Buddha and the Blues

It is my understanding that all humans feel a wide and wild variety of emotions. Consequently, it’s inevitable that I will feel blue, despondent and hopeless at times. I am working through one right now. I certainly do not relish the feeling of it, but the experience gives me lots of new ways to show up for myself, and thereby, for others.

I have to remind myself that the blues are metaphorically like a migraine– so painful, but once it’s over, the world looks luscious and promising. As a new entrepreneur, I encountered my first big knock-down two days ago. It was not brutal or humiliating– it was just someone innocently asking me questions about my business model. I was (and still am) grateful for the opportunity to address the questions that were raised, but it was not long before I found myself in the blues.

The good news is that I made sure I had comprehensive notes from the conversation, and then I talked them through with a trusted friend. We figured out what I needed to do to address in the areas I didn’t have clarity on, and where I needed to do more research or preparation around processes. Then I made notes to expand on some of these with my coach, and I started researching various targeted areas. I also made a commitment to myself to practice having similar Q & A’s with as many people as I can; ideally people who don’t know me very well, and with whom I will feel some discomfort as we address similar questions, and then I plan to monitor my reactions and answers, and continue to fine-tune areas that need it.

The following day I met with some friends and I shared about my discomfort and the growing shame and negative self-talk that was starting to seep in. I noted that the nuts and bolts of research and review don’t bother me at all; I’m confident I can address the issues and boost my comfort level discussing them. I shared that I still felt sad, scared (how am I going to make this work?), panic (one round of questions and I fall apart– how am I going to deal with more challenging questions?) and then I saw that I circled back to disappointment with myself. I asked the group how they deal with situations where they see this behavior in themselves, and how they address it. They had lots of similar examples and gave great ideas of how they work through it. Listening to them helped; I remembered that I am not alone and that there are others I can talk to and learn from.

I felt better when I left them, but when I awoke this morning I noticed I was circling back mentally to the incident; probing it like a sore tooth. Fortunately, though, another friend called to catch up. She defined the mental “circling back” on myself as the “double arrow”– the Buddhist idea that we make a mistake, and then we fault ourselves for making the mistake. The Buddha said this: “In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. This second arrow is optional.” This helped me in the beating myself up part, but my friend helped me even more by telling me that after knowing me for nearly 10 years she found me to be highly resilient and courageous. Something inside me loosened a little when she said that.

Next time (because there is always a next time), here is what I will try to focus on when I hear that negative self-talk and start feeling blue:

  1. I must be my own greatest partner and cheerleader.
  2. It is vital to have a support system of folks who love me and see me clearly. Their perspective will help me recall my own best self.
  3. I am not alone, and when I enlist the Universe in my journey and ask for help, what I need is always provided; it just may not be what I want.
  4. I have the opportunity to grow and learn from any situation that challenges my ideas of what is “right”.
  5. There are a gazillion views on “right” and mine may shift daily, so why not practice being open to new ideas no matter what the circumstances or who says what to me?
  6. I can choose how I feel about any situation. So why not choose to look at it differently?

I’m not at 100% yet, but I am grateful that I’ve been given a chance to build a better me. Writing this will be a good reminder for me the next time I see myself slipping into those self-doubt blues. I can choose something different, and tap into growing myself instead of shaming myself. I believe the Buddha would agree.

Published by Marlowe J. Weingart

I've been working and growing community at work for nearly 25 years. In fact, I'm an expert at it! By advancing employee engagement in every work community, we fight burnout and turnover. Folks stay, grow collaboratively and become invested in growing the bottom line as a team... and bringing happiness back to work!

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