I used to be a perfectionist. Or maybe I was just trying to live up to a standard that I believed was the one I needed to measure myself against. Either way, it was difficult living with this type of pressure. Always trying to do everything “right”. The thing is we can’t get everything “right”.
It took me the best part of forty years to learn this lesson. Life has a way of teaching us the lessons we most need through the people we least expect. It was fitting that I learnt the true meaning of living “right” when I experienced the passing of my brother, whom I thought was not getting everything “right” in life.
His beautiful departure from this world taught me the valuable lesson of living with compassion as opposed to living with perfection. You see, my brother’s life didn’t live up to my standard of a perfect life but he was one of the most compassionate people I knew. Watching him die the way he did, peacefully and content, was life changing for me. It set me on a path of unlearning some of my perfectionist behaviours and reconnecting to my true nature.
What I’ve since learnt about compassion is that it’s one of the measurements of good character. But it doesn’t only include compassion for others, it also includes compassion for ourselves.
Self-compassion is something we seldom practice because there’s this myth that self- compassion is self- indulgent and selfish. Another myth is that we have a limited amount of compassion therefore we have to give it to others incase we run out of it. The reality is that once we connect to the compassionate part of us, we access a deep well that can never run dry.
Compassion like love, is not a passive emotion. Both love and compassion is something we choose to do and we have to choose it every day in every moment. It’s easy to choose to love someone and it’s easy to choose to show compassion to others when they are in struggle. Our children, our partners, our parents, our siblings and our friends are naturally the recipients of our love, attention, kindness and compassion when they are in struggle and experiencing difficulty in their lives. But what about when we are in struggle?
When we give ourselves the emotional resources that we need, we can more easily give to others and we can help ourselves and others move through difficulty easier.
Self-compassion like self-talk is a way of being in relationship with ourselves. It’s a way of embracing ourselves with care and loving ourselves through our difficult and trying times. Often times when we are in struggle and pain, we use self-criticism and self-judgment instead of self-care and self-compassion.
We are human, we make mistakes, we make bad choices sometimes. And often we find that our bad choices lead us to good lessons, so it’s not always a loss.
When we can recognise our own mistakes, take responsibility for our bad choices, own our story, the good of it and the bad of it and still remain soft and loving towards ourselves, we are in a better space to rectify, repair and make amends where necessary.
Self-compassion is not self-indulgent, it’s courageous. It’s you saying “ I love myself enough to treat ME the way I would treat others” .