Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Encouragement is Oxygen for Your Soul" John Andrews

I can be hard on myself. Whatever I do I want to do well and whatever I do well I think I should do better. That’s at the best of times. At the worst of times nothing I do is good enough in my eyes.  And I think its virtue.  I’ve had to rethink that particular position this week.

 My understanding of a virtue is that it is a trait that helps us be our best self. I value the virtues of diligence, hard work and fortitude.  They have served me well. I’ve climbed mountains and swam deep rivers, traveled the world and lived a rich life that was, to a large extent, due to those virtues. But, when does a virtue become a vice?

Last week I went to the gym for a session with a trainer after taking a week off. On top of loafing off for a week I was not feeling well and instead of honoring my body and my decision to lay off a week I jumped right in. When I had trouble doing with the exercises Shanrika planned for me I beat myself up for it…loudly and frequently.  Then to make matters worse I squelched all of Shanrika’s sincere and well intentioned words of encouragement.  I didn’t want to hear it. Nothing I did was good enough because I, by dang, could do better. Too bad hair shirts have gone out of fashion. When I left Shanrika was sitting on a weight bench shaking her head.  I felt awful and Shanrika didn’t seem to be feeling too perky herself. Her job was to encourage and support me and I wasn’t having it.  It was not one of my finer moments and didn’t end there. 

The next day Priscilla and I got an early start on our annual hiking trip. I grumbled about my performance at the gym and berated myself about it for a good thirty minutes before Priscilla said something. “Stop it, Deb. You’re being too hard on yourself.”  She made it sound like a bad thing. I thought being hard on myself, being demanding was part of diligence and fortitude. I have been known to be wrong.  I continued to list all the ways I fell short of the mark at the gym trying to convince myself of what I do not know. Priscilla turned to me, “I’m your friend and you are not being very nice to my friend, so stop it.” The truth of what I was doing hit me.  She was right; I wasn’t being nice to myself. I wouldn’t have put up with that kind of negative tongue lashing from someone else for one hot minute, but it was ok when I was handing it out?  What kind of sense does that make?

Shanrika was waiting at the gym for me yesterday.  She told me that she and another trainer had talked about what happened last week because it bothered her.  She felt like she failed me.  The thing is….I felt like I failed her.  We had an honest conversation about what was getting in the way of my performance and it wasn’t what I had eaten that week or done or not done in the way of exercise. It was my inability to accept encouragement. I’m guessing that’s the point where a virtue becomes a vice.  Working hard is one thing, but no one looks good in a hair shirt.

My friend John posted a video about encouragement by John Maxell on Facebook last night.  My comment was to confess that I didn’t know how to accept encouragement.  I may not know how to accept encouragement just yet, but I do know how to be honest.  John was quick to respond, “Debra, I wish you could see what we see... you are so awesome!!! Breath in the encouragement which is the oxygen for your soul.”  This is me breathing in.

  Sass Jordon is on of my favorite singers. She has a great voice and always seems to express my  heart perfectly.

1 comment:

Charmaine Coimbra said...

Such a thoughtfully written confession about personal perceived perfection. (Sounds like a line in a song.)

I'll let you know when I develop the ability to accept compliments. I'm working on it.