Our friend is undergoing the early stages of radiation in Houston right now. The other night, just thinking about what she’s been through and what she’s about to go through got to me. But, I also realized what I’ve been through was getting to me too. While I want to be compassionate for her, I need to be compassionate to myself as well.
This feels selfish, but it’s not. Here’s why.
You simply cannot love others without loving yourself. That means taking all that negative talk out of your head and be compassionate with yourself. Right now.
High Standards Prevail, but in Context
I went back to the gym last week and I’ve never been the biggest/strongest guy there AT ALL, but I’ve traditionally been on the respectable side. Not now. Last week my trainer put up a tiny little set of weights and said go for it. I refused and wanted bigger ones, which we did. But, in this process I realized I simply had unrealistic expectations of myself. I would never expect one of my daughters, or Mary or really anyone else to try and bench press their body weight after 5 months off and radiation therapy.
What’s my problem? At that moment, my head started pounding and I just sat there feeling dazed. At that moment one of the really nice people at our gym just looked at me and said:
“Charlie, be compassionate with yourself”.
This really got me to thinking. WHY are we so hard on ourselves? One of my biggest mental struggles in this process is not feeling productive. I’m a serial entrepreneur, I own three separate businesses all of which have their own needs. But I’ve been careful to own them, and not operate them. They’ve been fine…they haven’t grown much in the last 5 months, but they haven’t shrunk either. So in that way, I accomplished EXACTLY what I wanted…a business that doesn’t really need me. But, it’s also unnerving.
Managing your mind is likely more important than managing any other part of your life.
I’ve been learning about “mindfulness”, which is basically taking the controls back of your mind. I am really bad about letting all the voices run wild in my head with worst case scenarios, whispering in my ear all kinds of crap. Meditation has helped this over time I have learned to slow down the mind and just “be”….and “be compassionate with yourself”.
Psychotherapist and wellness coach Megan Bruneau suggests practicing simple awareness of thoughts and feelings, particularly the “critical inner voice” — without trying to change anything. She helps her clients understand how their critical inner voice has been helpful in the past. “What or who was it protecting you from? How did it motivate or comfort you? Once you find understanding and compassion for the critical voice, you can thank it for the good intentions.”Allison Abrams, Psychology Today
Why compassion is important, especially when you fail
I have a friend who is dealing with a very public business failure. I am not fully aware of everything, but I know he’s been hurting, re-evaluating his associations, values and other things. He shared his stories of panic attacks every time the phone rings, and waking up in the middle of the night with soaked sheets.
I’ve been there. So have others. It sucks. But in his case he seems to be close to forgiving himself, for allowing himself some compassion. In the long run, he’ll be the guy that conquered all that and went on to the next thing and he’ll be better for it. I’m proud for him crossing the chasm.
In my experience self compassion in that situation is super hard. That situation is harder than cancer. It’s harder because in your mind you created it and you have yourself to beat up for it. It’s also your professional reputation, which is fragile. With cancer, there’s nothing to blame yourself for with but when you fail in business, your blame is everywhere. At least that’s what you tell yourself. I am praying for his self-compassion soon, if it’s not already there.
God is compassionate, YOU can be compassionate too.
So to conclude, our small group last night we had a discussion about prayer and asking God for support, love and compassion. Why not? What’s holding us back? In the New Testament, stories abound about loving your neighbor as yourself, and so on.
So it seems to me that loving yourself fully is the first step to loving others and bringing good forward. Being compassionate with yourself and others is part of the plan.
Now, get out there and show some compassion, but start at home.