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Learning to Have Compassion For Yourself

By Dr. Margaret Paul
June 15, 2020



Do you have false beliefs getting in the way of self-compassion?



Red haired woman wearing a black shirt with flowers on it,  gently posing with her hand on her face. Why is it so hard for some people to have compassion for themselves? Many people find it fairly easy to have compassion for the suffering of others – why not for themselves?

Before going into this, I want to define what I mean by compassion. When we are feeling compassionate toward others, we feel moved by their pain. Our heart is open and we can often feel their feelings within us. When we are acting on our compassionate feelings toward someone, we show our caring for them with understanding, empathy, gentleness, tenderness, and kindness.

You might be watching a TV news program and learn about the suffering of others; you may feel compassion, but often do not take compassionate action because these people are not with you. But if your best friend calls in pain, or your child comes home from a play-date distraught, or your partner had a very difficult day at work, you might take compassionate action by being very kind, caring, understanding, empathic, gentle and tender with him or her. If you tend to be an empathic person, your compassionate behavior is likely natural to you – you don't even have to think about it.

 

Do you do the same thing for yourself when you are hurting? If not, why not?

Here are some of the false beliefs I've discovered regarding why it may be hard for you to have compassion for yourself:

  • Focusing on caring about myself is selfish and self-centered. I'm supposed to care about others instead of myself.
     
  • I'm not worthy of compassion toward myself.
     
  • I don't know how.
     
  • It's not going to do much for me. Only others' caring and compassion feel good.
     
  • Having compassion for myself is self-indulgent. It will make me lazy and I won’t get things done. I need to be hard on myself to keep myself in line.

 

Let's go through each of these beliefs to see why they are false.

  • Focusing on caring about myself is selfish and self-centered. I'm supposed to care about others instead of myself.

When you care about others without also caring about yourself, then you might expect others to do the same for you. You might be giving to get. Part of the definition of selfishness is expecting others to give themselves up and do for you what you need to be doing for yourself. Caring about yourself with deep compassion for yourself fills you up with love, which you can then share with others.

  • I'm not worthy of compassion toward myself.

Would you actually say this about someone else? Isn't the essence of each of us deserving of love? While it isn't really your job to be compassionate toward another's wounded self (unless you are a therapist), the wounded self does not heal without self-compassion – and this is your responsibility. Saying you are not worthy of compassion is a way of avoiding personal responsibility.

  • I don't know how.

This is often a favorite way of avoiding responsibility for ourselves. When I ask a person who believes that they don't know how to be compassionate toward themselves, if they know how to be kind to another, they generally say "Of course." It's a matter of intent.

  • It's not going to do much for me. Only others' caring and compassion feel good.

This is a major false belief of the wounded self. If you were to shift your intent from getting love to loving yourself and others, you would quickly discover that this is not at all true.

  • Having compassion for myself is self-indulgent. It will make me lazy and I won’t get things done. I need to be hard on myself to keep myself in line.

One of the most common false beliefs of the wounded self is that judging yourself is a good way of getting yourself to do things, and do them right. All research into this shows the opposite is true – the more self-compassion, the more motivation.

The feeling of compassion, like the feeling of love, is what enters our hearts from spirit when we are open to learning about loving ourselves and others. True kindness and caring for ourselves and others are the loving acts that naturally result when our intent is to learn about loving ourselves.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay



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In your relationships, do you focus on what you love about the person or on what you don't like? Which do you offer the most - appreciation or criticism? Since no one will ever meet your idea of perfection, why waste energy on complaints and criticism? If you spend your energy offering love and appreciation, you will find your heart feeling full of love.

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DAILY INSPIRATION

In your relationships, do you focus on what you love about the person or on what you don't like? Which do you offer the most - appreciation or criticism? Since no one will ever meet your idea of perfection, why waste energy on complaints and criticism? If you spend your energy offering love and appreciation, you will find your heart feeling full of love.

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