the divas get laid-back


The Divas have a new goal this summer as we try to get more peace in our lives by way of not making ourselves miserable.

Essentially, we’re going to un-beat ourselves up, instead of the other way around. As silly as it sounds, it’s a catchy little phrase that doesn’t beat around the prickly bush. 

Yes, it’s the beginning of the latest Wisdom Divas challenge. And so far we’ve identified many opportunities for kicking the habit of berating ourselves for the smallest infractions, though we’re not quite sure when the perfectionist chip was installed.   

Some of us had parents who thought we did nothing right, but some of us didn’t. Still, we’re all able to hurl savage insults at ourselves in the name of making ourselves better people. 

Not anymore. At some point in life, we decide, that inner critic should retire or work shorter hours.  

As a reminder, the Divas is my girl group charged with becoming more enlightened. We do this in various ways, including reading “The Book of Joy” based on interviews with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which we highly recommend.  

It’s a gentle, nurturing, compassionate read, not that we always are, especially to ourselves. 

All of us walked around with it tucked under our arms with colorful flags flying off the pages rereading simple reminders like “With our mind we create our own world,” a quote attributed to the Buddha. 

Changing mental perspective is one of the book’s eight pillars of joy along with humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.  

We realize that our arms are wide open to embracing these laudable qualities with others, yet when it comes to ourselves, we still justify a tight-fisted pummel-fest.  

If we don’t beat ourselves up, we fear we’ll think we’re OK just the way we are. And that would be a bad thing? 

“If you don’t have genuine love and kindness toward yourself,” says the Dalai Lama, “how can you extend these to others?”  In other words, notes the book, it’s hard to love others as you love yourself, if you don’t love yourself.  

I consult another perspective, my 17-year-old neighbor Hailey, wondering if she’s already in the habit of personal fisticuffs. 

“Beating yourself up is how you evolve,” she says initially. “You have to have some sort of guilt or regret so you’ll correct yourself the next time.” 

She thinks, for example, about screwing up a test. “If you didn’t study enough, you need to take that in. Then you need to find alternatives: Look up study skills, talk to your teacher, talk to your friends, find someone to study with.”

Meaning, you need to be constructive not destructive; we realize that’s the nut inside the shell of negative self-talk. “You don’t,” she says, “want to cause yourself more pain.”   

Wise words from a high school student. 

Archbishop Tutu would agree: “We think we ought to be supermen and superwomen from the start.”  But, he says, “. . .  it takes time to learn to be laid-back.” 


So this promising laid-back summer, when the Divas do something dumb like tear a knee before a hiking trip or put too much jalapeno in the guacamole, we’re challenging ourselves to accept a mistake as a human frailty. To remain humble to the lesson, but not add to the torment -- the fear, the anxiety, the stress -- by pulling out the battering ram. 

Because if we’re making ourselves miserable, we’re probably making other people miserable too, sapping joy far and wide.  

Especially if we’ve truly messed up and no one wants anything to do with us for a very long time to come.

July 29, 2018

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