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5 Ways to Feel More Love & Compassion for Yourself & Others

“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Lately I’ve been feeling a sense of vulnerability that I always wished I could feel without being afraid.

I have always wished I was one of those people who could show my authentic self to the world and still be able to look you in the eye, after I let you see me, without quivering in shame or regret.

Not too long ago, I shared my feelings with someone who I deeply loved. This was one of the hardest, scariest things I’ve ever done, but it gave me the freedom to be vulnerable and to finally have a heart that’s ready to let love in.

Loving this person has taught me so much about love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Although he did not want the same things I want, just having him in my life has taught me more about how to feel unconditional love and genuine compassion for myself.

As a result, I am experiencing a deep level of unconditional love and compassion for others.

I use to walk around taking things very personally.

If I walked by a stranger who gave me a dirty look, or if a bank teller was rude, or if the man I loved didn’t want to love me back in the way I wanted him to, I thought it meant there was something wrong with me. However, what I’m realizing is that none of it has anything to do with me.

I have a brand new sense of awareness now.

When I begin to experience negative self-talk inside of me, I seem to be shifting almost immediately to a place of self-love, forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion for myself. This inner awakening has begun to translate into a new perception of my outside world.

Instead of my usual thoughts and reactions that occur when confronted with less than ideal responses from the external world, I am able to see me in you and you in me.

Right away I begin to feel compassion because I know that you hurt, just like me, and you feel joy, just like me. You worry and feel scared sometimes, just like me. You have bad days, just like me, and you have amazing days, just like me. You are seeking, just like me. You want to believe in love, just like me.

I look at people passing me by in the store, on the streets, or in traffic, and have a deep sense of knowing that they too feel separate sometimes, and they too have times when they fear they will never be enough—just like me.

We all feel the same things.

This realization has allowed me to continue loving even when it isn’t returned to me in the exact way I initially wanted it. True love, after all, is to love someone and expect nothing in return.

I practice this daily by being honest about what’s in my heart, without holding on too tightly to the outcome.

For me, practicing love is the same as practicing the art of letting go and giving others the freedom to just be—accepting them exactly the way they are. It’s something we can do with friends, family, love interests, and strangers alike.

I can now look this special man in the eyes and smile because I know he is just like me. I know that he can see me now because I finally revealed myself to him, and I feel good about myself for doing that.

I can accept him and just experience him for who he is and where he is on his path because I know now that we are the same. I know that what will happen, will happen, and what will not, will not.

In the meantime, I continue to make more room inside of my heart to give and receive love.

The simple act of making a shift within has completely transformed the type of relationships I’m attracting. When you live from a place of self love, the world mirrors love and compassion back to you.

When you give yourself unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance, you’re then able to give that to others.

Here are 5 tips to feel more love and compassion for yourself and therefore reflect that back to the world:

1. If you don’t feel real love for yourself yet, act as if.

Act lovingly towards yourself and do things that nurture you, make you stronger, and make you proud of who you are and how you live your life. Exercise, meditation, helping others freely, and eating a healthy diet work really well for me. Practice progress, not perfection.

2. When you feel hurt by someone else, remind yourself that they are just like you.

They hurt, feel fear, have insecurities, and feel the need to defend and protect themselves. They are no different than you and me.

At times, we all react to the programming in our minds. As you commit to feeling unconditional love and compassion for self and others, you will begin to transform the programming in your brain. All you need is awareness. Just be aware.

3. Remember, others are on their path just like you are on yours.

You are both just doing the best you can.

4. Be of service in the world.

Nothing will help you find compassion within yourself and for others like coming  face to face with people who have much less materially and way bigger problems than you.

5. Turn within and ask your higher knowing to show you where you lack integrity, love, trust, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Then ask yourself to heal.

Be patient with the process. Sometimes small shifts happen over time. Allowing your own process to unfold is an act of love in and of itself.

Photo by Kara Allyson

Avatar of Erin Lanahan

About Erin Lanahan

Erin is an Internationally Certified Holistic Health Coach, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, Motivational Writer/Speaker & Life Empowerment Mentor. Her mission is to inspire as many people as possible to return to their natural state of peace, abundance, health, inspiration & love. Visit her blog  and  You Tube Page.

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  • Sweeneyhm

    I am a bit confused from reading this article. “True love, after all, is to love someone and expect nothing in return.” How am I supposed to do that when all I do is give, give, give and get nothing in return? I need the relationship to be equal in all ways. I need my man to appreciate me the way I appreciate him. But lately, I can’t appreciate him because he pushes me away, while I try to make up for it by buying meals, groceries, cleaning, doing his laundry, etc (it’s the only thing I know how to do for someone).

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I can see how that would seem confusing. I have found that love is often not enough to sustain a healthy relationship; and that in a healthy relationship, there is no need to expect things in return because they are there naturally. So when I do something for my boyfriend, I’m not keeping score; I know that his love will manifest in similar acts of consideration, respect, and kindness. If your boyfriend doesn’t seem to show those to you, perhaps the most loving thing you can do–for yourself and him–is to walk away.

    At the lowest point in my life, I was very selfish in my relationship. When my ex-boyfriend left me, it was one of the catalysts that helped me realize I needed to make a change. He did the most loving thing for me that he possibly could have done: He stopped enabling me, and gave me the space to start to love myself.

    So I both echo Erin’s sentiment and add my two cents: Love is giving without expectation, but when there is no receiving, love is not enough to keep a relationship alive.

    I hope this helps!
    Lori

  • http://www.alwayschallengeunhappiness.blogspot.com Erin

    This is so utterly beautiful. I could feel the energy from you as I was reading this. Especially about seeing people as “on their path”. I think you can truly do that with the acceptance that you too are on yours. When you give yourself that freedom to learn and just be…you then can project that onto them. I loved thinking about that as I thought of people I have encountered today. And showing your authentic self to someone you love. That is it…isn’t it? That is where it all lands…showing yourself and not needing anything in return because you realize that showing yourself was the gift in the first place. Soooo beautiful.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi there. I have to completely agree with Lori on all points she makes. In my situation, I love someone who does not or can not love me back in the same way I want and need. Therefore, I can still love him, and accept him for where he is on his journey, but also love myself enough to love him from a distance, knowing I must clear my heart for someone who is capable of being in the kind of relationship I deserve.

    I think we often give and give and give, from a place of not feeling like we are enough. For me, it can tend to be a result of me thinking, “if i just do this, that, or the other thing, if im just nice enough, pretty enough, cool enough, sweet enough, he won’t leave me and I’ll recieve the love i need.” But in the end, I have to love myself, and be able to recognize when I am staying in something that is not best for me.

    So, for me, the hardest part of walking away from a relationship, is feeling like I cannot love someone I love so very much. Therefore, I have learned, that I CAN love whomever I choose to love, and it does not have to have anything to do with me being in a relationship with them. I give myself permission to LOVE him, realizing that he is where he is, and ultimately the only person who can make me feel good enough, is myself. This releases him and me from a relationship that is not mutual, and therefore he can be where he is on his path, and I can be where I am on mine, and I can love him without expecting anything in return, and instead look for what I need from within myself. Once I feel true love and compassion for me, the world will refelct it back, including the next man I enter a relationship with.

    Hope this helps, and I hope things work out for you :

  • erin lanahan

    Hey Erin…thank you:) Your words are beautiful as well. Yes, this post really came from inside my heart, and is something I have truly learned in a deep way, and I am so happy it resonated with you, and that you felt moved by it. That inspires me. Wishing you a beautiful day.
    Erin

  • http://inspiredtype.wordpress.com/ Sue Alexander

    I love this: “Practice progress, not perfection.” We are all works in progress, growing and learning… always do the best you can. Beautiful post :~)

  • http://twitter.com/ladolcetati _T_a_t_i_a_n_a_

    How interesting, I had almost this same exact experience two months ago and it has profoundly shifted how I move in the world. In “When Things Fall Apart,” Pema Chodron writes of the Buddhist practice of “Samaya” – an unconditional loving relationship with a teacher – or, all we encounter. And your inclusion of terms like “progress not perfection” and an emphasis on service lead me to wonder if you have any experience in recovery… I do, and have found the concept of the Samaya or unconditional love revolutionary on my path.

    On my blog Savatra, of all the posts I’ve written the last five years, the most commonly searched terms are “how to let go.” It is our nature to cling, and yet, how much freedom lies on the other side. If only I would have known when I was younger, I’m so grateful I know now.

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful post Erin!

    That’s a HUGE issue that so many people have is taking things too personally. I even find myself, while aware, and still taking reactions and situations personally, leaving me feeling negative and withdrawn. Life is to be fun, amazing and MAGICAL! If someone happens to be having a bad day, or a bad moment and happens to spill over with negativity onto you…grab your umbrella, realize that this moment shall pass (for them too) and remember that those positive vibes have WAY more energy and usefulness than those negative ones!

    Thanks for sharing! : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7925498 Joe Dowdle

    Let’s call #5 what it is….prayer.

  • Robin

    thank you Lori, I find myself in the same place as Sweeneyhm, and your answer is exactly what I have to do. I just must find a loving and kind way to accomplish this. But your words spoke to me while reading I am saying to my self “yes, yes”

  • Robin

    wise, wonderful words, at the right time, I am most grateful

  • Erin Lanahan

    Thank you Sue…that’s all we can do in the end right:) Happy you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi Mike…beautiful words from you as well, thank you! Yes, I find that the more I can remember that the ways in which people are acting or reacting, myself included, all have a root feeling at the bottom of them…a charge. Ultimately, we all want to be heard, feel seen, feel loved, feel like we are enough, we want someone to share our lives with, etc. So when I can remember this, it helps me move into forgiveness, acceptance, and therefore compassion and love for myself and others, and thus I can be available for a power greater than me to direct me. Thank so much for sharing your words with me:)

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi Tatiana, thank you for your beautiful share. This relationship I am talking, was very much like having an unconditional loving relationship with a teacher, because it taught me so much about myself and I pretty much transformed over the last 2 years because of this person’s presence in my life. I chose to do the work, but he was the mirror, the catalyst that reflected back to me the ME I did not want to be and also the me I knew I was underneath all the “un-recovered” layers. So I surrendered and began to heal. I am grateful to know the profound healing in letting go now myself as well. So good to connect with you here. Be Well :)

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hi Tatiana, thank you for your beautiful share. This relationship I am talking about, was very much like having an unconditional loving relationship with a teacher, because it taught me so much about myself and I pretty much transformed over the last 2 years because of this person’s presence in my life. I chose to do the work, but he was the mirror, the catalyst that reflected back to me the ME I did not want to be and also the me I knew I was underneath all the “un-recovered” layers. So I surrendered and began to heal. I am grateful to know the profound healing in letting go now myself as well. So good to connect with you here. Be Well :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703651237 Penny Carlton

    Great post, Lori. I try to follow the 4 agreements. Very tough sometimes, but taking very little if anything personally has really improved my life. Unrequited love is also tough, but it can show you what it is you are looking for. Now, you are free to find that, or something even better, with someone else. And, yes, that better thing can be someone seeing and deeply loving that vulnerable, beautifully imperfect, authentic self. See Brene Brown’s talk on the power of vulnerability on TED.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Penny,

    This is actually a post by Erin Lanahan, a wonderful friend and fabulous writer. I will check out the talk on TED! I am a huge proponent of vulnerability, and I’m sure I will enjoy it. =)

    Have a wonderful evening,
    Lori

  • Erin Lanahan

    Thank you Robin, I am so happy you found clarity here;) I wish you oh so well.

  • Erin Lanahan

    Awe, thank Lori;) back atcha!

  • Erin Lanahan

    That’s beautiful awareness Penny, thank you. I too will check out TED…I hear amazing things about it. Thanks for sharing :-)
    Erin

  • http://www.capriciousyogi.com/ CapriciousYogi

    Lovely post Erin, thank you for writing and sharing! I think we often get caught up on how can we fix what’s going on around us, but in order to do that we must work on what’s going on inside of us. Truly the only way to know and give real love is to love yourself. I recently posted on this myself the other day and think that if more people practiced the 5 steps you list above, we’d all be better off. The answers aren’t always immediate, but that’s why we practice.
    Shanti!

  • Erin Lanahan

    Ahhhhh, beautifully said:) I agree. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Namaste!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703651237 Penny Carlton

    Sorry, for the misattribution. Great post, Erin! Great blog, Lori! :)

  • Erin Lanahan

    ;-)

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  • Katrina A Santiago

    This article speaks to my life. I’m right there w you but like, right now instead. much love. thank you.

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  • Eric

    I really love what you say, but I think you are mistaken about the man you love. You see yourself in him, but you’re not really there. If he were like you at all, nothing would keep you apart. But this isn’t bad news. There is someone out there like you, a lot like you. And I hope you find each other. Because when you do, you will make the most wonderful kind of parents.

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  • Sharice

    Bravo! Bravo! And welcome to the world of Loving inner peace! This literally article moved me to tears. I’,  writing you because I too am on a similiar path and like you it really used to bother me when I saw  people had a hard time showing Love. To me Love seemed like the easiest and most natural thing to do. Then it hit me many people don’t know what Love is and now when I come across someone who has a disgruntled or angry disposition I pray for them and intentionally send light to surround them. We have such a magnificent power as lovers to help be that change the world really needs.Which is simply Love. I believe that’s the very reason we notice it. I Love this!:) P.S.: I would find it refreshing if you shared your thoughts on my writing, please feel free to stop by anytime, you are welcomed! Sending Love!:)  
    http://sharicedharris.blogspot.com/2012/02/give-meaning-to-life.html

  • cmcnulty1876

    This is beautiful and really strikes a chord with me. It mirrors what I have come to believe but what I sometimes need reminding of, as I do just now. I don`t practice Buddhism but I always look to build on compassion for myself and other people and it`s something that can be very difficulty when my ego gets in the way and starts fighting with the peaceful part of me. Letting go and finding the eternal compassion, love and peace within ourselves can be difficult but with awarness and dedication it`s something that we can build on day by day, little by little. Your “practice progress, not perfection” comment is very important as striving for perfection is something that can leave us without hope in a world that is reallisticaly never going to be perfect. 

    I`m very glad that you managed to find the peace withing yourself and I hope you continue to feel that sense of connection! :-) 

    Chris 

  • Anne

    It is a challenging journey to self love, and your posts speaks so eloquently to it. I really enjoyed this. Good for rereading! http://yogaspeak.blogspot.com/2012/08/reflection.html

  • kasha

    - I am kasha i lives in uk and i was in a serious relationship with my ex guy for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother so much love me that he had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that had this similar experience and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner (maduraitemple@yahoo.com).at first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 3 days i was in my office when my ex guy called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav)…i wish you the best of luck…

  • http://www.facebook.com/attem.noom Attem Noom

    Thank you so much for this article. I really benefited from your words. Much love.

  • TripleE81

    What a beautiful article. I struggle with this on a daily basis- loving myself, forgiving myself for my mistakes, dwelling on things I could have done differently. I am slowly learning to take each day as it comes and to be kinder to myself. That in turn has given me the ability to start to feel the same way towards others. As you said, everyone is on their own path. We all have our own struggles, insecurities, and pain. We all make mistakes. Were all just trying to make it in the best way we know how and in the best way for us personally. Taking a step back and realizing that others have the same feelings as we do can really help us to not hold grudges or hold on to negativity or ill feelings. After all, isn’t that what we’d want others to do for us?

    Brilliant, beautiful words. I am reading your posts daily now. They are the road to happiness, self fulfillment, love, and acceptance. Thank you for being you!

  • Jacky Liang

    Beautifully written article. Thank you.

  • Philip Straw

    Very much what Erin said. I came to an ephiphany last year when I dated a girl who was so perfect for me, I couldn’t believe she was real. it didn’t work out, and naturally I felt hurt (I still feel hurt) by life in general because I couldn’t have her in my life. What I realised from a close friend and various other sources, was that love wasn’t about being WITH a person or having them around me. It wasn’t about how I could make that person happy, but about just seeing that person happy. Love is a space of freedom, in other words, if you truly love someone, you want them to be free to do the things they want to do, because you love THEM and you want to them be who they are, and to be the person they want to be. Freedom is the greatest gift you can give to anyone, because then you love that person for WHO THEY ARE, not for what they can do, or for what you can do for them, but for who they ALREADY are. And yes I’m afraid, this would even include seeing them with another person who knows how to make them the happiest version of that person they can be.

    If you feel you need this person to reciprocate and acknowledge your efforts, it might because you feel those efforts need to be acknowledged. in other words, it’s about what YOU need, not that THEY need. That’s just my take based on what you said.

  • Philip Straw

    “showing yourself was the gift in the first place”

    I’m going to write this down this down and stick to a wall some where.

    I think this is currently where I am struggling. I know this my head, but I just haven’t experienced it enough to fully realise it.

  • Philip Straw

    Yes, beautful post by the way. I’ve been looking at a lot of self-help and self-realisation stuff lately, but just haven’t fully put it a lot of it into practice in my life yet (I guess it takes times),

    I never feel fully understood or accepted, even when other people say they enjoy my company in a “deep way” but for some reason the words you wrote in this post connected with with me and how I currently feel.

    I have a question about point 1 however if you don’t mind. You say “If you don’t feel real love for yourself yet, act as if” But sometimes this feels dishonest with myself…maybe because I have conflicting desires. I think my question is this: do I act loving based on how I feel in that present moment, or do I take on action on the things I know I will feel better about in the future?

    Thank you for the article.

  • love

    He should love you for who you are, and not just for the things you do for him..

  • CjF

    Like. :)))

  • Egopathology

    Some people who hurt me are nothing like me. They are pathological about their ego and therefore mob/bully people with their posse of cronies. Gang behavior is real and a person shouldn’t equate themselves with a gang leader while attempting to develop compassion or love. This isn’t a manga.

  • Elsa

    I am going through this same thing. What do you think about saying “I love you” to the man you love but who can not say those words himself? I used to feel it is good to have those words out there but then I worried about equality & was it hurtful to me? That’s maybe not the way to think about it. I’m not sure.