Last week, I declared this a year of, among other things, more compassion. Furthermore, I had the delightful pleasure to present to a group specifically on that same topic. So, it's been on my mind, especially compassion for oneself.
Compassion is "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." It isn't empathy. That's more of a feeling, an ability to relate to another's pain vicariously. Nor is it sympathy or pity. The key difference is the desire to alleviate it. We feel compassion when we are deeply moved and care so much.
You know how flight attendants instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first? Only then should you assist others. It's the same way with compassion. If you think being compassionate means sacrificing yourself, you're missing the flight. You can't alleviate someone's distress if you are incapacitated too. I understand the urge toward compassion for others. For so many of you, it comes naturally, easily and quickly -- when it's directly outward.
But let's get back to you.
I challenge you to develop that same impulse for yourself. Compassion for yourself. Naturally, easily and quickly. Without judgment or excuses. Without false pride or ego. You are just like "others." To someone else, that's just who you are -- other. So, turn some of that genuine compassion back inward.
Spend time this week honing sympathetic consciousness of your own distress. We all feel distressed from time to time; there's nothing new about that and there's certainly nothing wrong with it. Instead of suppressing it, denying it, judging it, or just toughing it out, simply allow it. Reflect back upon yourself with compassion -- with the loving-kindness, care, concern and deep desire to alleviate your own distress that you so easily give away.
Practice compassion for yourself. The better you become at relating to your own distress, the more easily you will recognize it in others and the more compassionate you will become, overall.