¨I hold myself in tenderness.¨ This folks has become my mantra this week. And, it is creating beautiful clarity in the way I am interacting with myself and my world. This is my first clear adult boundary. I am currently in a beautiful online course with Shanti Zimmerman of Switzerland and an international group of brave souls. Shanti is a boundary Jedi. This is what I have learned so far. My tenderness turned inward is as unique as my fingerprints. I don’t know what yours looks or feels like. I can only tell you this, it is such a worthy investigation and magic will happen if you choose yourself.
I want to admit that up until the past few weeks, I have handled myself quite roughly. I have no regrets as I love what I do and who I am so very much. However, I am certain that medical school and residency likely would not have happened without my desperate need for external validation that ruled my 20´s (and really most of my 30´s). Unlike the majority of other students, I was privy to this insight as it was unfolding. I also knew, even back then, that sometimes external validation with the right mindfulness can be the very thing that tips us into an internal sense of worth. I took a calculated risk.
Becoming a physician is physical and mental torture. I know because I lived it. I feel sweaty even typing this line because the culture of medicine is such that we don´t openly speak about the brutality of our training. Speaking out is in itself is a sign of weakness and is ferreted out quickly and often silenced by some burned out wretch who trained before you. It seems ridiculous now that I allowed the EXACT same sentence to repeatedly silence me. If you’re a physician you are familiar or may have even used the sentence of which I speak. If you’re not, it starts like this, ¨Well when I was in training (x number of years prior), insert some version of how much more grueling the training schedule was back then.¨ For future reference physician readers, this is not an empathetic move. I too have been guilty of this. Like prisoners, we perpetuate the violence.
In medicine, speaking out is seen as complaining. Now, I see how very different these two things are. I was unboundaried. I willingly participated in a culture that I thought required me to have no boundaries. Self-sacrifice and silence were probably the two most important qualities that were ingrained in me in my medical training. These two are also the composite that forms the gnarly roots of many a physician´s depression, anxiety, and psychotropic drug use (both pharmaceutical and elicit). I cannot compassionately lead others towards health and healing without crystal clear boundaries. And shocker guys, but silence and self-sacrifice are the exact opposite of being boundaried. Being boundaried looks like risking speaking up. It looks like all kinds of vulnerability to me (right now). AND, putting my needs first again and again until it becomes a natural way of being. Sounds crazy? Like the recipe for becoming a real jerk? The EXACT OPPOSITE IS HAPPENING!!!!!! I am more gentle and kind than I have felt since childhood.
Today, and every day going forward I am committed to holding myself in tenderness. I am working on my boundaries and getting way more clarity than I have ever had around what this actually means. (thanks Shanti). For me, for now it is a practice. I don´t instinctively have it quite yet. Amazingly, what I already do have one week into this is such a sense of relief. I feel much safer at home in my own body and being and with others.
We are all tethered in our journeys. Where I go, you will feel a pull. May the vibration of this thread serve you in your beautiful unique way. May you know that YOU matter most. I highly recommend you find and follow Shanti if this type of work resonates with you.
Artist Credit: Tenderness – Original Oil, by Jia Lu