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Letters from Zeynep - Discipline & Self-Forgiveness


Letters from Zeynep

April 2 · Issue #7 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dear friend,
Recently I saw a successful female entrepreneur launch a program to help other entrepreneurs wanting to grow their businesses. I like this female entrepreneur for the way she talks about being a human, a woman, an entrepreneur. But in the launch of this program, she used one word that stood out from the others and that didn’t resonate with me.
That word was discipline.
She was promising that she was going to show the entrepreneurs in the program how to be more disciplined, among other things.
My reaction to this word was interesting because I consider discipline to be a very close and old companion. Discipline has been there with me from the youngest ages, when I was encouraged to show up to dance class even on my most tired and achy days.
Upon reflection, I realized that I am angry at discipline for the way it’s not always there for me. Discipline is there when I say I will get up at 7am every morning, but if I get up at 9am instead, discipline makes me feel guilty for how I woke up late. Or when I have a very productive day of work but don’t exercise like I had promised myself I would, discipline leaves me feeling like shit despite my good day of work.
Discipline is very hungry for attention, constantly tugging at my clothes, saying “Look at me, look at me, look at me!” But I realized that I’ve been turning my eyes away from him in the last few years.
I’m afraid to take discipline out of my life completely. I worry I would become a lazy bum without him. My dreams are even greater than before: I’m dreaming of touching people’s hearts and nurturing them at scale. How would I get there without discipline?
But I’ve had this growing sense that I don’t want him tugging at me all the time, especially when he’s not needed. And I’ve been noting that I work, even on my most “undisciplined” days. I work because there is an inherent reward in working. I work because I sleep better after a day of creating. I am burning with a desire to bring meaningful solutions to the world. Even when there seems to be no discipline around, I am advancing, at a fast speed, sometimes despite myself.
So I’ve been asking myself which other companions are needed. If I value getting as much sleep as I need, if I value accepting my humanity, if I don’t want to be stricken with guilt and shame when I fall short of my own extremely high standards, who else can I turn to?
And in came, self-forgiveness.
Self-forgiveness doesn’t demand my attention all the time; she isn’t annoying. She is there, sitting by the window, letting me know she will welcome me if I decide to talk her up.
When I do talk her up, she is shy at first. She knows she is new around here. She talks more with her soft eyes than her words. When she speaks, she says things like “It’s okay that you slept an additional two hours, maybe you needed it.” or “That day you didn’t exercise, I sensed that you were so deep into what you were writing that maybe you didn’t want to leave it?”
Self-forgiveness and I are becoming better friends as time goes by. When I get stuck, which is often, I am ignoring discipline and turning to her. We even gossip about discipline sometimes, rolling our eyes, pointing to how he loves bossing me around.
I don’t know if you had this as a kid, but my parents were often as different as black and white, and starting at a very young age, I knew which one to go to for which question. I’d get permission from my mom for an expensive school trip, and I’d tell my dad about my new boyfriend. Then I’d go to the other and say “But dad/mom approves?! Why don’t you approve?”
My swap between parents based on matters made my parents feel used and manipulated, but I was sure it was necessary for my survival. And I’m sure my dance between discipline and self-forgiveness today, some 20 years later, is just as necessary.
Discipline brings in the fire but is never enough on his own. I need self-forgiveness to come in and forgive me, as often as 10 times a day, so that I can continue without losing heart, and without losing speed.
I’m wondering how you feel about discipline, friend? Is there too much of it? Did you get sick of it at one point? Do you have your own version of a dance between fire and soothing? What would self-forgiveness say to you, if she could speak?
Write to me :) I’d love to know.
Spring time is the best for practicing mindfulness outside, listening to the awakening around us.
Spring time is the best for practicing mindfulness outside, listening to the awakening around us.
For your mindfulness practice
  • Kristin Neff’s article on the yin and yang of compassion. She explains why compassion can be an act of saying “no”, and why we need fierce self-compassion to survive in today’s world.
  • If you’re in Paris next Sunday, April 7th, you are welcome to this half-day wellness retreat I’m putting together with three other fantastic wellness coaches.
  • It’s week 3 of my 6 week Introduction to Mindfulness course. If you’d like to see what the course is about so far, here are some guided meditations that I recorded.
What else?
  • I spent the whole week laughing at this man imitating the sound of race cars. And, yes, you guessed it right, I have been imitating the sound of race cars at home. All the time.
  • While the UK has been stuck in its system and austerity, this tweet by Donald Tusk reminded everyone that the UK citizens are Europeans too (at least until they are not).
  • JR made the Louvre Museum of Paris even more magical with his disposable street art.
  • What public shaming does to a person, how the internet never forgets, and why we name scandals after women.
  • The poet who planted trees, or the person I dream to be.
  • If you thought gap years are for youngsters, here is a woman taking a gap year at 60.
  • The 37, rich, retired and unhappy people of Silicon Valley, and their stoicism
  • And finally, a moment to celebrate hope reentering Turkish territory. With the local elections held last Sunday, Erdoğan lost a bit of his grip, and things are starting to look up for the first time in decades for Istanbulites.
Thank you for reading!
If you have been enjoying these letters and would like to give some support, you can do so by sharing articles/books/videos you’d like me to include in the next issue, by forwarding this letter to a friend, or by giving me honest feedback about what makes you want to read these letters and what I can do better.
With a soft, gentle, loving heartbeat,
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