You see a scared child in the mall who is lost and help them find their parent.
You help the older gentleman at the grocery store pick up the bag of dried beans he accidentally dropped and scattered across the floor.
You do these things without thinking, without question. You not only listen, but you are present with them, as it is: feeling the pain, the fear, and finding the humor in the beans.
So, why is this so hard to do for ourselves?
(And if it’s not hard---bravo! But please let me know what your daily practice looks like! Seriously.)
When it comes to compassion, it seems much easier to do for others than ourselves. But what we’re missing here is that we, too, deserve our own kindness and compassion.
I think the term “self” in self compassion can be off putting for some. It can feel like it’s selfish or narcissistic to be focusing that much kindness inward.
After all, there’s a rut in our cultural thinking that goes something like this: taking care of ourselves means that we’re not doing what’s really important---taking care of others.
The idea of sending myself kindness and compassion in it’s truest sense, used to really turn me off. I used to think of it as just “positive thinking.” And straight positive thinking used to piss me off to hell. Already feeling unheard and unseen by myself and everyone around me (hello, law of attraction), I would start down the “positive” road only to feel even more unheard because I wasn’t saying what really needed to be said. Instead, I was sugar coating it. Yuck.
And not saying what really needed to be said---especially to myself---was a recipe for closing off and closing down.
For most of my adult life, I was pretending that everything was sorted out, fine, on track. Little did I know that this became a defense, like armor, that bruised and harmed others. It also kept me from actually pursuing what I love and enjoy. Because, you know, everything was so perfect.
This armor not only hid my true, vulnerable self the world but it didn’t allow me to see the vulnerability in others. It made me squirm at the fragility of my fellow humans---pull up those boot straps, for gods sakes, and get on with it!
I think that’s why accepting our own fragility---our most vulnerable selves---truly opens the heart. Until we can see ourselves, how can we really see another?
Once I started practicing vulnerability (and opening my heart), I was terrified, first and foremost. But then, something amazing started to happen. Because I understood what it honestly meant to wish myself well, send myself real kindness, and to truly accept my faults---it wasn’t hard to extend these same feeling to others. Even people who I’ve had a difficult time with in the past.
After all, even they want happiness at the end of the day, too, just like me. Compassion.
And happiness takes many different forms---not just the smiling-all-day-long kind of happy. Happiness includes joy, most certainly, but also a sense of purpose, meaning, fulfillment and peace. We could even go so far as to accept with peace our being unhappy---therefore still being happy in the face of our own unhappiness.
This hasn’t happened for me yet. I’ll let you know if and when it does.
We all want peace and happiness. We all want kindness and belonging. We all want safety and love.
Even the people we don’t like. Even they want those things.
And this is where self compassion comes into play. When you turn your kindness inwards and send yourself the same attentive kindness you would show your best friend, a scared child, an elderly person in need, you can feel and then take very tangible steps to alleviate your own pain.
When your own pain is attended to, you are caring for your most fragile self. Being vulnerable with yourself.
Then, you can offer that same kindness and attention (aka: compassion) to everyone---even those people who are difficult.
Want to be a great parent? Send yourself kindness. Often.
Want to be a great partner or friend? Feel each other’s feelings. Be each other’s container. Judgment only happens when hearts are closed. Open your hearts. Be vulnerable.
Want to be great at your job? Listen more. Respond thoughtfully. Practice good boundaries.
These suggestions are all interchangeable.
And they’re all components of self compassion.
Revel in kindness.
First for yourself, then others.
What does kindness look like for you today?