Why We Need to Practice Compassion for Ourselves

It is in the words we use, the words we tell ourselves, that shape our understanding of who we are and where we are meant to go. As such, I quite enjoy reading Danielle La Porte’s writing, which largely discusses love for self as a love that works to build a better world, starting with the self and extending outwards.

Her idea that fascinates me the most is the concept of practicing compassion: that showing compassion is not an at-once definitive act, but instead a practice and a process. This means showing extra forgiveness and extra love in the smaller moments, so that we can love harder and forgive better in the moments we want to the least, but need to show it the most.

I try to keep this concept tucked away in my heart, close enough to the surface that I can bring it into my life as needed and desired. I like to tell myself that this has somehow radically changed my life, and I add it to the list of life moments that challenged me to be more: the infusion of Laudato Si and Thomas Berry, the first words I fell in love with, the hospitality of the Franciscans, an understanding of interdependence from Judith Butler, the loving sarcasm of Anne Lamott. These are the moments that radically altered my worldview and have helped to shape my life and my sense of morality.

Despite this, I have spent the past few weeks in a state of constant failure of compassion: not towards others, I terribly hope, but towards myself.

I am prideful enough to believe that I attempt to be a good person. Yet, when I reflect on how I speak to myself, I do not speak in a way that I would towards any other person. I become endlessly judgmental, critical, and cruel. I do not allow mistakes or spaces for learning opportunities. I do not identify areas of improvement but areas of defeat. I collapse into little failures, each moment repeated proof of the insufficiency of my worth as well as my actions.

One of the hardest things to adjust to when coming to Berlin was the fact that I had no one to take care of. Back home, I have my family and friends and residents. I have a more clearly defined personal mission and am able to carry it out on a moderately regular basis. Here, I don’t. I encounter a radical independence that I love but can’t contribute to in the same ways I have before. I must find new avenues for compassion in the graffiti-filled streets of this beautiful city.

In this time, I realized the need to practice this compassion with myself, to look for the goodness in myself that I choose to see in others. I need to err towards a self-forgiveness that walks in step with self-growth and personal development.

I need to stop looking at the world as a race I need to win. I need to end comparisons of my beginning to another’s end, and acknowledge more soundly that we are all at different points in our respective processes. I must accept that I don’t need to have all problems figured out, all battles fought, all victories won or even strived for.

I need to treat myself the way I try to treat others.

I have heard that peace starts from the home and extends outward; so does love and compassion. Only through the process of struggling and finding this compassion for ourselves do we have any chance of extending that outward. It is in this space, in the lessons we learn from accepting ourselves, that can we position ourselves to show deeper love in a world so deserving of compassionate goodness.

How can you best practice showing yourself compassion?




One thought on “Why We Need to Practice Compassion for Ourselves

  1. I remember, not so long ago, conferring with you in the little lab off the library at Union East. You didn’t have these words then, but I’m glad that you do now. And I love Danielle LaPorte too. xoxox


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