We expect others to give compassion. We expect them to have it towards others as well as themselves. We give compassion to others without thinking, but do you have compassion for yourself?
I’ve written and thought a lot lately about compassion. How doctors lack it, how people need to be more compassionate towards the chronically ill, even how we need to be more compassionate towards others. But, too often I forget about one person who needs my compassion as much as anyone else – myself. We have to learn to be compassionate towards ourselves.
Compassion starts with listening
‘So if we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person.’ ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Compassion starts with truly listening. Listening to yourself and to your body and to what it needs. Too often we focus on distracting ourselves and ignoring our own needs.
Why is it so easy to be compassionate to the needs of others, but we can’t and often refuse to be compassionate to ourselves?
Why do we push past our limits even when we know exactly where they are? Why is it that when we are recovering and we know we can’t do certain things we try to do them anyway? Why do we feel like everything has to be done right now? When others ask us for help we will gladly give it and know we are doing a kindness. Why do we refuse to allow others to return the favor? Why do we refuse to even offer ourselves the compassion of asking someone else for help?
Why are we so mean to ourselves? In his article on Developing Selfless Compassion, Leo Babauta opens with the above quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, and then goes on to say:
While the idea of being more compassionate is appealing to many people, what stands in the way is that we get irritated by other people, often actually strongly disliking them.
How can you be compassionate with others when they irritate you, rub you the wrong way, make you angry?
How often have I felt irritated at myself? How often do we sit irritated and angry at ourselves for all the things we “should” or “need to” be doing?
Those negative thoughts towards myself, and the irritation, anxiety, and stress that come with them is what pushed me to seek the help of a therapist. When we focus on those negatives and beat ourselves up about them, we are not only doing ourselves a huge disservice, but we’re being downright mean to ourselves. It is no different from physically beating ourselves up, and the damage goes far deeper and lasts longer. We would NEVER let someone else get away with treating us the way that we treat ourselves. We would never treat a friend this way.
Self-compassion is not selfishThe way we beat ourselves up with doubt and insecurity; we would NEVER let someone else get away with treating us the way that we treat ourselves. Click To Tweet
It’s difficult to remember that self-care and self-compassion are not selfish. It’s necessary. On bad days, I still struggle not to get stuck on what I feel I should be doing, or what I haven’t done. But, I have to remind myself that I’m doing what I need to be doing in that moment. I’m taking care of me. And, in doing that I will be able to take care of those other items later when I’m more able to do so.
All the things that really NEED to get done will get done. If they don’t, they weren’t really that important. I don’t have to do it all. Let others help, and don’t feel bad when I choose to take a day off and just have a Netflix marathon. It’s OK. Remember that quote “By listening with calm and understanding we can ease the suffering of another person.” Let’s rephrase that – By listening to our bodies and our minds with calm and understanding we can ease our own suffering.By listening to our bodies and our minds with calm and understanding we can ease our own suffering. Click To Tweet
- Communicating Your Needs When You Have Chronic Illness
- Learning to Trust Yourself in the Face of Chronic Illness
- Learning to Listen to Your Body
- When Chronic Pain Causes Shame, Practice Self-Compassion