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What Does it Mean to Have Compassion for Self?

Compassion. There’s a word we hear occasionally that most of us do not give much thought to.

What does it mean to be compassionate and why does it matter?

Compassion literally means to “suffer together”. It is the feeling that occurs when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel obliged or motivated to intervene and help relieve that suffering.

Some people are just naturally compassionate people. Think nurses, and others in the helping professions.

For some, it is easy to be compassionate towards others. They are moved in an emotional heart tugging kind of way when they know others are hurting.

In the light of the suffering we have all endured with the pandemic, and the losses suffered as a result, you may have had plenty of opportunity to offer compassion to another human being.

When a major catastrophe or event occurs unexpectedly, like what recently happened with the toppling of a 12 story high rise in Miami, we feel something… we want to help the people who are victims.

But what about the day to day? What about the daily stressors many experience of getting to work or tending to our business; the mundane tasks that can send us in a tailspin of ruts and routines that seem endless and thankless? Is there opportunity for compassion there as well?

Many of us are great at showing up in a compassionate way for our friends or family members. We come alongside them offering hugs or words of encouragement for what they are going through.

Perhaps some of us may need a reminder of what it looks like to be compassionate to people who suffer that we don’t know. What could that look like to have compassion for someone struggling with addiction, or any mental health issue? A single mom trying to make ends meet. A person of a different color or ethnicity than us standing up for equal rights. Can we have compassion for them?

Here’s an idea. What if we started with self compassion? What if when we are tired, weary, frustrated; when we feel misunderstood, unacknowledged, uncared for and unappreciated, what if we practiced self compassion?

What might that even look like?

How would we even do that? Why should we?

I came from a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” Midwest mentality. That was the messaging.

Now I know a lot more as a counselor and coach than I knew then. Thinking you have to go it solo, or stuff your emotions away leads to a host of miserable consequences- loneliness, anxiety, depression or more.

We humans have both the need for and the capacity to display compassion, and yet we so seldom show it or practice it on ourselves.

Next time you are feeling down, uncared for, misunderstood, saddened, unappreciated, etc. Rather than waiting for someone else to come along and offer up what you think you need, you start first. Show yourself some beautiful self compassion.

You may not know where to begin. Perhaps start with just acknowledging how you feel. Remind yourself it’s ok that you feel the way you do. In other words, use the same encouraging words to yourself that you might offer up to a friend.

Now let’s address, why this matters.

For one, the world needs more compassion.

Additionally, I observe there is way too much anger, condemnation, judgement etc. towards others, but also a lot of negative self talk and condemnation toward ourselves.

When we practice self compassion- rather than distraction- our lives and emotional wellbeing will improve.

Distraction from our pain or sadness often comes in the form of eating too much, drinking too much, drugs, smoking, endless video games or screen time, shopping etc…. Because all of THAT keeps us from having to feel or acknowledge any painful feelings.

If we make time and space for self compassion; speaking internal words of truth and kindness, we may become equipped to deal with our difficult feelings and are more likely to transcend that ability and extend compassion toward others.

An easy way to summarize all this; show yourself some love today! Learn to care for your own heart!!

And then consider who else needs what you can offer to help care for their heart during a difficult time.

More Compassion. Less Distraction. Let’s change the world one compassionate person at a time.

You can start with yourself, and your local community!

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