Have you noticed how simple it is to hold compassion for anyone beside yourself? Simple, in the sense that it just seems to come naturally, unhindered by self doubt or negative self talk and mostly unconditional. When I ask my clients what they would say to a friend or family member if they were in a similar situation the response is a loving, compassionate and giving exchange grounded in love and respect for that person. When asked to hold these same feelings for themselves, I watch a torturous, conflicted and challenging struggle to unearth even a small semblance of compassion that in some instances cannot be felt at all.
So why is it so hard to hold this same compassion for our own experience? At some point we stopped believing that our challenges deserve our consideration. We seem to only appreciate ourselves in our celebrations and have no foundation on which to value our challenges and how we manage to keep going. This lack of consideration is combined with no training or skill development in acknowledging our strengths when things are not going well.
Finding your way through adversity whether it is valued as a growth opportunity or disowned as not being a part of who we think we are, get through it we must. We will all do it in our own unique way no matter how bleak or dysfunctional it may be. If along the way we can stop and give thanks to our integrity, our stealth, our leave no stone un-turned determination, we broaden our horizon to balance ourselves with the good alongside the bad and move closer toward remaining whole rather than a shadow of our previous selves.
We all need someone by our side literally or metaphorically gently encouraging, supporting and appreciating how we are meeting adversity as the pain turned inwards becomes too intolerable to bear. If that person walking alongside is the part of us that holds hope, appreciation and awe at what we have achieved then in good company we keep.
I bear witness to the shadows of ourselves that enter the counseling room having left it way too long before reaching out. I also see them nearly always leave reshaped and more whole by bringing forth self compassion, insight and acceptance that what is being lived is not what anyone signed up for in spite of adversity being all around us. Somehow we think we are to blame, faulty and therefore unlovable and allow this to become who we are. The perspective of another in hearing our story brings forth the compassion we cannot retain for ourselves at these times. The act of sitting with what our life has become and gently unfolding the truth of what it means to be human. Softening the edges so that the darkness can have shades of light can mean an easier, more loving path forward for if we cannot love our flawed selves can we truly love another?