Whatever Happened to Self-Compassion?
Somewhere along the way, we have completely lost touch with self-compassion. If we feel sorry for ourselves or spend some time taking care of ourselves, we are often overwhelmed with guilt and shame. We think we are being selfish and should be spending our time caring for others. Or we think that we are wasting our time and should be more productive.
Think about this for a minute. We are absolutely taught that we should feel sorry for others. This is called compassion and extremely valued. In fact, if we don’t have it, we are at risk of being labeled narcissistic. Understandably so.
However feeling sorry for ourselves seems to be some horrible crime. We are looked down on. People immediately judge this and think it is just attention-seeking and manipulative behavior. We are told to get over it. To suck it up and move on. To stop playing the victim. In fact, displaying compassion for ourselves also runs the risk of being labeled narcissistic.
Narcissists lack empathy for everyone, including themselves. Yet, they are experts at playing the victim role. The drive behind their victim role-playing is to gain attention and sympathy, as well as to make everyone else take responsibility for them. This is self-pity, NOT self-compassion. They want the attention and don’t want to do anything to make their life better.
When you have compassion for someone, you actually desire to help them. If a narcissistic person actually had compassion for themselves, then they would take steps to start caring for themselves. THEY would be the ones researching how to get self-help. They would listen to others and value their opinions and friendships. They would invest time into their own emotional growth. That growth would lead to increased internal strength and deeper connections in life. IF they actually cared about themselves.
So don’t confuse self-compassion with self-pity. They are NOT the same! Giving yourself compassion increases your desire to help yourself. It releases the stored up emotions inside you, so that you can move forward. It is okay to feel sorry for yourself for the hardships that you are enduring or have endured. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to grieve for yourself. In fact, it is very healing!
Here’s an exercise in self-compassion. This should be done alone in a safe environment. Have a conversation with yourself. Out loud, tell yourself what all has been going on. Give voice to your circumstances, feelings, and frustrations. Explain the situation you are in and how much it hurts. Let your feelings come into this conversation. You are safely talking to yourself, so let your guard completely down. If you need to cry, then cry. If you need to yell, then yell. If you need to hit something, then grab a pillow and start swinging. Be free with your feelings and emotions in a safe environment.
There is nothing wrong with taking some time to feel sorry for yourself. We all have suffered hardships. Pretending they don’t exist or they don’t bother us is detrimental to our emotional health. In fact, this pretending and creating a false image brings a greater risk of leading to narcissism than opening yourself to self-compassion.
We are taught to have compassion for others, but we need to share some with ourselves too!