I love watching improv and have always wanted to try it. So, in an effort to expand my creative life and take on new adventures, I recently signed up for a beginners’ improv class.
My first class was not a huge success.
A few minutes in, my face started twitching from nervousness, and I stumbled over my words. Everytime it was my turn to speak, my mind, which can get jumpy in large groups of strangers and likes having plenty of time to process thoughts before words can come out, went blank.
I hadn’t felt that nervous in a group in years! I love teaching, coaching, and leading workshops, but this improv class was miles out of my comfort zone.
That’s, of course, precisely why I needed to be there.
As my face flushed red, the (traitor!) voice inside me that urged me to sign up for this class finally spoke up.
Very lovingly, it reminded me, “This is hard. That’s ok. Just show up.”
Ah. Whatever happened, however ridiculous I might look, and whoever heard me say the nonsensical stuff that sometimes emerges when I’m rushed into talking, I could draw on my own kindness to do this.
Our society has a lot of fear around self compassion. We worry that by shifting from the harsh, drill sergeant tone of our inner critic to a kinder, supportive voice, that we’re going to become too lazy, too uninspired, too soft.
Yes, self compassion is a voice of safety. It isn’t, however, the voice of inertia.
Self compassion is the foundation of courage.
When you’re compassionate toward yourself, there’s always a safety net. You can be your own friend, who always has your back and wants you to have the best life possible. Even if things go awry, there’s still understanding.
Knowing that friend is there, you feel braver to take the risks that make life truly meaningful.
Just as we all have a built-in compassionate voice, we also have an inner critic.
If our inner critic is our loudest narrative, shouting so loudly that our compassionate voice can’t be heard, coping with mistakes goes a bit differently.
Rather than offering support, your inner critic chimes in like that jerk from high school who somehow could always zoom in on your insecurities. Any flop gives them that much more fuel for the fire.
With practice and patience, our compassionate voice can soothe our inner critic, and eventually become the louder voice. The voice that helps us build the courage to get back up and try again.
We need this voice because we humans fumble. A lot. Fortunately, there’s a silver lining. Without mistakes, we don’t grow. And without taking risks, we have fewer stories to tell at parties, embarrassing or otherwise!
How we land after our little mistakes or complete fiascos helps us determine whether we want to try again. That’s why showing up for ourselves with compassion is the key to a courageous, more meaningful life.
When I attend class next week, it may still be messy, but I know I can handle it. My job is to simply show up for myself with kindness. Who knows? It may turn out to be pretty great.