I’ve always pushed myself. Whether this comes from perceived external pressure to please others (perceived because I’ve spent time discovering and realising that it really wasn’t true) or internal pressure that put me up against myself and all others to be the best. Or only feel I’ve achieved something when it’s been difficult to acquire, because the harder we work the more we can justify the outcome, right?
Either way, it took a good number of life traumas (my own cancer, a close family bereavement, infertility and multiple baby losses before 35) to eventually, finally, get to a point that I knew I couldn’t keep pushing.
The thing is, pushing actually really helped throughout those difficulties too, which is why it took so long to loosen up.
Pushing meant that whilst I was a nightmare patient I got my way because I made a fuss. Pushing meant I wasn’t afraid to kick up a stink when things went wrong and people were probably scared to say no. I’m proud of neither.
Pushing meant I needed to still succeed in my career despite those traumas. But pushing to ‘be the best’ or whatever version it must have been at the time wasn’t going to let me side-step grief, loss and uncertainty like slowing down or stopping would.
So eventually, after the final baby loss broke my (worn, I can see now) spirit, I said ‘enough’. And I stopped.
I stopped enough to review that all this would be useful one day. But not before I’d rested then focused. But what I discovered was something I can only imagine I would have pushed away had it been suggested when I was, well, pushing. I discovered that no longer pushing was going to get me far more than I ever could have wanted. Because not pushing meant more calm, more peace and an overall more gentle life.
I’ll skip to the disclaimer; I’m a coach who now helps people to lead more gentle lives themselves with a programme of support that I created. But I’m proud of that because it’s taken years of understanding, developing and working with others to acknowledge that this is something many of us suffer with, big traumas or not; the overwhelm, pressure and stress we put ourselves under to be certain people, which is breaking us.
We’re more interested now in self-care and understanding burnout than ever before, and knowing that prevention is far better than cure. Whilst we want quick fixes to being balanced, it’s appreciated that putting the work in to reshuffle priorities has enormous benefits – us being kinder, more compassionate and gentle with ourselves, and those around us.
So how does being more gentle benefit our everyday lives?
1. You’ll create, not just crave, space
Shifting our sense of achievement from outcomes to feelings, we begin to see that simply being is an important activity, in and of itself. There might be outcomes from this shift (there often are) but in not expecting anything we are rather wonderfully only focusing on the moment. We start to want more space in realising this shift because we feel it helps us, thus we prioritise it differently to how we were before and then, not so magically, find more of it. How we do this is different for each of us, but find it we do when we see the benefits. This also feeds into our ability to pause before reacting (see point 3) and the knowledge that we control more of our time than we think.
2. You’ll get more done
In being more gentle, we find we’re able to pull back from things that aren’t beneficial to us, or our family. By no longer trying to cram so much into our days, we’re making space for the tasks and activities which are important, therefore focusing quality time on them to do them well. Rather than rushing around and being overwhelmed, we may even find we’re slowing down but achieving more.
As you continue to bring focus to the priorities of your life, the parts that matter less fall away, so there’s even less to try to cram into your day too!
3. You’ll react differently to negative events
When negative things happen to us (events, thoughts, feelings) we usually want to fight, solve or turn away from them. All of these reactions take energy away from us and often leave us drained. When we bring about a gentleness to difficult things, there appears to be a space between the event and the reaction; enough of a space to make more conscious, positive choices about what might be a good course of action. Sometimes action is required and when it is - it is taken more consciously too. Sometimes inaction might be what is needed, and we’ve actively chosen this path. Either way, we’re taking more control of how things continue but doing it with an acceptance of the way we’d like it to do.
This isn’t about always being the most measured or positive person. Rather this is about being conscious in how we react and bringing a gentleness to ourselves to help rather than hinder.
4. You’re more likely to forgive yourself and others when things go wrong
If situations aren’t positive, or you wished for another outcome, bringing compassion and kindness to yourself and others can be an alien concept. Why be nice when you’re angry? Why mute yourself when you want to talk? Why forgive someone when they’ve done something upsetting? As before, it’s not about not having reactions, but rather allowing them to be there, adjusting them if and when you feel the need and if things don’t go to plan forgiving yourself or others for the outcome.
Bringing a kindness and softness doesn’t mean you’re a push over, it means you have inner strength about riding the wave, however choppy it feels. This allows you to make rational decisions and reactions rather than reactive and difficult ones
5. You’ll get more sleep, and other things you really need
Learning that you don’t have to push against what you need, and realising you’re a little (or very) tired, means that you start to see how you can bring gentleness to this very basic need. It’s no longer about not having enough time, it’s a change in focus to see that this is the most profound gentle task you can give yourself - providing self care so that you can be the best to help all those around you, whomever they are. Realising you don’t have to survive on less than optimal sleep and that you can take small steps to help this is such an amazing first step to being more gentle. Likewise for hydration, fun with your family, happiness, contentment and whatever other concepts make up your own gentle life.
6. You’ll help everyone else around you
Let’s be honest - the nicer you become to yourself, the more gentle you feel, the more gentle you will probably be and thus act with others too. Want a dose of patience with the kids? Want to bite your tongue before responding to your frenemy? Want to finally feel you can conquer your difficult colleague? Bring in gentleness to your life and see how it impacts your communications with others and, thus, their lives too. Nice hey?
7. You’ll slow down to actually hear yourself, perhaps for the very first time
Something quite amazing happens when we decide to prioritise the things that matter and pull back from those which don’t (thus being more gentle) – you hear what you’ve been trying to tell yourself for a long time.
Indeed, we often get or stay busy in the first place to sound ourselves out from whatever uncomfortable thought we might be experiencing. However, if we turn into our difficult thoughts and feelings, and bring compassion, love and kindness to them maybe, just maybe, we find there’s another way to hear ourselves - with gentleness.
So if we know the benefits, how exactly do we become more gentle? I’ll be back to share.