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True compassion starts with self-compassion. It is only when you realise, and soften to your own perceived imperfections that you can soften to others.
I used to be harsh on myself at work, home, in parenting, as a friend, partner, wife…my standards were so high that I kept on disappointing myself. Why did I say that? Why did I yell? I am such a horrible person/mother/partner. Perfectionism followed by shame. It was not a happy combination, and I wasn’t nice to others’ imperfections as well; I was fast to judge.
My personal development journey brought me to realise and bring to front my shadows, my programming, my imperfections or perceived ones, and the beliefs I held that had been transmitted to me but that were not serving me. Once I courageously looked deeply and was able to see all this for what it was, not liking everything I saw at first, but able to understand, to soften, to bring a bit of humour in the masterpiece of this personality I created, I managed to soften to my edges, to love them for what they were. And my judgment of others softened at the same time.
The things that trigger us in others are either the things we have subconsciously rejected about ourselves, or the things we consciously don’t like about ourselves because of prior conditioning. Compassion to self brings compassion to others.
Where are the areas of life that you give yourself a really hard time? Is it at work when things don’t go as planned, or at home when you are not as patient as you would like, or do you give a hard time to your body—being not big, not strong, or not thin enough? Where do you give yourself a harsh time? Is that serving you? How do you feel when your inner critic comes along to tell you how defective you are? Probably not great. Note that the inner critic’s highest intention is to keep you on the right path; it is not the intention but the approach the inner critic uses that is not effective.
What would it look like for you if you were to bring compassion to yourself, like true radical compassion, in those moments where the inner critic arrives? What would that change? How would you feel?
Here are the five biggest acts of self-compassion you can gift to yourself:
1. Watch your inner critic.
Recognise him or her when he or she shows up. A few examples: “Oh, I am so stupid, why did I say or do that!” “I am so lazy.” “She is so thin and pretty and look at me.” “I don’t earn enough money.”
Observe how those words make you feel. Is this serving you in this moment? Is it serving anyone in this moment? If not, choose to transmute the inner critic and bring compassion here to the part of you that might have behaved not in the best way or the part of you that is wounded.
Take a breath and relax; soften your heart space and shoulders. Ask yourself: what would compassion look like? What would you say to your best friend if he or she was talking to himself or herself like that?
What would love do?
Create new and empowering beliefs that will serve your life and those people around you better!
2. Treat your body like she deserves.
Rest when tired, move every day, eat nourishing food, sleep according to her needs, spend time in nature, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. There is no better act of self-love than taking care of your vessel. This is your biggest asset, and the way you treat your body is the master volume of everything else; it impacts your energy, mood, and mental health. Big time!
3. Ask for what you need.
In what areas of your life is it hard to ask for what you need? Can you ask for a higher pay at work? Some time to rest to your kids or partner? Some time for yourself? Some boundaries with your ex? Some support when you are sick?
Being able to ask for what you need is a direct reflection of what you think you deserve, what you think about yourself—your self-esteem.
So take the time to connect to your needs and the areas of your like where you haven’t asked for what you need. Make a list. Start with the easy one to build skill and momentum.
Asking for what you need is not selfish; it will create a more honest, authentic relationship with others and enable them to also honour their own needs. You are giving them the gift of being able to help and support. The gift of trust, which for all of us humans is energising and empowering.
4. Refrain from saying sorry for being…you.
The main thing I hear women say sorry about is for feeling. A lot of us apologise for crying or for feeling sad, angry, frustrated, anxious, tired, or sweaty. It is truly okay to feel what you feel; your feelings are valid, so you don’t need to apologise for those. Obviously you want to treat others around you with respect while having those feelings, but you don’t need to apologise for feeling.
5. Connect with others with authenticity.
Being authentically yourself is an act of self-compassion. There is nothing more draining than wearing a personality mask all day long: the happy one, the achiever, the people pleaser, the perfect one, the strong one, the “I don’t need any help” one, the victim one.
Welcome what is true for you in this moment. Have the courage to be vulnerable—authentic. Share your feelings with love and courage and create deeper connections. Show compassion, give support, be there the way you can and are willing to. See what happens around you, in your groups and community.
With love and gratitude.