What does it mean to have compassion? And how does it apply to times of change and transition?
Yesterday I wrote about courage and the importance of being fully ourselves, which requires that we remove our masks that otherwise might suggest we’re strong in ways we aren’t, or fine when we’re actually struggling. Doing this also requires the courage to be vulnerable and to trust that others will accept, as we have, our imperfections, and even if they don't, to realize that it is our own acceptance of ourselves that matters the most.
Compassion might not mean what you think.
Today we’re going to explore the idea of compassion within transition and change. Brene’ Brown, whose work on vulnerability is being explored within the context of change and transition, describes compassion as being kind to ourselves first, and then to others.
This definition might be different than your own. Many people consider compassion to be externally, rather than internally focused, and is something to have for others, and not so much for ourselves.
I have been thinking a lot about this concept with respect to my own life's transitions and changes, because somewhere I had gotten the impression that I was expected to put other’s needs before my own. In doing that, while also beating myself up in trying to understand why I was struggling so much with things that seemed so easy to others, I realized that two big pieces of my problem was that I regularly put myself last, while also being a lot harder on myself than I was on other people.
The absurdity of high expectations without compassion.
When it comes down to it, having high expectations while also showing such little compassion for myself was like starving a tree of sun and water yet expecting it to repopulate a rain forest, and that's just plain absurd!
Recognizing the goofiness of this approach spurned a shift in perspective. If I want myself to succeed, whether during change and transition or in other respects, kindness and understanding toward myself is required. So is accepting that I am important enough to give myself the attention, empathy and support I would happily provide to any other friend.
Transitions and timelines do not mix.
It's as though we expect ourselves to adapt to change as if there is some designated amount of time allocated for our transition needs. If we haven't adapted within that time-frame we think we have in some way failed.
The thing is, we're human. Schedules and timelines work great for projects, launches, buses, trains and airplanes, DVRs, bill pay, and so on, but people are funny in that our independent thinking and unique perceptions and perspectives tend to interfere with any real or arbitrary expectations we might have for adapting.
Sure, we can say that we want to have adjusted to a new move by such and such a time, but if we actually transition within that time-frame, it is probably more due to luck than having anything to do with our ability to control it.
Guiding vs. controlling our transition.
We can, however, make efforts to guide our transition to change. In my view, this is one of the most compassionate things we can do for ourselves. Preparing for our change, learning what to anticipate and planning for potential road-blocks can help us feel more in control of our transition.
By understanding how we identify with our change, which will be the focus of a future post, we can better recognize potential hot-spots that could set-back us back or completely derail our transition, and come up with strategies that are honoring to ourselves and to our individual needs.
It seems to me that a far better use of our time and energy is to accept ourselves for who we are - to have compassion
for ourselves - than is making ourselves feel bad because we're, well, human.
After all, it is our uniqueness and individuality that makes us so unpredictable when it comes to uncertainty and adapting to change. And I think that is something to be celebrated!
Tomorrow we'll look at connection and embracing our vulnerability when it comes to change and transition.
How do you show compassion for yourself?
In the mean time, what are some ways you've shown compassion for yourself during challenging times? Or do you believe compassion is best served to others? Chime in and share your perspective. Let's have a conversation!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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