This morning, I was prompted to reflect on a time when someone showed me kindness. My first thought was a hallway conversation I had with a colleague after being criticized by a coworker and was feeling offended (and a bit defensive) about it. I can’t remember her exact words, but I do remember her listening intently and giving me perspective that I had not thought of; that often these reactions arise out of a lack of compassion for ourselves. She related to me times when she was not compassionate with herself and how it affected her interactions. She recommended the book, “Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff. In her book, Kristin relates her empirical studies on self-compassion and contrasts it with self-esteem which often requires perfectionism and a need to defend oneself. It is interesting, and now a bit obvious, that practicing self-compassion allows me to be kinder in my interactions.
“The things that interrupt my work, ARE my work.”
Remembering to be kind is the trick. I am learning to use feelings of frustration as a sign of being overwhelmed and a cue to take care of the caregiver in me, signaling time out for a self-compassion break. If I forget how to do this, Kristin’s guided self-compassion meditations are good reminders that I am human and need to be kind to myself.
Typically, being in a hurry is a barrier for me to be kind. A wise person once told me, “The things that interrupt my work, ARE my work”. For a highly organized person like me, success can mean ticking things off my daily “to do” list. Another consult, another resuscitation, another admission, another dictation, another order set, another central line – done. Interruptions are annoying. I have learned to note interruptions as signals to take a self-compassion break and express deep listening and kindness to the other person. It is amazing how these interactions lead to a much more satisfying day than just ticking off the tasks on my to do list.
Thank you, Dr. CW, your kindness in asking me how I was doing had a profound effect on me and has influenced my growth as a person, as a physician, and as a leader. Thank you, Dr. IS, for showing me the power of interruptions to slow down and change my perspective. I am grateful to all of you, my team, my colleagues, and students who continue to demonstrate patience, compassion, and kindness. Together we can change the culture of academic medicine.