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Self-compassion makes for powerful emotional intelligence

Self-compassion makes for powerful emotional intelligence

You know that self-love is the foundation of standing in your power. But do you genuinely embrace self-compassion in how you relate to yourself and others?

Emotional intelligence comprises four elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (social skills). While it might seem that self-compassion only applies to the first two elements, I think you’ll find that it amplifies your ability to be socially aware and manage relationships more effectively.

What is self-compassion?

What is love? Well, there are seven types of love that we typically know:

  • Eros: erotic, passionate love.
  • Philia: love of friends and equals (affectionate and friendly), but this is a deep trust and bond that stands the test of time.
  • Storge: parents’ protective love for children – usually referred to as “unconditional love”. While it’s very similar to philia, it is reinforced by blood, early memories, and familiarity. And it might be more “one-sided” than philia, such as a parent towards their teenage child.
  • Agape: selfless, universal love; loving-kindness.
  • Ludus – playful, flirtatious love, like with no strings.
  • Pragma – You might notice it’s “pragmatic” – committed, enduring love – grounded in duty, commitment, and practicality.
  • Philautia – Self Love: impacts our confidence and self-esteem, especially how we interact with the world.

Of course, one more is sometimes referred to, which you may or may not consider love: mania. You guessed it: that crazy, obsessive love! It could be toxic, co-dependent or any other type of fundamental imbalance.

So, why am I referring to compassion and self-compassion rather than love and self-love? Because of these seven different types of love that people commonly ascribe to the word “love”. Often, love is referred to as a feeling rather than the resulting actions and behaviour.

compassion, consciousness of connection, mBraining, Grant Soosalu, Marvin Oka

Compassion is love in action.

It might be self-compassion (love of self in action) or compassion towards others. When you are compassionate, you embody a connection with yourself and others.

While compassion may not refer so much to eros or ludus and certainly not to mania, it is the embodiment of the consciousness of loving-kindness of philia, storge, agape, pragma, and philautia.

Self-compassion refers to mindfulness, self-awareness, kindness towards yourself, and understanding. When you are compassionate towards yourself, you forgive yourself and make amends. You choose to hold healthy boundaries in relationships rather than being a doormat and pushover.

Self-compassion is strong and courageous: it empowers you to have difficult conversations and confront situations calmly. It’s not a stiff upper lip and suppression of emotions but a healthy release of whatever you need to let go.

This is why self-compassion makes for powerful emotional intelligence: it empowers you to face your feelings, healthily deal with them, have empathy and understanding of others and build stronger relationships and networks.

know thyself, self-awareness, self-compassion, self-aware, self-love

Self-compassion is essential if you want to become self-aware.

Are you willing to make time to sit with your feelings and emotions, even the uncomfortable ones? Loving yourself entirely is more than just some fuzzy feeling: it understands your motivations and behaviours, even the ones you disdain. Allow yourself to understand your strengths and weaknesses, their effects on your life and how you respond to situations and others.

When you practice self-awareness, you will recognise your emotional response to interactions and how these feelings affect your thoughts and behaviours. It also notices that these responses affect how others interact with you and any self-perpetuating cycles that you are creating.

Once you have built self-awareness, you will have faith in yourself to put yourself forward, knowing you can rely on your gut feelings when things are clear. Most importantly, you can show up as authentically you. This is the true power of self-compassion: kindness in action for yourself.

Self-management is a reflection of loving yourself:

The second part of emotional intelligence and self-compassion is that you not only notice your feelings, you decide how to express and release them. You create emotional security, knowing it is safe to have big emotions and the self-awareness to know where, when and who should be present with you as you work through them.

It is possible to have emotional intelligence when you are led by your heart: it doesn’t mean that you wear your heart on your sleeve or suppress all emotions and keep a stiff upper lip.

When you love yourself fully, you monitor your mental state and control your thoughts. You might not be able to control the first thought that comes into your head, but you can choose not to play it on repeat.

It’s also possible to control your self-talk and inner critic compassionately: avoiding self-sabotage is essential to self-management.

Whether it’s at work or with others, staying in the flow state of being calm and at ease is essential. Self-compassion knows that the best decisions are made in a calm state: you need circulation to all parts of the body and brain in perfect harmony and balance rather than being in a state of fight/flight or emotionally overwhelmed.

In this state of self-management, you can access inner wisdom and listen for that still, small voice. 

Social awareness: empathy and love of others

Having empathy and understanding for others usually starts with being self-aware. When you know your weaknesses and short-fallings, you understand others better. You can read other people’s emotions and feelings when you recognise them within yourself. Compassion and connection are only available when you have an open heart.

Social awareness is the ability to read body language, often mirroring another person, to create rapport and connection. Self-compassion allows you to notice the shifts you feel in your body as you connect and the awareness of what the other person might feel as a reflection of this connection.

Social awareness is more than just reading the room and noticing a person’s body language. It is also the ability to explain yourself and be aware of how you are understood. Communication is not what you say but what others hear and understand. Self-compassion allows you to modify your vocabulary, body language and connection to create rapport for understanding.

Most importantly, self-compassion will give you a warm embrace when you make a mistake in your social awareness and encourage you to try again.

mBraining, Grant Soosalu, Marvin Oka, compassion, kind action, sympathy, empathy

Build new relationships: Social management

Emotional intelligence isn’t something just for managers and those in leadership. Self-love is reflected in how you build authentic relationships with others. You will make the compassionate choice to build new relationships that are healthy and aligned with your values and purpose.

It’s an essential skill for parents, community members and solo entrepreneurs.

No man is an island. 

Your ability to influence, articulate and motivate others depends entirely on your ability to engage with others socially. Every relationship requires conflict management, which allows you to improve the relationship by settling differences of opinion and misunderstandings.

If you want to be a catalyst of change, you’ll need to influence others to join the journey. Sometimes, you might need to help others develop their skills and knowledge. You will be part of a team, working with others at other times.

Self-compassion is the impetus to build healthy and supportive relationships. It recognises that your social skills, emotional resilience and self-awareness all contribute to the quality of your life.

Start with the consciousness of connection:

It all begins with you: how are you connecting to all parts of yourself?

  • thoughts
  • feelings
  • sensations and bodily experiences
  • lifestyle choices
  • relationships and support
  • professional growth

Take a moment and look within with eyes of compassion. What would it mean to treat yourself with loving-kindness?

 

I want to improve my emotional intelligence.

 

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Wisdom in action: how to know what to do

achieving your goals, applying knowledge, chasing your dreams, compassionate choice, courage, courageous action, creating the future you want, creative action, creativity, goal setting, how to plan your goals, know your purpose, knowing is half the battle, knowing is not enough, knowledge alone is not enough for success in life, knowledge requires action, plans and goals, prioritise goals and objectives, taking action, wisdom in action

While it might seem obvious sometimes, there are many moments in life when we think we know how to tackle a situation, but there’s a sense within us holding us back. Perhaps we feel pressure to conform with the desires, but it doesn’t sit well within. Other times, we want something, but our gut kicks in to say “hold on” without clarifying clearly why we need to take a step back.  Wisdom is more than just “thinking informing action” and “action informing thinking”.

Wise choices incorporate knowledge, experience, and understanding into thinking and action. There’s a sense of compassion and profound self-awareness, which is more than just academic learning or data and information.

Wisdom, the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment, Oxford Languages, definitions
Wisdom is “the soundness of an action or decision about the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.”

Wisdom in action begins with wise planning:

It starts with creativity and planning, from a place of compassion & self-awareness. Wisdom knows that when you only consider the needs and desires of other people, life becomes empty and meaningless. You find rewards in showing yourself love and support so that you can better support others. Self-compassion is a source of strength, not a weakness.

When we plan what to do, there’s a moment for considering ourselves and other parties that will be impacted. In business, we might refer to these parties as stakeholders. But the reality is that even in our personal lives, any decision and choice we make (even professionally) may impact our relationships. Wisdom is being able to foresee the long-term impact choices might make on our relationships. Then take those factors into account when planning.

Hopes, dreams & values: prioritise your actions

Hopes and dreams are much loftier than goals. Often, they are much longer-term as well. But it’s these hopes and dreams that give us the feeling of “a life well lived”. When our plans overlook these deeply held desires, we begin to feel inauthentic. If we carry this way for too many years, life begins to feel like it has no purpose and meaning.

So, rather than just considering what you think is “a good idea”, inform your planning from your values and what is truly important to you. Make sure that these plans align with that vague picture you have in the mind of your ideal future self, the one that lives in alignment with your hopes, dreams and values.

 Wise planning identifies personal issues of risk, safety & security

Fear stops us and shuts us down on so many levels. It inhibits our ability to think straight. And in some cases paralyses us from taking action. Mindset & willpower will only take us so far. But it can be exhausting to be continually at war within yourself while trying to push forward on a goal.

If you truly want to set goals that you will complete, consider the angle of personal boundaries and your feelings of safety & security in the planning stages. Perhaps the problem to be addressed is not the goal you are chasing but the route to get there. Does your plan allow you to feel safe?

An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied, Arnold Glasow
An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied. Arnold Glasow

When your plan addresses your personal issues of safety and security, you will find it easier to light a fire deep within you to move forward.  Creating safety will allow you to direct your energy towards your protection or activities rather than expend energy on protection and boundaries.

Your inner wisdom expands your sense of self.

When you know what to do and are confident within, it’s because you have a sense of “this is who I am”. It fosters a greater sense of personal power, enhancing your ability to say “yes” to what you want to achieve. This also makes it so much easier to say “no” to all the busy activities and urgencies that arise along the way.

When you aren’t totally sold on the idea, it’s easy to get distracted and busy doing other things. You might know what the plan is, but are you focused on doing what needs to be done? Is all your energy flowing towards this purpose in wise action?

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Wisdom is more than “a good idea.”

It’s easy to teach information, knowledge and processes. Unfortunately, wisdom is not taught in schools or at universities.  It is so much more than thinking, analysis, processing, or even problem-solving.  We can intellectualise without truly understanding.

Even if something is “a good idea”, does that make it a good idea for you? At this moment and stage of your life?  How does this good idea impact those you love and care for?

Does it consider all the knowledge and data available to me about what I want, desire and my life goals? Does it incorporate good judgement of my resources, time constraints and limitations?

Wise compassion

For our plans to succeed, they need to include compassion for ourselves and others.  I like to think of compassion as a breath we take. We cannot exhale more compassion for others than we have inhaled compassion for ourselves.  Likewise, if we’re busy only inhaling compassion for ourselves, we’re going to get light-headed at some stage.

Good planning and execution have both wisdom and compassion. There is such a thing as “dumb compassion” – acting on our feelings without thinking things through.

Wise compassion can see ahead, have insight, plan. Wisdom is not simply taking action without thinking of the short and long-term impact that this will have on ourselves and others. How many people do we see working themselves to the bone – with the wisdom to recognise the need for effective self-care? When illness or chronic disease takes hold, they say, “I should have thought it through better”.

Similarly, we might throw our energies into our careers or businesses, thinking we will make time later for our families. When the family fails to stick together, we recognise the role we played in our absence.

Wisdom sees the pitfalls in a plan, staying alert, and exercising compassion regularly to allocate our energy, time and priorities.

Wise creativity

I sometimes wonder if the inventor of the guillotine regretted his creativity when it was used to behead him.  Or consider Thomas Midgley, who fixed the problem of gasoline’s dependability – by adding lead. He then (without knowing the future consequences or danger) invented freon and CFCs, which we know have a role to play in the hole in the ozone layer.

On the other hand, you might remember the Chinese scientists and planners responsible for killing all the sparrows as a solution to food shortage, which resulted in the largest plague of locusts ever to devastate the grain production of China.

Just because we can do something, should we?

Wise creativity takes into account more than just our creative mind! Without compassion and heart, our mind is no better than the mind of a psychopath or sociopath. It is highly creative and ingenious.  But we need the emotions, wants, desires and compassion of the heart to soften and guide the mind.

Wise creativity will incorporate your hopes, dreams, feelings, and values. It will consider the impact of your relationships and weigh up what is truly important to you.  It takes into account authenticity, safety and security, and potential challenges in the future.

Wise creativity is both realistic and compassionate.

Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile, Abu Bakr, taking action, motivation, wisdom
Without knowledge, action is useless, and knowledge without action is futile.

Wise courage

All of this leads us to a place of wise courage: taking action that is aligned with our plans and dreams.  Action without wisdom is foolishness, the same way that action without compassion can be cruel.

Wisdom in action is using both our heart and our mind as guides. It is a deep-seated fire that burns within us, acknowledging our sense of self and creating safety, even while moving the boundaries of our comfort zones. This action-taking is not movement merely for the sake of moving forward, but rather it is directed consciously.

It is embodied wisdom: heart, gut instinct, and mind all working together as one.

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How to separate decision-making from problem-solving

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Recently, I was putting off some crucial decisions about how I wanted to move forward in my life. And it’s not that I haven’t been looking at the issues and contemplating what I wanted. But I felt stuck.  Then, I came across a question in Wendy Craig-Purcell’s book “Ask Yourself This“, and realised my dilemma. I was mixing up problem-solving with decision-making.  

The question she asked as “If I could solve the “how”, what would I do?” Continue reading How to separate decision-making from problem-solving