Do you carry or climb mountains?

Today is May 13 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you carry or climb mountains?” How often do you feel as though ‘the weight of the world is on your shoulders?’ Or perhaps you have said aloud to someone ‘I am carrying too much right now.’ The question for today challenges you to decide between two options. You cannot climb a mountain while carrying it; and likewise, if you are carrying the mountain you are then unable to climb it. The choice is yours. Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves climbing mountains, not carrying them.

Andrea F. Polard, author of A Unified Theory of Happiness: An East-Meets-West Approach to Fully Loving Your Life, believes there is nothing wrong with wanting to transcend the status quo and attempt to become the best person we can be. The pursuit of personal growth or professional development is healthy for many reasons. Unfortunately, many people overdo it and beat themselves up for everything. Being too hard on ourselves, Polard explains, can be a sign of withdrawing love from our selves. Doing so is counterproductive and symbolizes our capacity to love unconditionally when it comes to our own selves, somehow splitting off kindness when confronted with a part of ourselves that is less than perfect.

“And here is the crux of the matter: We are prone to seek perfection in a world that suggests that perfection is possible. We look up to high ideals; unreachable role models from Jesus to Buddha; moralistic and religious stories; fairy tales that split the good from the bad and the Beauty from the Beast; and last, but certainly in the U.S. not least, the advertisement industry that bombards us with must-have products that elevate and perfect us, wiping off any flaws from our faces, masking our lines, offering anti-aging therapy to turn us back into the beautiful people we never felt we were. I can be is the one who accepts imperfection.” I cannot be more lovable than when I face and embrace my vulnerabilities. It is possible to relate to my good and bad sides with the same kind attention, supporting myself unconditionally no matter what.

Lebanese Canadian educator Najwa Zebian wrote “These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” This is perhaps one of the most impactful statements of self-compassion to remember. Psychology professor Dr. Kristin Neff noted “Research shows that the No. 1 barrier to self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge; the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite.” Several studies have shown that self-compassion led to greater personal improvement, in part, through heightened acceptance, and that focusing on self-compassion spurs positive adjustment in the face of regrets. If you find yourself struggling to engage in self-compassion so that you may climb mountains instead of carrying them, be sure to gauge how much time you are spending on social media.

According to research published January 2020 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences a team of researchers led by Alyssa Saiphoo of Ryerson University in Toronto analyzed the cumulative results of 121 studies to see if they could come to a consensus regarding the relationship between social media use and self-esteem. Their results suggest that social media use likely causes more harm than good and could illustrate how people are trading strong and supportive real-life relationships for more tenuous virtual relationships. The researchers also suggest that people with lower self-esteem may be drawn to social media use to avoid uncomfortable and awkward real-life experiences. They write: "Individuals with lower self-esteem may develop more online relationships because they tend to be more sensitive to interpersonal relations and more dependent on others for approval. This may be related to feelings of awkwardness in face-to-face social situations, and thus, communicating online via social networking sites might be an effective way of socializing for them."

So, if you find yourself carrying mountains be sure to engage in the self-reflection required to measure your self-compassion. In doing so, assess your social media time and ask yourself if your virtual relationships are causing you more harm than good. If so, perhaps it’s time to get the weight of social media off your shoulders so you can begin climbing those mountains again.

  • How often do you ‘feel the weight of the world on your shoulders?’

  • Do you tell everyone you encounter you are carrying such weight?

  • Does feeling like a martyr make you feel good about yourself or perhaps better than others?

  • Do you feel a need to punish yourself? Is that why you carry mountains?

  • What would happen if you dropped those mountains you were carrying?

  • Are you carrying mountains to avoid climbing them?

  • Is it easier to complain about life instead of putting in the effort required to translate your dreams into reality?

  • What small step can you take today to drop those mountains you are carrying so you can give yourself the freedom necessary to climb?