Discussions about Compassion
When the topic of compassion comes up, we’re usually talking about having compassion for others. We remind ourselves that everyone is on their own path, fighting their own battles, and we can never know for sure what someone else may be going through. These are really great reminders; surely if everyone were more compassionate our world would be a much different, much better place.
But even as these discussions about compassion are invaluable for humankind, I fear we often fail to observe the importance of focusing compassion inward on ourselves. This, I’d argue, is really unfortunate because the best way to reflect more compassion (or any positive feeling or emotion) into the world is to first experience a loving compassion for our own self.
Self-Compassion is Real Compassion
Like so many things in personal development, I know this is easier said than done. Our constant internal dialogue often prevents us from even temporarily shifting from our subjective experience to view our lives more objectively. This is exactly why I’ve mentioned a self-reflective practice so much throughout this blog. When we take time to intentionally reflect on ourselves, our thoughts, actions, and values, we invite the inner voice to stop talking so we can view the self as a person who is not so different from those around us. And because it is so difficult for us to view our own self as one person among many, similar people, we don’t experience self-compassion the way we probably should. And because we don’t feel it for ourselves, we struggle to feel and express compassion for others.
We spend so much of our lives running away from our shadow and projecting our egoic negativity onto other people. But we don’t have to.
Compassion During Self-Reflection
We are busy. We are trying so hard. And because our game is elevated to this degree, of course we make mistakes. Of course we have moments when we are less than perfect. One thing I’ve been trying lately during my self-reflection is to ask myself questions like “what was your intent?” and “Where was your heart?” after I’ve made some sort of a mistake. What’s cool about working on self-compassion is that we have full access to the answers to these types of questions in a way that is not true for anyone else. We can speculate about the motives of other people, but we don’t have to speculate for ourselves; we just have to keep an open mind, ask the questions, and then accept the answer once it comes.
From there, my conclusions will usually be something like “Okay, I’d like for things to go differently in the future, and to get there, I need to make sure my emotions aren’t running the show.” I’d like to point out a few things about this response. First, my actions don’t get a pass. I’m holding myself accountable. Second, I’m recognizing the emotions without trying to invalidate them, but also challenging myself to learn to rise above the emotions. And Finally, I’m not beating myself up over this. This example displays successful self-reflection that is rooted in compassion. I’m not perfect, but in some key ways that I have deemed important, I am committed to being my best. This approach helps me on my journey to get there.