I participated in a chat on Reddit recently called Ask Me Anything. At first, the idea of submitting to something called Ask Me Anything was a little daunting. But after writing a book that caused one reporter to ask me, “Weren’t you a little embarrassed to write about all the crying you did?” I figured I’d already let the cat out of that bag so … what the heck, right?
The format of the chat is that participants type in questions asking you anything they want. I received a wide variety of inquiries, but one of the questions particularly touched me. It went like this: “I enjoy reading your tips for relaxation on Twitter. Do you ever have days when it’s hard to follow those tips? Do you still ever get stressed and feel anxious?”
I love that question. It’s so honest and vulnerable. The little child inside us all innocently wanting to know that other people (even those who we think have it all figured out) feel the same way inside that we do — that they have tough moments of fear, doubt, and insecurity, and times when, despite all their best efforts, they don’t react to life exactly as they think they’re supposed to.
So my answer was simple — “I think the honest answer is that every day there are moments when it’s hard to relax. Our days are filled with so many pressures and stresses and it’s so easy to get caught up in them and get lost, which is part of being human. I give myself total permission to experience things as they come. Then I use my tools to come back to a place of self-love and compassion. That, for me, is really key: always remembering that I’m human, that I’m learning, and that being mindful means being present in life as it occurs. And then I breathe …”
That’s what I want to talk about today, the practice of compassion … or more specifically self-compassion. It’s something we read about in books or magazines that can sound easy, but amidst the pressures of real life, finding space to be patient and love ourselves can be a frustratingly difficult task. Like that beautiful piece of furniture on display at IKEA, it looks perfect and “easy to assemble” until we get it home, try to put it together, and realize it has 42 different pieces and an instruction manual that reads like an algorithm from high school calculus. Self-love is harder than it looks.
Sometimes achieving compassion feels like an impossible goal. It seems unreachable in the midst of a contentious meeting, an argument with loved ones, or rush hour traffic after which the stress of the day reaches a boiling point and we just want to scream at everyone around us. The idea of finding peace, love, or joy in those moments seems unrealistic. In many ways it is. And that adds a new stress on top of all that other pressure — the stress of wanting to feel compassion when we don’t … or can’t.
I’ve learned that these moments offer a new possibility, a new way to view compassion that isn’t just the end result. Instead our daily frustrations invite us to see compassion as the starting point, the middle, and the path itself. Our real-life stresses and frustrations become opportunities for us to be compassionate with ourselves even when we fail to show compassion toward our world. In this “in your face” world, any true definition of compassion must include loving ourselves even when we forget to love others. I think it has to be that way — and that compassion is, at once, the goal, the lesson, and the tool rolled into one “I love you” for ourselves … and for others.
This week I invite you to join me in loving yourself as you try to love the world around you. To breathe deeply before you self-judge when you lose your cool, think a nasty thought, or say a harsh word. Instead, use those moments as a tender reminder to guide yourself back to your heart with a breath and a gentle, “Welcome back, I love you.” In this way compassion becomes inclusive, genuine, and achievable for us all.
Big hugs of compassion, patience, and real-life spirituality,
7 thoughts on “Compassion for Ourselves”
Kathleen Redford says:
It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone, that we all face the same challenges and struggles. Sometimes we forget that people are just that – people. We all have to cope, and we all get upset. Just because one is ‘enlightened’ doesn’t mean that they suddenly have no problems to deal with, and will never get angry or frustrated. It’s not always easy to use the tools that we have put to practice when we’re upset. When things are good it’s much easier to implement. But when it’s not so good…it’s difficult.
Yesterday was not a good day for me. I was having trouble doing even the simplest of things. Things were jumping out of my hands (it’s my funny way of saying I couldn’t hold onto them), and I was having trouble organizing my thoughts enough to even get a coherent sentence out. Lack of sleep tends to trigger this and this week I’ve hardly slept at all from pain. Then my family came home and started bombarding me with questions, “can you do this, can you drive me here, when is dinner etc” and I felt myself just losing it, and I knew I was going to snap at them. Not their fault for sure, but there was just too much pressure building inside me, the frustration and anger and not being able to do what I can normally do.
But as I was about to snap at them to leave me alone, something I have been known to do in the past, instead I took a deep breath. The food that had fallen in the sink was unimportant at the moment – it could wait. I needed to breathe, and I did. I took that breath, and another and another, and slowly the anger and frustration started to fade little by little. I was then able to string the sentence together to let them know that today was not a good day, that I was not myself, and they needed to wait while I took some time for myself. My kids found other things to do, and my husband gave me a big long hug, and then feeling much better and calmer we were able to finish making dinner together.
So thank you for the lessons, for the tips and techniques. For helping me learn how to breathe, to have enough compassion for myself to take those moments when I need to – which ended up helping not only me, but my family too because I didn’t lash out at them. I’ve been learning to love myself first, instead of constantly giving when I just can’t and am about to snap, because it’s important to my own well-being.
Big hugs of love.
Faith, hope and love. Kathleen.
Jason Garner says:
What a beautiful sharing. Thank you for that Kathleen. You’re not alone. Big hugs – Jason
I agree. Well-said. If you’re not infinitely patient with yourself, how can you be patient with others?
Jason Garner says:
Big hugs – Jason
Ray Khelawan says:
This is really good advice….I will definitely put this into practice this week,because I find that I don’t do enough for myself. I’ll have more patience for myself and get rid of the nasty thoughts…usually about work lolll…..thanks jason
Jason Garner says:
Thank you Ray for always reading and sharing. Big hugs – Jason