“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”- Elisabeth Kubler- Ross
Beauty. I let this word wash over me as I think about the intimate connection between kindness and beauty. Without a sense of beauty I believe we fail to miss a part of ourselves that is one of the keys to opening our connection to all of life. It is innate within the human spirit and hard-wired into our DNA but without a conscious focus and understanding of what beauty truly means, we are lost in the superficial, the physicality, the external. We miss the undefinable.
The Cultural Imperative
Our culture in general is particularly focused on beauty from an external perspective. Just flip through any magazine or watch a few television ads and you will see the obvious and subliminal messages that further create separation-the one dimensional definition of beauty. What I am talking about in this post is beauty that transcends even nature. While there is beauty all around there is a deeper even more profound beauty in the human spirit that far outreaches the world of phenomena.
As kindness becomes more challenging to muster with the ever pressing stresses of our lives, I had to ask myself what else can help us tap into our natural state, or as the great Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa coined “Basic Goodness” which believes that all human beings are fundamentally good. It is through our life experiences or rather how we respond to our life experiences that we lose or enhance this connection to our basic goodness. If we can see the beauty within ourselves we are far more likely to see it in others and therefore kindness becomes a natural action of this awareness.
The Inner Critic
How often do you find yourself buying into the inner critic? That little (or sometimes very loud) voice inside your mind that tells you “you’re not enough, you’re not pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, creative enough”- you get the picture. Your inner critical voice may have different language but it all comes from that same disconnected, fearful part of ourselves that does not see the beauty within. When this voice is the dominant conversation it is easy to lose our perspective on kindness. It becomes easy to judge others harshly when in fact we judge ourselves with such cruelty it makes what we do to others seem excusable.
Work environments are the perfect breading ground for this kind of behavior. When we feel “less than” it is mirrored back to us over and over again at work. Take for example the performance review. Now there’s a setup for disaster! More and more organizations are started to recognize that performance reviews are not very helpful, in fact that can be down right damaging. Why? It seems perfectly logical to review an employees performance and base their compensation on the review. Here’s the problem; our brain is not wired that way at all. You can tell a person in their review that 99% of what they are doing is great, what do your think their brain will focus on? Right, that 1%. The brain is Teflon for the good and Velcro for the bad. Marry this with the inner critic and it continues to feed it’s insatiable appetite to undermine our best intentions. It seems we are never at a loss for “what’s wrong with us” or “what we need to fix and then I can love myself”.
Beauty as A Gateway to Self-Kindness: Step One
It takes some time to get the hang of this but finding your inner beauty outside of the cultural constructs can be an exciting, surprising and a life affirming journey. The first step is to shine a light on the “inner critic”. Imagine yourself spelunking in a cave (for those of you unaware of spelunking, it’s hiking in a labyrinth of caves wearing a hard hat with a light or just a one of those funky headlight headbands). Everything is pitch black EXCEPT where you shine the light. You will be shinning the light on the inner critic. Begin by writing down all the negative comments you think and say about yourself. This can be daunting but I promise you, without naming the language of the critic it will continue to undermine your basic goodness and keep you separated from all the gifts you have to offer.
Beauty as A Gateway to Self-Kindness: Step Two
On your inner beauty journey you will be shinning that same light on the beauty inside you. You can start with the physical but make sure you travel into all those hidden caverns, crevasses and cathedrals. Your only job is to shine the light on the beauty. Perhaps you notice you are a loyal friend or you seem to be the person in your office that many people come to when they need a good listener. If you bump up against the inner critic just notice it. Don’t take the bait and buy into it’s story. Enjoy the exploration of yourself without editing. Be brave and dive deep. Once you complete this list (take as much time as you need and add to it daily if you like), make a habit of reading it in the morning before you start your day. How can you possibly not be more open to self-kindness and kindness towards others when you begin your day loving yourself!
I welcome your comments and hope you will share your experience with the LinkedIn community. Kindness does not happen in a vacuum. Beauty is within you right now just waiting for you to shine it’s true light on the world!
BE KIND-BE GENEROUS-BE GRATEFUL-BE JOYFUL-BE BEAUTIFUL -BE FREE!
Amy Green, CEC, PCC-Amy has been helping clients improve the quality of their professional and personal interactions for over 17 years. Amy brings an array of diverse experiences to her practice and a compassionate understanding of the challenges currently facing our changing world. Amy brings to her coaching an ability to delve deeply beneath the surface to explore and identify meaning, challenge and life purpose for developing leaders.
To contact Amy please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call