Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Self-compassion and cockroaches

Cockroaches and Self-Compassion

My husband and I cherish our vegan household. We don’t eat animal products, we don’t buy leather shoes, we don’t spread poison to kill bugs.

As a result, we have our occasional cockroach visitor.

Since we don’t want to kill or harm them, we try to catch them and transition them to the compost pile in the backyard, hoping that’s nirvana to them.

It’s not easy. Cockroaches are fast, and have a magic ability to disappear between cracks I didn’t even know existed.

So when we spot them, we have to stealthily get a glass bowl from the drawer, put it over them, shove a piece of firm paper underneath the bowl, and run carefully to the compost pile.

My success rate is around 60%.

I am pleased with that, until a friend tells me it’s not difficult at all: you just pick them up and throw them outside.

Well, I don’t know which countries he has visited. Maybe Tibetan cockroaches have more equanimity and are happy to be picked up, but our Texan friends are fast, really fast.

Irritated at hearing his claim, I prove my point by acting out my catching strategy on the living room floor.


Exaggerating the speed in my demonstration, I land badly on my thumb. I can hear it pop. It’s extremely painful. I feel the blood drain from my head and I can barely get up. Still feeling the original irritation, I pretend as if nothing happened, waving him goodbye.

When he’s gone, I hear a roar of critical thoughts swell in my head: “You stupid idiot, you are unable to regulate your irritation! You made a fool of yourself by being caught up in your own self-righteousness! You deserve a sprained thumb!”

It takes a few hours, before these elements of self-compassion surface:

  1. Awareness. Just noticing my pain and suffering around these critical thoughts and my thumb. “Ouch, that hurts, that really hurts.” We cannot foster self-compassion, if we don’t acknowledge we’re suffering.
  2. Befriending myself, being on my own side. Just wanting myself to feel better, caring about my needs. Something like “I wished I didn’t suffer.”
  3. Shared humanity. I start thinking of all the other people who hurt themselves while trying to impress others. I breathe in their pain, heaviness, and suffering. I breathe out love, light, and relief to them. “May all beings be happy, peaceful, and light in body and spirit.” Myself included.

Working with these elements of self-compassion, I feel better. I see myself for who I truly am: an ordinary human being, whose behavior is sometimes a tragic expression of unmet needs. I don’t need to judge myself for that. I need to reaffirm that I am still unconditionally worthy of love, acceptance, and belonging.

How could these elements of self-compassion help you to accept your mistakes and learn from them?

Let me know. I would love to read from you.

Use your self-criticism to nurture self-compassion

“Michelle is offering a free intro Nonviolent Communication at church.”

Sounds neutral, yes? And yet, all your jackal ears are pricked up. Turned inwards.

Image courtesy to David Nayer

Remember the jackal? The animal that’s the Nonviolent Communication symbol for all the criticism, judgments, evaluations, labels, and blame?

Well, you can be perfectly able to empathize with others in a compassionate, generous, and open-hearted way, and have BIG judgments of yourself.

In fact, I have found many people who are drawn to Nonviolent Communication experts at empathizing with others, and blaming themselves.

After hearing that Michelle is offering a free intro at the church, my internal monologue would be something like this: “Of course she is teaching. She should do that, she is a fantastic, inspirational teacher. Lots of people will show up, and become NVC-converts because of her. She is WAY better than you, little loser. You just sit there in the corner of the room, whining that only two, maybe three people show up at your classes. And those are losers too, people who have absolutely no one else to turn to, otherwise they would not chose you.” (Sometimes inward jackals invite outward jackals, just to reinforce their point. They are highly collaborative in that way, and offer their support eagerly.) “You’re never gonna make it, and you’ll never be recognized and appreciated for your qualities, which were not much to begin with.”

This would just be the beginning. I could go on like this for a VERY long time. Self-criticism is a well-developed pattern I have, and one I’m not ashamed of at all. Isn’t that amazing? We would probably NEVER talk like that to someone else. We wouldn’t have the guts. But with ourselves we are okay with it. Brené Brown, Edward Teyber, and Bert Hellinger wrote about why we do this. I want to focus on what we can do with this.

Actually, it is quiet simple. You listen deeply to yourself. You guess what your inward jackals are trying to tell you. Maybe you feel sad, because you wished you had more people in your class? Because that would convey that you add value, and bring you the appreciation and acknowledgment you long for? Maybe you feel scared, because you are afraid you’ll never receive this appreciation? Maybe frustrated that you don’t have enough self-confidence to step up to the plate and get out there?

After your guesses, you listen to their response. If your guesses are right, they will relax, and allow you to be in touch with your pain. If they don’t, you might guess more. The truth is that jackal ears inward are a HUGE help to understand what’s important to you. They’ll tell you straightforward where you’re stuck, what you aspire, and how you need support. Keep them on for a while, and deepen your self-compassion.


You want help to translate your inner jackals into self-empathy? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.

Self-Compassion, day 1: I’m doing the best I can

Wangari Maathai shares a beautiful story about a hummingbird and the forest. The forest is on fire and all the animals flee away, terrified of the fire and immobilized by fear of what will happen to their sacred home.

The hummingbird flies off too. To the lake. He picks up one drop and flies back to the forest and drops it on the fire. Then he flies back to the lake as fast as he can and picks up another drop. And another. And another.

All the animals watch him and ask: “Why are you doing this? It’s not gonna help? Your beak is too small, the fire too big, and your wings too slow.” The hummingbird pauses a second, then replies “I’m doing the best I can.”

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with our situation, the situation of our world. We see all the suffering, within ourselves, in other people, nearby, far away. The task is too heavy, the stakes too high. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now, but whatever we have to offer is nothing compared to the grief and suffering. There is too much to do, and we stand to lose it all. The situation seems overwhelming, and we get paralyzed.

Those are the moments that we can stop. We stop to appreciate everything we are doing. Every thought we create, every word we speak, every step we take. We appreciate how we contribute to more abundance in the world, more prosperity, more security, more love, connection, peace, joy, and harmony. We acknowledge how our efforts bring more loving-kindness, compassion, support and understanding into the world. We appreciate how we work to sustain ourselves, our loved ones, and those we don’t know yet. We might not create the results we want. But, we’re doing the best we can.

And that’s enough.