When I first understood the importance of being compassionate with myself, it was a major leap forward for me. I’d heard it told to me dozens – if not hundreds – of times in my life. And I kinda got it every time I heard it. I sort of knew what I was hearing. Yet, I didn’t really get it.And I certainly didn’t decide to change my inner thoughts and feelings. I didn’t become compassionate with myself.
I finally got it and adopted it when I heard Guy Winch’s Ted Talk. If you want you can go and watch it here. (It’s the same video I featured on one my Ted Talk Thursdays.)
In the Ted Talk, Guy tells a story about a woman who’d been married for 20 years and then went through a nasty divorce. So, she decided to try online dating where she met who she believed was a great guy. They got together for dinner and 10 minutes into the date, the guy stood up, said he wasn’t interested, and walked away. Well, the woman was stunned and hurt. So stunned and hurt that she couldn’t move. So, she called her best friend and her best friend said something like: “Well, you have big hips and you’re really boring so why would you think you had any shot with a good-looking, successful man?”
It’s shocking to think that a best friend would say such a thing. But, what if it was actually the woman who said that to herself? Well, that’s not shocking at all. Not one bit!
That story by Guy Winch blew my mind. Because I’d never looked at it exactly like that. And because that’s exactly how I’d been talking to myself forever.
And right then and there, my mind shifted. I realized how much I’d been bullying myself. And I committed to trying to treat myself more like a best friend, to treat myself more like a lover. (Does that sound weird?) I stopped bullying myself. I stopped putting myself down. Basically, I stopped myself (my inner voice) from treating myself like shit.
No, I’m not completely perfect about it. But I am a lot better. And it’s made me so much happier. And it’s made me a better person to others too.
See, I never had trouble being compassionate for others. I never had trouble putting others first and going the extra mile for others. I did it all the time. And I did it to my own detriment.
But my capacity for compassion has grown since I started including myself as a person too. When I’m happier, I have more energy and I have more love and compassion to spread around.
Because to me, compassion isn’t just about going to visit my cousin in the hospital when he was sick. It’s not just about donating to the homeless. And it’s not just about calling a friend who is going through a hard time.
Nope. It’s so much more.
It’s also about laughing with my kids. It’s about smiling and saying hello to the elderly man I pass in the meat section at Walmart. It’s about asking the cashier how her day is really going and then really listening to the answer. It’s about smiling and saying “Good morning” to the security guard at work. And it’s about texting an old friend just to let him know I’m thinking about him.
All of this and more comes so much easier when I feel good about myself. And that all starts with compassion for myself. Self Compassion.
But I think to get here, there was one step I had to take first. And that step was to realize it’s okay to like myself. And it’s okay to have self confidence.
For years, I believed self-confidence and arrogance were the same thing. And I was taught that arrogance was one of the worst traits a person could possess. So, since I believed self-confidence was the same thing, I believed self-confidence was horrible too.
So every time I started to feel good about myself – every single time – I could slap those feelings down and feel guilty for feeling that way. I couldn’t be arrogant. I couldn’t be bad. And yeah, maybe there was that little part of me that knew self-confidence and arrogance were not the same, but still liking myself and feeling good about myself is one step closer to arrogance. And it would be so easy to slide down that slippery slope into poisonous waters of arrogance. (That’s partially a joke, of course. But it’s also pretty close to how I really thought for years.)
So anyway, once I got past that belief, I realized that:
- It’s not only okay to like myself but it’s essential to happiness.
- Arrogance and self-confidence are totally different and, in fact, arrogance is probably fake outer confidence to hide a lack of true self-confidence.
- Arrogance isn’t actually evil and might even be something to feel compassion about. Certainly it is if #2 is true, and I think it is.
With these realizations I have myself permission to start to like myself. And that brought-in a lot of ideas about how I am the perfect being that God (or the universe or whatever you want to call it) created. I am perfectly imperfect. I am a miracle. (Just like you are perfectly you and you are a miracle too. Might sound cheesy, but it’s true. And, truthfully, I kinds lie cheesy. Maybe that’s the imperfect part of the imperfectly perfect but I’m okay with that.)
So once I started to like myself, then I was able to hear Guy Winch’s story and actually hear it. I was able to finally get it.
Self compassion. It’s so freaking important. Without it, I don’t think anyone can truly be happy for very long.
And like I wrote above, I’m not perfect about it. I’m still discovering ways I’m too harsh on myself. And I really struggle with where to draw the line…
I don’t want to be so compassionate with myself that I don’t keep moving forward. That I allow myself to not chase my dreams. That I give myself an excuse for just sitting around instead of writing or blogging or doing whatever to make myself reach.
For example, yesterday I didn’t meditate and I didn’t write at all. As a single dad, often during the week I have so much going on that I don’t have much time for writing so I really like to make sure I write on weekends. But yesterday, I chose to watch Netflix instead. I wanted the entire 4 episode documentary Evil Genius. (It was great, by the way.)
All day there was this little voice in the back of my mind whispering: “You should be writing.” But I didn’t. So when I woke-up today I felt like crap. And I really didn’t want to sit down and write this blog entry. But I meditated for about 20 minutes and then I sat down and now here I am. And I feel great now.
So, maybe forcing myself to write is the compassionate thing? Maybe by forcing myself to reach, to take a step forward creatively, is being good to myself.
Yeah that sounds right. Right?
But where do I draw the line between bullying myself and allowing myself to be lazy?
Maybe it’s about the outcomes. Maybe it’s about the end.
For example, if I tell myself I am ugly and I deserve to be alone then what good is going to come from that? It’s only going to make me sad and lonely.
But If I tell myself myself I have to go for a run, then I know that will make me feel good and it’s going to make me healthier. Just like I know if I sit down and write, it’s going to be make me feel productive and that will make me feel happy.
So, I guess self-compassion is all about moving forward and focusing on the horizon. It’s about growing and expanding.
But it’s also about never beating myself up. It’s about never belittling myself or labeling myself as bad or lazy or weak or whatever. Yeah I watched Netflix yesterday and I should’ve written. I did better today and I will try to do better moving forward. But I’m not bad. I’m still good. Even though I watched a little too much Netflix. I’m still imperfectly perfectly me. And I like that.
Self compassion feels good.
And self compassion is also about understanding our own pain and honoring that. I have been through some shit in my life. And so have you. Honor that.
I know that I deserve to treat myself kindly around those things. I need to comfort myself a little about it. And it’s okay to look back and see how scared I was and how hurt. It’s okay to look at that and feel sorrow for myself. It’s okay to feel compassion for myself. It’s more than okay. It’s what is right.
In the end, compassion is about being happy. And that’s the bottom line. It’s about being okay with myself and my life. It’s about living myself. No matter what.
So know that you are special and you are perfectly imperfect. Like and love yourself. And have compassion for yourself.
Be good to yourself. You deserve it. And so do I. Everyone does.