A tutor knows precisely which lesson to teach her struggling student. She’s seen this challenge time and again. 

But then she gets a different student who she feels really nervous around. Although she’s not aware of it, unconsciously, the student reminds her of the kid who bullied her in junior high. Through all the nerves, the tutor just can’t figure out how to help the student.

In each of these examples, people were accessing their implicit memory. Implicit memory stores past experiences in such a way that we don’t consciously remember the experience or know that we’re remembering it. 

We access implicit memory when we act, think, or feel a certain way, and we can’t explain why. 

On your journey to getting clear on what’s next in your life, your internal compass is your ability to sense where you are and which direction you’re heading in. Your implicit memory plays an important role in informing the accuracy of your compass. 

On the one hand, if you’ve developed mastery in any given area, you will probably have an easier time intuitively deciphering which next step to take. On the other hand, implicit memory can cloud your compass. 

Unless we examine our unconsciously-held beliefs and expectations, we can mistake the emotional responses they generate as intuitions.

In addition to your expertise, your implicit memory stores all of the beliefs you’ve gathered about what’s right and wrong, good and bad, possible and not possible. It stores prejudices, stereotypes, and faulty assumptions that lead to implicit bias and internalized oppression, even when we consciously disagree with these biases. 

Each of us is capable of great change. But if you believe you’re incapable, it will be almost impossible for you to trust yourself to accomplish your dreams or even imagine yourself doing so.

To get a clear read of your internal compass, you need to learn to respond to yourself with compassion.

Many of my coaching clients come to me because they have big dreams, but self-doubt is holding them back. It’s as if all of the old stories are clouding up their compass, making it hard for them to trust themselves and the direction they’re headed.  

One of the first things that I teach my clients is to respond to themselves with self-compassion. Self-compassion sounds like talking to ourselves as if we were a good friend, recognizing how we feel without trying to fix ourselves, accompanying ourselves with warmth and acceptance.

Compassion is the antidote to fear.

Fear keeps people frozen, looking down at their shoes rather than out to the next horizon. The more you know that you’re worthy of love, no matter what happens, the safer you’ll feel to take a risk and venture into the unknown. The kinder you are to yourself, the less likely you are to fear failure and the more likely you are to get up again after you fall.

Practicing self-compassion doesn’t mean that you stop experiencing challenging thoughts or emotions. It means that you can experience the full range of emotions without getting wrapped up in what you feel or trying to escape. When you feel safe enough to explore and be curious, you can access your full intelligence.

Each time you are kind to yourself, you don’t eliminate what’s already in your implicit memory. Instead, you lay down new memories of compassion and warmth. You reshape your brain and create new patterns and pathways that support you in getting clear about your next steps.

There are infinite ways to be kind to yourself.

Self-compassion can look like:

  • Paying attention to what feels really good
  • Offering yourself soothing touch
  • Gathering with people who love you
  • Listening to guided meditations
  • Reading fiction
  • Listening closely to your body
  • And so forth 

For now, I invite you to contemplate the following question— 

What is one thing I could do in three minutes or less that would be really kind to myself? 

You may want to take a few minutes to free-write in response to this question. Then, when you land on something that’s small enough that you could do it in three minutes, do it!

If you can’t think of anything at all, I invite you to place your hands lovingly on your face and take in the feeling of your own,  soothing touch. Notice how you feel. If you’re feeling crummy, acknowledge how you feel without trying to make yourself feel any different— “Wow, I’m feeling really sad or really exhausted or really scared right now.” And, if your touch feels good, take in the sensation of warmth and kindness.

I invite you to keep checking in with yourself about what self-kindness would look like and keep taking itty bitty steps to treat yourself well. 

On behalf of your future self— thank you.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,

 

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