We all know we’re supposed to be compassionate towards one another, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (It’s called “The Golden Rule” and not “The Cubic Zirconia” rule for a reason, people!) Yet compassion isn’t always easy because it requires more than just routine politeness. Compassion requires intention. It asks us to exude authentic kindness, to let people tell their story and truly listen to what they’re going through. Compassion is empathy in action.
However, I’m not here to discuss how to be better to your neighbor. Instead, I’d like to address how we turn compassion inwards.
To start off, I’ll tell you about how I had to learn self-compassion out of necessity to manage a majorly major flaw of mine - bein’ a people-pleaser.
Hokay. So at some point in my life, by one way or another, I reached the conclusion that my life’s purpose was to be liked by everybody. There was no way we could meet and you not think me anything but enjoyable, friendly, and sweet. It was my mission to make you feel happy, regardless of the cost to myself.
As you can probably understand, this kind of lifestyle causes a hell of a lot of anxiety, confusion, and exhaustion. Inevitably, it all falls apart because I’m human (duh) and as much as I’d like to think I’ve got everything under control (ha!), I totally do not. Cue inane fits of crying/laughter/screaming/hair-tearing-out after realizing that pleasing everyone all the time is totally impossible.
After those fun-times, I cautiously began picking up the pieces of my shattered reality in attempts to put it back together. However, based on my efforts so far I’m pretty certain untangling myself from the web of people-pleasing will require a lifetime of work.
This is where self-compassion comes into play.
As a people-pleaser, I’ve mastered my own version of compassion. Simply by my yearning to help others, I’ve had a lot of time to practice being a peacemaker. However, without knowing compassion for myself, how can I fully understand its true meaning?
If compassion allows me call people worthy and wonderful humans along with all of their flaws and insecurities, certainly I can do that for myself.
But how? With my focus on other’s well-being, it can be difficult to turn this inward. I have to take all that stuff I talked about at the very beginning of the post, like being authentically kind, and believe it. Believe it for my own sake.
More specifically, there are three helpful things that I’ve learned to keep in mind on my journey to be more self-compassionate.
Treat yourself how you would treat others: Did you just tell someone how beautiful they look today? Say the same to yourself. Give to yourself the lovely things that you outpour to others. It especially needs to be done when you don't feel like it. By habit, the positive things you internalize will shift to how you actually feel about yourself.
It’s not selfish to be selfish: Taking the time to care for yourself should be your number one priority. The beautiful thing about being a bit selfish is that it inevitably allows you to give better to others. Take the time to work on yourself, to dig into those internal nudges, to give in to the pushes and pulls of your conscience. Know that each moment you invest in honestly taking time for yourself repeats itself tenfold to the rest of the world.
You’re perfectly imperfect: No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. You’re not less of a person based on the mistakes that you’ve made. Learning to fall with grace makes it easier to stand back up and keep going. If you blame yourself for anything and everything that goes wrong (like me), be sure to extend the gracious attitude you’d normally extol upon others, to yourself. I find this line, from my favorite Bob Dylan song “Ramona”, ever helpful:
“I’ve heard you say many times that you’re better than no one and no one is better than you.
If you really believed that you know you have nothing to win and nothing to lose.”
Striving to be perfect is a tragic, and human, mistake. Don’t be too hard on yourself, babe.