“Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion.” ~Buddha
I have always struggled with self-compassion. In fact, I’m not even sure I have been aware of it all that much throughout my life.
I’ve always thought the only way to truly grow was to push myself, both physically and mentally, so without even realizing it, I set myself up for that.
I would not study for my university exams until the night before. I would take it easy and not make enough money until it got to the stage that I had to almost create a miracle to pay my next credit card bill. I would push my partner until our relationship was at a breaking point so I could then save it.
It was almost like I wanted to prove to myself that I was a hero in someway. As I reflect back now, it was so strange what I was doing, but the truth was I was not even aware I was doing it.
Over the past few years I could see my patterns more and more. It shocked me that I would be that unconscious of my motivations.
But as I dived into it, I could see that I actually had a fear that I’d somehow be less if I took that pressure off myself. It was the pressure that was keeping me motivated and more importantly keeping me growing.
I wondered if I had to continue like that. What would happen if I let it go? Would I stop being as great as I could be?
Then I became aware of self-compassion. It was a foreign concept to me, and one I remember fighting against for some time. My ego did not want to just give in that easy!
At first I felt that I would become more self centered, and that was big no-no—after all, aren’t we all here to serve others, not ourselves?
But then I started see what my lack of self-compassion was really doing to me. It was, in fact, the very thing that was isolating me from the world and making me self-centered.
I was so caught up in my own struggles and issues that I had begun to feel that I was the only one on the planet going through what I was.
I had forgotten that all my friends were feeling the same way as me; they too were struggling in life, and I had not seen it. My issues were not greater than everyone else’s, after all.
As I saw this more clearly I felt myself soften to compassion for myself, and those around me. I started to “feel” compassion for the first time.
I recall pondering one day, how I would feel in a relationship if I treated my partner or child in the same way I had been treating myself? Would I really be that motivated to keep going each day?
The never-ending berating and judgments, constantly trying to fix, change, or improve myself, never being enough. How motivated can you stay under such conditions?
I would have never expected anyone to respond positively to this, but yet I expected myself to. Something was very wrong with my perception of myself.
It was at that moment that my belief structure started to collapse on itself, and I realized that I did not have to be that hard on myself for motivation. I could actually be kind and it would have an even greater effect.
Bit by bit, I felt self-acceptance, and a love came over me like waves, like it had been wanting to come through for so many years, but I had blocked it.
All I had been looking for was sweeping over me in one giant gush. It felt amazing and it felt true. I knew that I’m okay the way I am.
I suddenly felt a common bond with humanity again. Like we are all perfect in our imperfect way, and that is actually what it’s meant to be like.
I realized that I do not have to get everything right everytime. I do not have to be changed or improved; I just need to accept who I am right now.
The pain and sorrow I had been feeling my whole life rose up, and I could clearly see what I had done to myself for decades. I was sorry for this, so very sorry.
I broke down and cried and cried. I had been so mean to myself. The pain and struggles of the last few decades came pouring out of me like the dam gates had been opened.
I felt relief for the first time. I could not do this any longer; there was simply no need. I had done nothing wrong by just being me.
This was one of the most significant moments in my life—the acceptance of myself through self-compassion.
My tips to create more self-compassion include:
1. Be aware if you are being hard on yourself and recognize where this shows up for you.
It can be subtle. Look at all life areas, including your health, finances, and relationships, at work and in your family.
2. Challenge your beliefs and fears.
Do you have a belief that if you are gentle with yourself you will somehow not be motivated enough or not all you can be? Recognize that this doesn’t have to be true. Also, notice if you feel that being compassionate toward yourself will lead you to feel self-indulgent or selfish.
3. Treat yourself kindly, without judgment.
Picture your best friend and how you treat them. Now apply this same love and kindness to yourself. You should be your own best friend after all!
4. Be mindful of when you slip out of compassion and start to treat yourself harshly again.
Forgive yourself and understand that you are human and this is part of the human game.
5. Feel the pain of others around you.
Listen to their stories and feel what it must be like to be them. This will make you automatically feel compassion and be softer on yourself as you connect with their common humanity.
We all have issues and problems that cause us pain, but suffering through them is optional. Self-compassion provides another option.
Photo by JFXie