When we think of compassion we tend to think of an offering to another who is hurting or suffering in some way; but compassion is not just something we muster up and offer as a simple gesture. It is a quality that arises as we open our heart to another’s story or situation. Compassion is one of the heart practices and requires emotional presence. Unfortunately, it is not highly regarded or adequately taught in this culture, and is even seen as a sign of weakness at times. To weep for another is NOT a form of weakness, but rather requires a tremendous inner strength!
Self-Compassion is even more challenging than compassion for another. Opening the heart can feel risky and uncomfortable until we learn how to do it with great care. For many of us, we have been taught from a young age that focusing on our own emotions and needs is selfish or self-indulgent . When I speak of self-compassion I am not referring to wallowing in self-pity, or narcissistic behavior, but rather being present in our life, aware of our own emotional and physical states and needs, and open to offering ourselves the care we need. We do this for our loved ones, our children. Why wouldn’t we do this for ourselves?
Self-Compassion is essential for well-being! The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we will have in our lifetime. Health and well-being spring forth from a loving environment, and yet we are not often taught how to love and respect ourselves. We are often kinder to others, even strangers(!) than we are to ourselves. Our inner dialogue of constant criticism potentially places us at war with ourselves, and quite literally erodes our health and well-being! We create a never ending loop of constantly looking for peace and happiness, all the while chastising ourselves with statements suggesting why we are not “enough” (good enough, smart enough, good looking enough, wealthy enough, and on and on.)
Self-Compassion is essential for health and well-being. And compassion in general is crucial for connection and healthy relationships. And yet, it is such a radical idea in our culture to wish ourselves well, to offer ourselves kindness, forgiveness, self-compassion, that many people struggle with the concept. Like any other new practice, self-compassion requires patience and resolve in order to be cultivated. This is what I teach!