Skip Hudson is a traffic engineer by trade and an instructor of mindful self-compassion by heart.
Hudson’s journey from engineer to mental health educator began in 2003 when he signed up to volunteer at Mesa County Partners, an organization that matches local kids with mentor volunteers.
“Kids are referred there by teachers, parents or therapists, and they get put on a waiting list and they’re waiting for someone to pick them,” Hudson says. He started a monthly activity called Partners Power Hour, intended to provide the kids on the waitlist with something to do. Hudson would teach the kids life skills, followed by playtime in the gym.
“That’s when I first started doing group teaching focused on life skills,” Hudson explains. “When I worked with that group, what I discovered was not really a big discovery — it’s that they had low self-esteem. They just didn’t think much about themselves.” self-compassion
In 2014, Hudson became the lead instructor for the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce program Young Entrepreneurs Academy, an after-school program that teaches kids from sixth through 12th grade about business.
“These are the best and brightest kids: they’re smart, they’re motivated, they’re thinking about business at a young age. When I started working with them, I noticed that all these excelling kids had the same issue as the other kids I’d worked within the other demographic, and that is that they all had low self-esteem.” Hudson adds, “I used the academy as a vehicle to teach them about the business stuff, but my real objective was to get them to a point where they believed in their heart that they were awesome.”
With this realization, Hudson began searching for youth programs throughout Colorado that focus on building self-esteem but was unsuccessful. He took that as a sign to create his very own self-esteem building program.
In his research, Hudson discovered a model by Dr. Kristin Neff called the self-compassion model. Self-compassion is different than self-esteem. Self-esteem involves competition and what psychologists call a “self-enhancement” bias — putting others down in pursuit of one’s own high self-esteem. But, self-compassion is based on kindness, acceptance, mindfulness and intrinsic self-worth. Soon enough, Hudson was on a plane heading toward Houston, Texas, on his way to a five-day-long mindful self-compassion retreat. “I did the fire hose version of learning mindful self-compassion. And, it was weird,” Hudson confesses. “One of the weirdest parts for me was flying down to Houston, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing? I mean, I’m an engineer! And I’m going to take this class, and there’s going to be all these touchy-feely people there and these therapists, counselors, teachers and doctors — people that have been embedded in this for their whole career.’ And I just went in there as some engineer guy. I had huge apprehension, but it was a great class.”
A few months later, Hudson was certified to teach the course himself. With this new knowledge, he launched his classes in Colorado, not only for youth, but for anyone looking to learn the practice of mindful self-compassion.
“I started seeing the system of who we are as humans and how our biology set us up to fail. The basic part of engineering is taking a big problem and breaking it down into a bunch of smaller problems,” Hudson says. “Traffic and transportation is by far the most humanistic of all the subcategories of civil engineering. So, many engineers don’t like traffic and transportation, because there are too many grey areas related to people, but I gravitated towards that.”
Our minds and bodies, designed for life out in the savanna running from predators and gathering food, are behind the times. What used to be advantageous for survival, like remembering the past, predicting the future and expecting the worst, are now causes for emotional pain.
“We have these biological challenges like wandering mind and negativity bias, and no one’s ever taught us about them or how to work with them. When I learned this toolbox, all I could think about was, ‘why didn’t somebody teach me this when I was 13 years old?’ This is basic stuff. This is how humans operate,” Hudson says.
Hudson offers eight-week-long mindful self-compassion courses via Zoom, as well as one-on-one coaching, workplace well-ness presentations and more for all ages.
Learn more at skiphudson.com.
Photos courtesy of Skip Hudson.
Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2021 issue.