Is everyone successful but me?

Meditation Kindness.jpg

I used to fear going on LinkedIn.  

On the one hand, I loved staying up to date on what friends were up to professionally. On the other hand, I know when I see friend A becoming a VP of company A, and friend B becoming a CEO of startup B, those updates will make me feel bad about myself. On top of that, I feel guilty for feeling jealous because my mind tells me I should be happy for everyone. So it was always with a bit of hesitancy and mixed emotions that I went on LinkedIn.  

Then I started practicing mindfulness meditation. Over time through this practice, I got to know my mind, its quirks and habits. I became familiar with my mind's tendency to be self-judgmental, to make it about me rather than someone else. I also learned to view them less as reflections of my character and accomplishments, and more as clouds just passing by. Through a mindful lens, these judgments not only lost a good amount their potency but also became less clingy. 

Sharing this feeling of inadequacy in-person with others revealed to me that EVERYONE feels like this, sometimes. Even the most "successful" people feel insecure about their accomplishments. Especially the most successful. That's because many successful people are driven by the fear of failure and work hard to prove that they can accomplish what others can.  

This type of fear motivated me to work hard and served me well for years. (The tiger mom up-bringing may have contributed as well though that's a story for another time). I graduated magna cum-laude from Columbia University, was top of my class at Morgan Stanley as an investment banking analyst, worked in one of the top real estate private equity companies in the world, then got into Stanford Business School. I followed my passion to work in health & wellness at Athleta after Stanford and rose fairly quickly through the ranks. By all traditional standards of success, I was successful. But this type of success also takes a toll mentally, especially in the age of social media. That's because we are made especially vulnerable to our fears and insecurities when we are constantly reminded of others' seemingly perfect lives on Facebook and Instagram.

When I'm on LinkedIn these days, it's not that I don't feel any pangs of inadequacy when I see other people's accomplishments, I still do. But I can quickly see in my mind and feel in my body the habitual tendency for my mind to go there. And I am able to let go more easily. We know what we practice only becomes stronger. So I use mindfulness to practice being kind to myself. I'm much more at ease with LinkedIn and with my own mental habits. This is how mindfulness meditation has made me more compassionate towards myself, mind and body. I also know (and my husband can attest) that self-compassion lead to compassion for others. In other words, by making me nicer to myself, meditation has also made me nicer to others. Win-win!

How do I know what I felt though was real? There's an increasing body of scientific research that shows meditation fosters compassion. A study by Kristin Neff of the University of Texas Austin and Christopher Germer of Harvard Medical School showed that when people incorporated loving-kindness practices in their meditation, they "reported significantly increased self-compassion, mindfulness, life satisfaction, and happiness, as well as decreased depression, anxiety and stress." Another study done by David Desteno of Northwestern University showed that people who meditated were 3x more likely to show benevolent behavior than those who didn't. 

So why start this blog? I passionately believe that mindfulness meditation can help all of us live life with more ease, happiness and compassion. I also believe that if more people meditated, this world would be a kinder one. I'm hoping through this blog and community, I can inspire others to develop or deepen their meditation practice and make this precious world one that is less divided and more compassionate, one mindful moment at a time.