Ever stop to think about the meaning of self-pity? Look it up in the dictionary. Even better, keep reading. I will give you a definition. The Encarta Dictionary defines self-pity as “the self-indulgent belief that your life is harder and sadder than everyone else's”. That says it all. Does not sound like something one would really want to get too immersed in. So why is it so easy to fall into that miserable state of mind where these feelings exist? Why do I actually sometimes enjoy that state of mind? With today’s ways of communicating, knowing what is going on in all four corners of the world, you know that there are so many people worse off than you. (That statement right there is proof that the world is flat. A round object does not have corners.)
I mentioned recently that I was learning a new concept regarding one’s feelings for self. Self-compassion. Ah ha. The dictionary does not have that one. What is the definition of compassion? According to the Dictionary it means to have “sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help”. We know that caring for others, wanting to help, is a good thing. It feels good. And we all know when others care about us, when they want to help us, it feels good.
The theory is quite simple. Do you know that as humans we have an innate desire to be understood by others particularly during periods of distress? We never outgrow that. Our pain and anxiety reduces the more others understand and care. Our physical health improves when others show they care, when they show they understand, when they reach out to help. Using that same principle on ourselves is just as important. You know me. I keep beating up on myself. Question my self worth. Remember Imposter Syndrome? This is where self-compassion is so important. We need to better understand ourselves. We need to be kinder to “me”. We need to be able to reach out and help “me”.
Easier said than done, right? I just came from a meeting which included a number of people involved in mediation work. It was an informal meeting, one where ideas were shared. Participants were asked to share about what works and what doesn’t. There were more degrees in that room than people, and I don’t mean the temperature. There were lawyers, professional mediators, executives, people with abrasive self-confidence (arrogance). I felt intimidated. Who was I to be involved in that meeting? I went with the thought that it is better to keep my mouth closed and appear to be a fool rather than to open it and erase all doubt. When I got home I sat back and thought, I can’t do this. I am nothing. I don’t rate. Felt like curling up in some corner in the fetal position.
And then I took a minute to reflect. To reflect on who I am. I thought about what had been said. I realized that many of the “novel” ideas that were shared I was already practicing. I came to understand that I was good at my job. I softened my view of myself. I opened my heart and my mind. And in the same way I would have responded if someone else had told me that, I started feeling better about myself. I felt validated. I felt worthy. Worthy of the kindness and respect I was showing myself. The kindness and respect I deserve.
Mindfulness is a great tool to use to become self-compassionate. Bring ourselves back to the present. Build on our natural ability to meld mind and body. Take some time, on a regular basis, to sit back, become aware of the present by focusing on your breathing. And as you contemplate the present say the following words. “May my heart be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe. May I be healthy in mind and body. May I be happy, truly happy. May I live my life with ease.” (Taken from Klinic’s brochure on self-compassion.) With practice this exercise will come naturally. And as you do this exercise your life will become more fulfilled. You will feel better about “me”. Make it a good one.