Why having compassion for yourself is not self-indulgent

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I went to a celebration of compassion recently, which offered me the opportunity to reflect on what it is all about. 

I noticed the tendency to think of compassion as something that is offered to other people, to people who are suffering or who are less fortunate.  It is a common experience to extend this loving kindness to others, at the expense of ourselves.

The thing is, that is not really compassion.  Compassion is about noticing what is being experienced, and responding to it with openness and a care for doing what is needed.  Like any human being, I sometimes suffer and struggle. You might say heaven and hell are states of mind. Compassion is very much about responding to our own needs, if we are not extending loving kindness inside I am not sure what we offer others is truly compassionate. Compassion starts at home.

I often hear people saying that to be compassionate to yourself, or to take care of yourself is self-indulgent or soft. My experience does not resonate with this.  

Reflecting deeply on what I need more often than not leaves me uncomfortable and facing some tough truths. Changing my behaviour to look after myself better involves sacrifices and habit changes. It sometimes means giving up some of what I want in favour of what I need.  

Compassion and self-care are not soft options. They involve being honest with yourself about what currently stops you valuing yourself, and making a consistent commitment to do things differently. Like love, compassion is not just a feeling, it is your actions; repeated, continuous choices to do what is right for you.

When you exercise compassion for yourself, you are in a position to extend compassion to others from a balanced, loving perspective. If you can't motivate yourself to be self-caring on your own account, why not use your love for others as a temporary motivation until your self-regard catches up? The more you treat yourself with honesty and respect, the better you will feel.

To explore self-esteem, compassion and self-care, get in touch.

Go to the profile of Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

I am here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to clients based in Durham. I am UKCP Accredited, BACP Registered, and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists locally. I have worked in private practice, the NHS, and in charitable organisations, with a wide range of clients and conditions.

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