Thursday, October 15, 2020

Why Self-Compassion is Important

"Lack of self-compassion manifests in a harsh and judgmental relationship with others. Many people believe that unless they are critical and demanding, they will be failures, unworthy of recognition and undeserving of love."*

Perhaps we feel we deserve to be harsh and critical with ourselves and beat ourselves up for misspoken words and mistakes made. I was used to such negative self-talk after years of practice. My mind was etched with deep familiar ruts of self-reproach. It only took a small mistake, or perceived mistake, for me to stroll down those old, comfortable paths of self-criticism. What's wrong with that? Didn't I deserve it for being such an idiot?

What I hadn't seen was the danger of that habit. Those worn pathways are the very thing that blocks compassion for other people. A mind effortlessly flowing to the trails of self-recrimination is a mind in which negative and critical thinking have become deeply ingrained habits. It then becomes natural to walk down those same rutted pathways when thinking of other people and their actions.

In order to be able to treat others with compassion, we must first cultivate a compassionate attitude towards ourselves. We spend more time inside our heads with ourselves than we do thinking about other people, and the pathways that we use during those hours are the ones most deeply ingrained. We have to create new, positive, mental pathways and to allow the paths of negative self-talk to become grown over and forgotten, which takes conscious effort.

This does not mean lying to ourselves, or living in denial of bad behavior, but rather an honest look at ourselves, doing all we can to make things right with those we've hurt, and then a sincere forgiveness of ourselves. After all, we, too, are vulnerable humans. 

"Understanding and accepting ourselves is fundamental in having compassion for others. It is hard to love others as you love yourself, if you don't love yourself."*

*The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Chapter 25

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