It can feel like a challenge to “get out of yourself” and to be more giving and less self-absorbed, at least for me it has.
I’ve always felt completely selfish when it comes to being a part of this world—me, me, me. What about me? How will I get mine?
I have run in a fast-paced frenzy to get more, more, more, and didn’t really care what was left behind for others. I would sit at dinner parties where everyone else was cleaning up and being helpful, while I felt awkward—like I knew I should be offering to help, but how? How do I get out of myself?
It wasn’t a trait I learned growing up. I learned a certain “dog-eat-dog” mentality. I believed if I didn’t take all I could, it would be gone and I wouldn’t get what I needed.
Over the years and countless trial and error, I feel like I have finally come to a place where I feel joy when giving of myself. I see how everything comes full circle. It has only been through intense work involving healing childhood wounds, money management, giving more of my time and resources, and a great confidant who has held space for me that I have learned how to “pay it forward.”
Here are some steps I have taken to get to a place of inner peace, where I can fully be of service and give of myself without seeking anything in return and ask for what I need without being passive-aggressive or resentful.
Hope they help anyone who may be walking this path:
1. Slow down. Breathe. Cultivate a practice of self-compassion and mindfulness. When you can be present with yourself, it will naturally flow outward.
2. Hold space for others. Listen. Be present. Focus on the words coming out of the person’s mouth. Be attentive. Instead of thinking of a response, be thinking of how they might feel given their circumstances.
3. Be generous. Generosity is like a muscle. It needs to be used and practiced before it grows. Buying something for the person behind you in line at the drive-thru is a cliché way to practice generosity, but it works. Brighten someone’s day by being thoughtful and trying to meet a need you know they may have.
4. Ask questions. The best way to show someone you care is by being inquisitive. Most people just want to be seen and heard and know that they are valued for who and what they are. We all have spiderwebs in our psyche. Talking helps those become unraveled. Let someone share with you. You could be the only person that has truly asked about them and listened to their responses in a very long time.
5. Give a compliment. I know I feel seen when people acknowledge something I may be wearing or a new hairstyle. I want to do the same for others in return. Many times I am thinking something positive about another, but I never say anything. It can feel vulnerable, but I invite you to “just say it”—let the person know how you like their glasses, hair cut, coffee mug, or smile, today. The positivity will continue in a steady flow to others.
6. Release any pent up emotions so they don’t bring you down. We all have days where we are less than chipper. If I can tell someone how I’m feeling, it usually takes the power right out of it, and I can go on with my day without being derailed for long.
7. Ask people close to you what they need and how you can be helpful. A lot of times, people are stressed, overworked, and burdened, but struggle to ask for help. We’ve learned to carry it all on our own shoulders, but I have found recently if I just ask, “what can I do to lighten your load today?” It is usually met with a receptive appreciation. In turn, when I am need something, hopefully, someone will be able to lend a hand and then we all feel more interconnected.
8.Appreciate beauty. This one has taken me a while, but stepping outside of myself and truly noticing my surroundings has been insurmountable for my growth. Breathe in the fresh, crisp, fall air. Park your car further out and appreciate your legs’ ability to walk and take large strides. Smile at strangers (even with a mask, your eyes will show through).
9.Move your body. Find a yoga practice you love with lots of heart openers. Stretch. Be present with your thoughts. Ask your higher power to help you become less self-absorbed and more empathetic.
10. Journal your hopes, dreams, thoughts, and desires. Pray for others. A writing practice has made my heart feel less closed off. Find a tool that is therapeutic to you, whether it be painting, writing, tai chi, breath work, drawing, poetry. Most of us have hidden talents that we are too busy to let unfold. I encourage you to get quiet and ask yourself where they may be hidden.
I would love to learn more about how others cultivate empathy and compassion. Feel free to leave a comment so we can open up the dialogue.