“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens” -Louise Hay
In making an effort to bring compassion to the forefront, I’m reminded that perhaps the greatest, first compassion that must be born is compassion for self—unconditional love for who we have been, who we are and who we will be!
Compassion and self-love are necessary to unfold and open more into our authentic selves; judgement and harshness towards ourselves is restricting and limiting.
Judgement places walls around where we are; compassion opens doors to what we can be.
Yet, it can be hardest to show understanding to ourselves. Perhaps this is because baring constant witness to all of our being, we come to feel that we are unique in our negative days, our low moods, our self-punishment, any vengeful thoughts that may still stroll on by—we believe that we are unique in our “faults”—those pieces of our being that we would rather not share with others.
What begins as individual is soon collective; when as a whole we are ashamed and unwilling to acknowledge and show our full spectrum of self, it’s only natural that we begin to take the world at face value; forgetting that each and every person is deeper, each person experiences shadow characteristics they would rather not own.
It can be so shocking for some to see from a “positive” person a darkness—there is an astoundedness: you are struggling? It’s as if some hope has been lost.
We tuck away the parts of ourselves we’re not proud of. Yet, they’re still there, and they seep out, or beg to—and we are always there to see them, and oftentimes proceed to judge ourselves for them.
There’s no shame in our hiding these parts of ourselves, it’s just what we humans do:
We live in a world that we have assigned labels to, the most basic of these being: good and bad. Pleasure and pain. We seek the pleasure (good) and avoid the pain (bad).
But despite our categorizing and efforts to avoid it, pain exists. The shadow exists—traits that we perceive as negative are a part of us. We can keep them in the dark, or shine some light on them.
What’s the light? Awareness coupled with a nice dose of compassion. Let’s call it: productive awareness. The kind of awareness that is fueled by self-love, and is therefore able to open us further into ourselves.
Where to start?
Maybe self-compassion really begins by acknowledging first and foremost that we all struggle,we all have a shadow, we all see the worst of ourselves.
Remembering that we, especially in relation to those who are but acquaintances, only see a fascade—one side of a person, their ideal. We are nowhere near fully knowing or witnessing the whole person, their struggle, suffering and pain.
People who live in the public eye and appear to have “perfect” lives so often prove this to us, yet time after time we are shocked that there could be a dark side to their life.
It’s time we start remembering, owning the fact that we are all multi-dimensional—that we all have a struggle.
It’s time we open to our honesty and have the courage to be first to speak, to share when we struggle—no matter if it makes others uncomfortable. So many of us want to believe that there can be life with no pain and darkness, and it just isn’t true.
This idea is a prison of its own: believing there can be a “perfect” life while also simultaneously being nowhere near it yourself is a depressing, self-worth-leeching trap.
It’s time for us to remember; it’s time for me to remember that sometimes I feel entitled to ease, sometimes I really, really don’t want to work hard. Sometimes I get pissed when I don’t get what I want. Sometimes I get majorly stressed out about trivial things, sometimes I get too territorial about what is “mine.” Sometimes I get judgmental of others when I think I know best (ah, a phenomena only possible to the extent I. Judge. Myself.)
That last one reminds me of the truest of trues. We judge others to the extent we judge ourselves. We show a lack of compassion to others proportionate to the lack of compassion we show ourselves.
It starts with you. It always does. Only the changes you make internally can shine externally.
But to find compassion for ourselves, to internalize our self-love, we have to see that we are not unique in our negative aspects, we have to find the common ground that is inevitably there.
So how do we shift this? How do we begin to remember our shadow, but, just as important, others’? How do we find relationship?
It starts by taking a good hard look at someone who seems to have it all together, is living some glorious life from your vantage point and consciously acknowledging that this person struggles. This person suffers. There is, without a doubt, more to this person than you see.
Looking at those whose shadow-appearances may stun us, and finding compassion by aknowledging that this person is suffering, This person has darkenss. We all suffer, we go through darkness, too.
It’s all awareness; we will always see what we’re looking for. Look for wholeness in people, choose to see that we are all on this crazy journey and we all have shadows, we each have sides of ourselves we aren’t proud of, darkness.
Realize that you are not alone in your multiple dimensions, that we are all equally put through test and triumph in our own ways—and find compassion in this equality, choose to understand that you have done the best you can, with what you have learned, experienced and felt in each moment.
It’s true, isn’t it?
Open yourself with love, rather than closing and limiting yourself with harsh self-judgement.