self-kindness encourages you not only to end self-criticism but to open your heart to yourself, responding to your suffering as you would to a dear friend. And as you accept yourself without judgement, you may also soothe, comfort and care for yourself. With self-kindness, you learn to self nurture, offering support and encouragement to yourself.
  2. Common Humanity: If you answered yes to having self judgement towards yourself, you are not alone because most of us do it to ourselves. Sit with that for a second and repeat to yourself, “I am not alone.” How did that feel? One of the challenges with self judgement is that it inherently brings with it self separation from others. As though your problem or difficulty is yours alone, and you are the only one dealing with it, and nobody else has dealt with it. The more isolated you feel, the more you judge yourself, which causes you to feel more isolated. Do you see how the vicious cycle goes? Self- compassion is embedded in a sense of interconnection and common humanity: the pain you feel in difficult time is similar to the pain your friend feels in difficult times. With self-compassion, every moment of difficulty, of vulnerability, that you feel is a moment that you can feel more connected to others. 
  3. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is an awareness and a practice of paying attention to the present moment, without judgement. It neither exaggerates, avoids, nor resists the present experience. In this receptive awareness of your experience, you become aware of your feelings and thoughts and are able to be with them as they simply are, without judgement or emotional charge.
Putting it all together

Meanwhile, you may be wondering what putting the three above ingredients (Self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness) together look like? The acceptance of what mindfulness brings can help reduce self-judgement, which in turns helps to recognize our common humanity. Self-kindness lessens the impact of negative emotions which makes it easier to be mindful of them. Do you see how this healthy cycle helps you to cultivate your vulnerability into an amazing ability to be more brave through life?

Now that you have learned about three ingredients of Mindfulness Self-Compassion, how can you apply them to transforming your vulnerability and living from your very brave heart?

Part 2: The Yin and Yang of Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion has two seemingly opposite sides that are essentially complementary to each other and interdependent. This is similar to the Yin and Yang in traditional Chinese philosophy. One side cannot exist without the other, and each is called upon at different times. As a result, the yin of self-compassion involves being with yourself in a compassionate way. The yang of self-compassion is about how you act in the world.

Yin
  1. Comforting: This is something you likely do for a dear friend who is struggling. And just as you provide that to your friend, you can direct that to yourself by providing support to your emotional needs.
  2. Soothing: You may provide this to your friend by getting them a hot cup of tea. When you bring soothing to yourself, you provide comfort to yourself and a result feel physically calmer. You may place your hand on your heart or go out for a walk.
  3. Validating: This involves understanding your experience exactly as it is – no more and no less – and talking to yourself in a kind and gentle manner.
Photo taken by Nesrin Abu Ata, MD
Yang
  1. Protecting: This involves you feeling safe, setting boundaries and saying No to others who are hurting you.
  2. Providing: This involves first knowing what you need, saying yes to it, and then trying your best to meet your need to the best of your ability.
  3. Motivating: You, like all of us, likely have patterns of behavior that you would like to change as they don’t serve you and don’t align with your values. You, like all of us, likely have hopes and aspirations that you want to pursue. Yang self-compassion motivates, and supports you the way a coach or a mentor does, without hard criticism. (PS: if your mentor or coach brings hard criticism, it is time to find a different coach! That is part of setting boundaries, and providing for your needs!).

Writing this article was not easy for me, because it took courage and facing my own vulnerability reflecting on my own journey in my mindfulness self-compassion toward myself. If you have read through this article til the end, congratulations my friend! You kept yourself motivated, knowing your needs and meeting them, while comforting, soothing, and validating your experiences. The journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step and one breath. Welcome to your own journey toward your mindfulness self-compassion joining the rest of us on this path! Check out Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer on Mindfulness Self-Compassion.

See you on the other side of MSC!

mindfulness-self compassion
Artist: Tamara Phillips. Spirit Weavers.

SEARCH BLOGS

RECENT BLOGS

Self Harm in Adolescents: My teen cuts on her wrists – now what?

Self Harm in Adolescents: My teen cuts on her wrists – now what?

QUESTION FROM A READER: I noticed that my daughter, who is 14 years old, always wants to wear long sleeve shirts and wants to cover her wrists. The other day, I saw scars on both of her wrists and inner thighs. She talks about how other girls in school cut on...

Eating Disorders: How to identify them and help teens cope

Eating Disorders: How to identify them and help teens cope

A QUESTION FOR THE DOCTOR: Dr. A, My 12-year-old daughter struggled with being overweight until she hit a growth spurt. Her weight stayed the same but she grew a few inches. Nobody has ever said anything about her weight, but she recently became obsessed with her...

Smartphone addiction: How kids get sucked in and how to help

Smartphone addiction: How kids get sucked in and how to help

QUESTION FROM A READER: My tween spends most of her time on her smartphone. She has no interest in hanging out with us as her family. Even when she is sitting with us, she is constantly scrolling through her phone, and doesn’t engage with us. When we take her phone so...

Holistic Ways to Treat Insomnia: Part 1

Holistic Ways to Treat Insomnia: Part 1

QUESTION FROM A READER: I have been struggling with my sleep lately and wondering about natural ways to help me with my sleep. Because I haven’t been sleeping well, I am tired during the day. I have tried over the counter medications, but I have woken up with a hang...

5 Holistic Ways To Manage Anxiety

5 Holistic Ways To Manage Anxiety

QUESTION FROM A READER: I have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and I am interested in holistic tools and more natural medicines to manage my anxiety. What treatment options should I bring up with my mental health provider for my treatment for anxiety? ANSWER:...

Fear of Being On Medications

Fear of Being On Medications

QUESTION FROM A READER:  Dr. A, I tried non-pharmacological approaches to help with my mood, which included therapy and lifestyle changes without feeling much better. Finally, my therapist suggested that I go on medication for my anxiety and depression. I am really...

Lessons Learned From Gardening (Part 1)

Lessons Learned From Gardening (Part 1)

A psychiatrist turned into an horticulturist. (Ok, it is an exaggeration, but continue reading and you will get my drift!) What do plant nurseries and baby nurseries have in common? When I did my residency in family medicine, I took care of pregnant patients,...

Stepping Into A New Era 101

Stepping Into A New Era 101

Things are not the same anymore. Nesrin Abu Ata, MD QUESTION FROM A READER: How do I deal with the aftermath and continuation of the pandemic? I feel like I can’t go anywhere without having a mask on, and I get anxious when someone gets near me at the grocery store?...

Emerging From The Pandemic 101, Or Not?

Emerging From The Pandemic 101, Or Not?

Butterflies after emerging. How are you emerging? When you are in survival mode, whether it be fight, flight or freeze, our autonomic nervous system is no longer in the social engagement status where you feel connected to ourselves, to others and to a higher purpose....

My Grandmother’s Blessings

My Grandmother’s Blessings

Photo Taken by me of the Chamsa This is how starting a podcast came to be in March. Stories of refuge, healing, homecoming, and connection to inspire you, nurture you and boost you up, the way your grandmother (Tata, Sitty, Bubba, Abuela, Safta, Babushka, Oma) would. ...

DOWNLOAD: Tips on How to Decrease Anxiety

Share your email to get a free download that includes tips on relaxation, breathing and keeping a schedule.

You have Successfully Subscribed!