There is a difference between self-compassion and self-pity. It is easy to mistaken our egocentric self-pity as justifiable when we act out and behave inappropriately. These theatrical responses are generated because we feel we are not being heard or seen, just like we yell when we think no one is listening. Anger – even sadness – both enable a sense of empowerment when we feel confused and isolated. We live in a society that demands perfection and “normalcy” that pushes us further away into isolation and we try to blend in and be like everyone else by thinking those feelings are wrong. This experience furthers us away from our own humanity and we begin to react and respond in a way that is not authentic.
When we are so far from our own humanity, we become egocentric and seperate from others and when we decide to push away our actual vulnerabilities, we no longer relate or connect and that can give us a sense of security. We feel disconnected and become so immersed in ourselves that we no longer experience an interpersonal reality.
However, underlying these responses is the real ‘human’ that is attempting to avoid our fears – fear of abandonment, of being mistreated or feeling hurt – and what this exposes is how these irrational motivations prompted by self-pity can place us at risk of continuing a very vicious cycle. Like cigarette smoking, we start the habit because we believe it may alleviate our tensions, soon enough we become addicted that despite it hurting us believe that we cannot live without it, until finally we become sick from it.
Self-compassion is an objective awareness of our hardships and suffering, but it is also recognising that while we may feel awful about some of our experiences and that indeed we may have been mistreated and hurt by some very bad people, it is not just me. It is especially difficult doing this when it is you that has been hurt and so it almost seems paradoxical that by being self-compassionate, you need to recognise that it is not about them but about you.
It is overcoming the pain through a deduction of a more broader recognition that life is unpredictable and sometimes painful and that we are vulnerable to making mistakes and experiencing hardship. If you encounter covert narcissists or violent men to not think everyone is like that and to ensure you develop healthy boundaries.
It is to embrace that pain is supposed to be painful and that our interpersonal relationships and friendships is challenging, however if we ignore the pain, we lash out in all the wrong ways. That we are human. Kristen Neff states that self-compassion is:
- Common humanity
My parents have been trying so hard and I pushed them away because I was so afraid that they will hurt me. It was almost like I needed some reassurance that no matter how difficult I was with them, they really wanted to support me. I have also been approached by men but felt that they were all liars, had secret intentions, that something about them was bad or wrong and so I hurt them to push them away. In some ways, my behaviour was indicative that I wanted proof that I could trust people, but in another way the inappropriate and inconsiderate responses was trying to prove to myself that I was alone.
One thus becomes critical, use logic as a way to justify judgements of others and therefore rather than engaging and caring for others, you are re-directing your own self-criticisms out to others. As Brene Brown states:
“stop working your shit out on other people”
Mindfulness is about the present and not the past. It is about having the courage to be accountable and accept that you can make some mistakes, but to also be willing to improve by gently recognising that we are all flawed, something self-pity can blind us from realising. Feeling broken is hard to admit because we do not want to feel vulnerable and emotional.
Self-compassion is about treating yourself like a human, like you would a best friend, tolerant of a person who is flawed and vulnerable. When one speaks about how they are feeling, such exposure of their vulnerabilities and fears leaves them weak, sensitive and anxious rather than relieved. It is courageous to be open about how you are feeling. Courage is the outcome of experiencing fear, sensitivity and weakness and doing what you can to overcome it.