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Last week I attended an online course on Radical Self-Compassion with presenter Dr. Tara Brach.  One of the interesting concepts she introduced involved imagining a circle with a horizonal line across the middle.  The top part of the circle represents all the things that we consciously present to the world.  The bottom part of the circle sometimes called the “Shadow self” holds the things that we hide from others because we are ashamed of them or think they are too negative to reveal.


Dr. Brach explained that the line can be moved, and we need to view everything below the line as merely things we haven’t processed yet.  Unfortunately, these unresolved issues often prevent us from feeling happy and being able to build healthy relationships with others. We repress the hurts and embarrassment because they don’t fit into our ego.


There are many definitions for the term “ego”.  Some refer to it as the part of personality in which we consciously process and make decisions.  Others describe ego as identity, respect and self-worth. Self-esteem and a sense of importance can be healthy but if carried to the extreme can cause others to think of you as arrogant!  If you act like you have it totally together and are better than others, you can repel others away from you and even attract criticism.


On the other hand, being “real” with other people about the things that we think are unacceptable or shameful can break down barriers that cause distance. But wisdom is required when it comes to self-disclosure.  Who do you tell what to and when?


I remember speaking to a group of professionals in Lethbridge many, many years ago.  Part way through my presentation I felt that there was something wrong and I was not connecting with the group.  Impulsively, I changed the subject and disclosed the fact that once I had wet my pants in Vegreville.  This immediately captured the attention of everyone!  As I relayed the story details, laughter filled the room.  During the break, I was surprised to greet a lineup of individuals who shared stories about similar experiences that they had in the past.  You see, the fact that I had four degrees and years of experience formed a stereotype in the minds of the audience members and that drove a wedge between us.


Sharing my embarrassing (and funny) story gave each of them something very human with which they could relate, and this drew us closer.  I was no longer the distant and intimidating academic!


Now I am not saying that you should reveal your most private shameful moments with others.  I just want to point out that many times, appropriate self-disclosure will build relationship bridges.  Both you and the listener will get honest about how human we can be and how frequently our embarrassing experiences actually occur in daily living.


The trick is to find a balance – learning how to be “real” and “appropriate”.  Balancing privacy with honesty. 


Radical self-compassion is about being kind to ourselves by allowing the things below the line to be processed instead of repressed.  When done with wisdom and discernment, this can lead to healthier and happier times for you and those with whom you are in contact.


What are some of the things that you have been pushing below your consciousness line that need to be addressed?


No better time than right now to put your ego to the side and move the line on your circle downward!

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