Do you treat yourself with Compassion?
This was a recent discussion in a Facebook group, where someone asked ‘how’ you treated yourself with compassion. People mentioned various ways they did or did not care for themselves and this got me thinking. How often do we really take the time to do this? Is it a regular practice or is it something we do ad hoc? The Oxford Dictionary, describes compassion “as a strong feeling of sympathy or concern for the suffering of others.” Now we may not be suffering but do we treat ourselves with concern and sympathy and if so, how? In this case, I don’t mean ‘feeling sorry for yourself’ but treating yourself with real care and gentleness.
I believe that to really love ourselves we need to be compassionate to ourselves on a regular basis. This can mean anything from eating healthy foods to making sure you exercise regularly. It can be buying the best shampoos for your hair and not settling for cheap inferior products. It can be daily walks in nature, regular reflexology or massage or using organic pr0ducts that don’t contain nasty pesticides.
Most of us don’t really change our lives until we become ill. I, too was the same. I was too busy looking after everyone else’s needs to show any true compassion for myself. Yes, I ate fairly healthily and exercised regularly, but I didn’t care enough about myself to do the small things that really mattered. Not that I knew it at the time. I cooked generally healthy food, had holidays away once or twice a year, the occasional reflexology or massage and in-between, ran my business, looked after my family, ran around after my elderly mother, supported my friends, ran the household, volunteered if asked and generally burn’t myself out. I ended up exhausted with little energy to do anything else or be there for anybody. I had always thought that others needed me. If I didn’t do it, who would. Being a perfectionist didn’t help either. I had to control everything. However, I needed to change the way I acted and to do this, I needed to change the way I thought.
I realised that until I started to show some Compassion towards myself and be really conscious of doing so, nothing would change. So I started slowly to really appreciate who I was. Louise Hay talks about ‘mirror work’ where she tells herself that she loves and accepts herself, while looking into her eyes in the mirror each morning. This may sound very silly and feel equally so when you first do it, but it is something I now do every morning. At first it may feel very uncomfortable but after awhile you will get used to it and actually feel quite good. Another way is to create a vision board where you get a piece of cardboard and post on it pictures of yourself, as you are now, and how you want to feel and what you want to bring into your life. You can do this on the computer too. Find images of great health, meditation, nature, dancing, playing an instrument, massage, healthy food or whatever you want to bring into your life. Then print it out and put it somewhere prominent so that every day you are reminded of where you want to be and what you want to bring into your life. Slowly you can start to then put this into practice.
I began by doing meditation every morning. I would set the alarm 15 to 20 minutes before I had to get up and would spend the time lying in reflection and stillness. Of course, this took practice as at first, I couldn’t sit still for 5 minutes or my mind would start wandering. However over time, it became such a gentle way to start my day and now if I rarely don’t do it, the morning routine feels very strange and something feels not quite right.
I also changed the way I ate to include more organic and wholesome foods. I got rid of a lot of processed foods and introduced more vegetables which I now really enjoy. I still love my sweets but no longer crave them and only have them occasionally. I exercise regularly but usually it’s a walk in nature. As my energy increases I may include dancing which I love, even if it’s just around the house! I take regular breaks and try and go away every 3 months, even if it’s just a long weekend. This doesn’t need to be expensive as I look at cheaper options but I plan for this by putting some money away each week so when the time comes, I have my funds. I buy shampoos and facial creams that don’t contain ‘nasties’ and I listen to my body and its needs. If I’m tired, I will have an early night and make sure I get a good night’s sleep. I have regular reflexology and massage and care for my body. I have also learn’t to ask for help when I need it and not try and do everything for myself. I am still learning to let go of the need to always be in control but I am getting better at this too.
I also try and not be as judgemental and if something really triggers me, I may react but now try and look at the reason why. I have also become more aware of my thoughts. Its amazing how quickly negative thoughts can creep in and you begin to tell yourself that you can’t do something because you don’t know enough or aren’t good enough or it’s too hard. Being aware of these thoughts mean you can begin to change them and not be so hard on yourself.
I am learning to be gentle with myself and show myself more compassion. It isn’t always easy but the more I do, the better I feel and it has become the new normal for me. Yes it takes practice and doesn’t happen overnight, but if you really value yourself and the life you have, you can do it too. Everyone of us is worth it. We are all unique human beings that have gifts and abilities that no one else has. We owe it to ourselves to live the best life possible and to do this, we have to learn how to show compassion not just to others, but more importantly, towards ourselves.
What do you do to show that you really care about yourself? It may be nothing as yet. Don’t worry, I didn’t do very much for myself either at first. Just choose one thing that you can do to show compassion for yourself. It may be as simple as telling yourself that you are beautiful, when you look in the mirror every morning. As you start to believe in yourself, you will start to realise that you are worth it and change can occur. Unless you believe in reincarnation, you only have one life. Make yours a caring and compassionate one.
Let me know how you show compassion for yourself in the comments below.
Disclaimer: Please note that all information in this article is the opinion of the author and obtained through her research and knowledge and the above references. It is not meant to replace medical advice and a medical opinion should always be obtained for any health condition.