I heard from a good friend today. She had chosen a new path in her life earlier in the year, and complained that it still felt incomplete. That there was a lot more to do, but because what she had done so far hadn’t really gained traction, she was hesitant to move forward.
She felt stuck, and blamed herself for it. Why couldn’t she just get it together and do whatever she needed to do to get herself back on track and take things to the next level?
I felt sad to hear my friend beat up on herself like that. It seemed as though she was focusing on what wasn’t working, without recognizing all of the things that had gone right and were going well in her life.
She blamed herself for not adapting to her new situation quickly enough, as though there was some sort of predefined period of time by which she should have fully adjusted.
And so I listened, then supported her by asking focused questions that helped her to realize how many successes she has experienced in such a short time, and that, perhaps, her adjustment period has been exactly as long as it needs to be.
I felt and showed compassion for her, and she was grateful. She later thanked me for listening and helping her to realize how hard she was being on herself.
In the short time between our talking, she had already established and began moving ahead with newfound energy and verve. With just a little validation, my friend had become unstuck.
Compassion feels good.
Showing compassion for others is a great way to take our minds off of our own troubles. It feels great to help someone in need and to feel needed.
But what if I told you that the friend in this story was actually me? That it was me who was frustrated, feeling as though I hadn’t done enough, wasn’t moving quickly enough and adapting well enough?
And what if I told you that the person I went to with these complaints wasn’t another friend, it was also me? That I took the time to listen to my own, inner voice. I recognized the tell-tale signs that indicated there was a problem, took a step-back and listened.
And then I asked questions.
Why is compassion only for others?
Where did we learn that it is good to show compassion for others, but not for ourselves?
At some point it seems we began taking ourselves for granted. We have high expectations, and show little gratitude when time and again we come through.
But when there is a problem, when we hit a snag, or in some way struggle, we’re also often the first to come down on ourselves. We have no tolerance for mistakes, for struggle, for fears. We expect perfection, but offer little in return.
We are like those types of leaders nobody wants to work for. Even we don’t like to work for them, and yet here we are behaving that way towards ourselves. What gives?
Turn this ship around!
I say it’s time to turn this ship around and allow ourselves self-compassion. By having compassion for ourselves, we are even better at having it for others, because we will be coming from a place of experience and knowing, instead of desire; a much better way to align our walk with our talk.
Showing compassion for ourselves might not come easily, but when we do it, it feels good!
Instead of constricting our muscles and breathing more shallowly, as we do with shame and guilt, when we feel good, we begin to open up, breath deeper, and voila! Whatever barriers or blockages we may be experiencing around change or transition miraculously begin to open up!
Saying, “show yourself compassion” and doing it are two entirely different things though, especially if we’ve never really flexed that muscle before. So here is an exercise to get started:
Acceptance. A key ingredient for compassion.
This last question targets an important ingredient for compassion; acceptance.
Accepting ourselves for who we are instead of who we think we should be, takes a lot of the pressure off of ourselves, which can be especially helpful when we’re going through change.
More on this in the next post, which will focus on the idea of empowerment.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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