I don’t think that “compassionate” is a way that I would describe myself. I care for others. I want to see others succeed. I believe that I’m fair and non-judgmental – however, I would not self describe myself as an overly compassionate person. I’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about this after Nikki wrote her post discussing empathy vs. sympathy.
One of the individuals that I have the least compassion for, is myself. The ability to have self-compassion is something that I’ve never been exceptional at. As I was growing up, it was never well received for someone to have too much confidence and as a result it was not uncommon to see people develop self-degrading humor. I definitely didn’t lack outward expressions of confidence, however I don’t feel I ever really felt confident. I always sought other’s approval. I think as I get older the expectations to have bigger accomplishments and more success only continue to grow larger. These expectations continually shrink the amount of compassion that did exist.
I’m not even certain I completely understand the concept of self-compassion. I have been wondering if it includes forgiveness, empathy, grace …. Yesterday, I read a great post from one of my favorite twitter follows on the subject, Emma Seppala, from Stanford’s Center for Compassion & Altruism Research and Education. Her post was: Self-Compassion Outweighs Self-Esteem for Resilience and Empowerment.
Here is my favorite piece of the blog, describing self-compassion:
It is, in a sense, taking on the attitude that one might have toward a friend who has failed at something. Rather than berating him, judging him, and adding to his despair, we listen with empathy and understanding, encourage him to remember that mistakes are only normal, and validate his emotions without adding fuel to the fire. Self-compassion is the ability to act with ourselves as we would with such a friend.
I certainly don’t have complete thoughts on the subject, just some general observations and moments of awareness that I’ve had recently. The one thing I feel like I’ve concluded is that without having an appropriate amount of self-compassion (I’m not certain I know what amount that is), it is challenging to have stability of happiness. Without self-compassion, there becomes a need to find happiness in materials, ego, achievement and others; none of these offer long term stability. Even if they could, it becomes easy to dismiss it when your struggling within yourself.