"Why should I have self compassion when others hurt more?"
September 24, 2015
I have the great privilege of working with and being cared for by some truly big-hearted people. They are parents, siblings, caregivers, service workers, social justice advocates, volunteers, environmentalists, and animal lovers. They’re attuned to the world and care deeply for its inhabitants.
Sometimes they can be painfully awake to the suffering of others. That sensitivity is a superpower that can make the world a better place. It can also be a source of great heartache.
At a recent workshop on self compassion, a woman asked the group, “How can I have compassion for myself when I know there are so many people in the world who are hurting MUCH more than I am?”
I imagine you can relate to her. I certainly could.
Having perspective when we look at our own pain speaks worlds of our integrity.
Even in our darkest moments, someone else is there right now, feeling these emotions just as much as we are. The circumstances and height of their suffering are very real and may even exceed ours by leaps and bounds.
But other people’s pain doesn’t erase our own.
Invalidating our feelings so we can focus on the needs of other people usually comes from a place of love. But it’s a lonely business telling ourselves that we don’t matter. Layering shame on top of pain doesn’t make anyone’s burden lighter.
The world doesn’t become a better place by starving ourselves of the kindness and empathy we’d easily offer a friend in the same scenario. Instead, it can wear us down and leave us feeling overly tender.
Luckily, compassion doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. We aren’t limited to having compassion for others or to ourselves. You can extend care to others and offer genuine good will to yourself, no strings attached.
You matter, too. Your emotions are real. You don’t have to measure up to anyone else. You are worthy of compassion as you are.
The discomfort of being awake to the pain in the world and those we love is more bearable when we can support and comfort ourselves. Standing with yourself through the full spectrum of your emotions makes you more resilient and better able to get up tomorrow and use your sensitivity superpower for good.
No matter your circumstances, you are worthy of compassion.
OK, sometimes we get worked up about the little stuff. We get frustrated with cell phone outages, heavy traffic, and the cat slowly shredding the couch.
Sure, our circumstances can be laughably small! Absolutely step back and see the big picture. But what if you could also stand with yourself through the emotions themselves, no matter their cause? What if you could say to yourself, “This is stressful. Everyone has stressful times. What would I say to a friend right now?“