“Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.”
Compassion is what 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion is all about. As Pema Chodron says in the quote above, this does start and end with having compassion for the parts of ourselves we consider flaws. Self-compassion is not something you do once but is a lifelong process. Each time you see some aspect of yourself that you don’t like, try forgiving it instead.
Does this seem hard? Then just do the best you can.
As Christopher Germer says:
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
It’s no secret that most people find it harder to be compassionate with themselves than they do with other people. So just one moment of kindness towards ourselves can make a difference in a day that otherwise would be filled with self-punishment.
However, as Louise Hay says:
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
That’s been my experience. The aspects of my life where I criticised myself most were where I was least successful. The criticism didn’t work and made me feel bad.
In case you worry that self-compassion will make you self-indulgent, Christopher Dines explains why this it won’t:
“To be self-compassionate is not to be self-indulgent or self-centred. A major component of self-compassion is to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with love, care, dignity and make your wellbeing a priority. With self-compassion, we still hold ourselves accountable professionally and personally, but there are no toxic emotions inflicted upon and towards ourselves.”
Kristin Neff also says,
“With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”
Many people worry that if they are compassionate towards themselves, that would be letting themselves off the hook. They imagine it means they would avoid responsibility for their actions and leave someone else to soak up the mess. But this could not be further from the truth. My experience is that the more compassionate I am with myself, the easier it is to say, “I messed up. I did it.” When we expect the world to cave in around us if we admit to a mistake, we avoid doing so. When we know that we are okay, even if what we did was foolish, unkind, careless or just plain ignorant, we aren’t afraid to admit our mistakes.
Here’s Neff again:
“Admitting that we’re fallible human beings doing the best we can and being compassionate to ourselves in the face of our misdeeds, actually allows us to take more responsibility for our actions.”
There’s another reason why practising self-compassion isn’t something to fear. Somehow, many of us have the idea that if we are compassionate towards ourselves, it means we will see ourselves as more deserving than others, or better than them. However, the opposite is true. Almost without fail, what we feel doubtful about or dislike in ourselves, we also dislike in others.
As Byron Katie says when describing how she used to live before she began questioning her stressful thoughts:
“‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ I always have. I hated me, I hated you.”
“If you don’t love yourself you will never be able to love anybody else. Psychologically it is impossible. If you cannot be kind to yourself, how can you be kind to others?”
As we become more self-compassionate, we feel better about ourselves and have less need to look for flaws in others to make ourselves feel better.
Here’s Brene Brown explaining how that works:
“If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
I’m going to give the last word to Osho:
“Just being with somebody who accepts you totally is therapeutic. You will be healed.”
Okay, not quite the last word. Because, how about if you make that somebody yourself? You will be healed and you will be more able to help others heal!
Thank you for loving you!
This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on Self Compassion.
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