Tool Box

The “tool box” is a popular and useful metaphor for having resources available to help in times of difficulty. It expresses the vision and desire to move in a positive direction when we feel stuck.

My sense is that there’s more to consider here: who is using the toolbox, and how are they using it? We are fortunate to have many resources available these days, but it is important to approach our challenges from a place of self-understanding and compassion. We often try to change ourselves out of a sense of unworthiness, with the self-critic using the “tools” to “fix” us. And the self-critic is prone to using too much force, being impatient and having unrealistic expectations, which can lead to cycles of blame and shame. Life can become a never-ending “self-improvement project” with this approach.

So it is important to use our vision and desire to change from a place of connecting with our innate goodness and wholeness, with an attitude of kindness and care toward ourselves. As we compassionately understand why we are stuck, why we struggle, and why our best strategies often fail us, we can develop inner resources that lead to powerful and enduring growth, and the freedom and courage to relate to life with acceptance and equanimity.

I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates