The dictionary describes ‘compassion’ as having sympathy, pity and/or concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. The Resilient Way is to be compassionate, not just for others but for yourself too.
Being compassionate is a strength not a weakness. Personal relationships, communities and organisations can not offer the support and recognition that we all need from time to time, unless there is compassion. Resilience comes from our ability to be compassionate and recognise where there is suffering and take action to relieve it. On a large scale this might be witnessed in the aftermath of a tragedy like an earthquake, when ordinary people work alongside professionals to bring relief to victims. Everyday examples are things such as giving way to drivers who are waiting to join your lane of traffic, and/or showing forgiveness and understanding for the failures of others who might be late, forgetful or inconsiderate.
You may have heard the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing”. The compassionate alternative to this would be if you don’t have anything nice to say, then think again and find something positive to express’. No person, object or event is all good or bad. Compassionate people look for the positive and find opportunities to be kind in all the circumstances and events they encounter or witness. As a result, they are more able and more resilient than those who focus on the negative.
The Importance of Self-Compassion
Some people who are very compassionate towards others struggle, or forget to be compassionate with themselves. In order to have self-compassion one must be able to accept negative emotional experiences with kindness and understanding and accept this as unavoidable part of the human condition.
We all have an inner critic, the voice that reminds us from time to time of our failings and limitations. Whilst it can be useful to remember our past mistakes, especially if we can learn from them, constructive criticism needs to be compassionate. The habit of beating ourselves up with negative internal dialogue such as – “I’m no good at this”, “I’m useless”, “I don’t deserve this, “I’m ugly” – is not only damaging for our self-esteem and self- confidence but holds us back from our achievements, thereby enforcing our negative beliefs about our abilities. Letting go of the habit of self-criticism, accepting our foibles and judging ourselves less harshly is the first step towards becoming self-compassionate .
Want to know more?
Self-Compassion expert Dr. Kristen Neff has developed a range of exercises and meditations to help you develop the skill of self-compassion.
I used to spend (waste!) a lot of time being over-aware of my weaknesses and wishing that I could be more like the people who I considered to be much more able than me. A turning point was when I learned how to recognise and use my strengths instead. I not only became more confident in my abilities but I noticed my inner dialogue became softer and more compassionate. Now, I find that I am more patient and less judgemental and definitely more resilient.