“Acknowledging fortune and opportunities doesn’t mean that you’re diminishing pain and loss. You can honor both.” ~ Andrew Della Rocca
About a week ago while helping my husband, who is also a coach, prepare a virtual workshop, I posed a question that had been nagging at me for a few days. The workshop was focused on helping people access the inner resources needed to thrive and not just survive during this time. One component of the workshop asked participants to identify the gifts of this moment in an effort to shift their perspective, explore their creativity, and increase energy.
“How do I overcome the guilt I feel for highlighting the benefits of this situation?” I asked.
Although I recognized the value and intention of the exercise, I struggled with the idea of deliberately searching for good in circumstances where death, devastation and fear is actively looming over millions of lives. His answer was quick and insightful. He said that acknowledging the fortune and opportunities doesn’t mean that you’re diminishing the pain and loss. You can honor both. He added that it’s our primary inner critic, the judge, who imposes feelings of guilt and shame on us for acknowledging and leaning into the valuable lessons we’ve learned and ways we’ve become stronger and more inspired during dark and difficult times.
A few days later I was asked to facilitate a group discussion of colleagues on how we are all coping with the pandemic. I asked the group to reflect on the unanticipated gifts and opportunities they’ve received in the current circumstance and the exact same question came up. One woman spoke about how she was grateful for more solitude and time for introspection. She then confessed feelings of guilt for enjoying herself during this time. I gave her a similar response to what my husband gave me: It’s healthy to look for ways to come through the other side of a setback better and stronger than you were before. It’s also possible to value and invest in your own personal growth while respecting the personal tragedies of others.
I told her how courageous I thought she was for revealing the internal dissonance she felt. I shared that I grappled with similar feelings and have since been able to let go of destructive self-judgment when I realized that joy can co-exist with sympathy and compassion. We are complex beings capable of experiencing and sorting through multiple emotions simultaneously. Another vitally important point to remember is to extend yourself grace. Let go of the need to take on the world’s sorrows and find peace and enjoyment where you can. Self-love is a selfless act.
Janine Rudder is a coach and co-owner at Manifestara. manifestara.com