Perhaps you grew up believing that if you were loving and gentle with yourself, you were being selfish or self-centred. So you learned to be hard on yourself and to have high expectations of yourself (often leading to perfectionism). Perhaps it is even difficult to consider your own needs as legitimate and deserving attention.
However, in my experience as a counsellor, it just isn’t true that being gentle with yourself equals being selfish. I see many people who are very hard on themselves, and in general they either end up very depressed or else they feel angry and frustrated with life. I believe that just the opposite is true: the more you are able to be compassionate and gentle with yourself, the more you will be able to offer love and compassion to others.
Why is this true? Shouldn’t you figure out how to be selfless and generous?
One of the things I believe about life is that you are not able to offer to others that which you have not experienced yourself. For example, a teacher cannot teach students a concept that he does not understand himself. A coach cannot ask her athletes to train for a sport that she has not trained for and mastered for herself.
The deepest and most significant learning available to you is something you have experienced and learned, not just intellectually, but also emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This means that the emotional healing that is most powerful to you on your journey is healing that allows you to experience a newfound peace and compassion towards yourself.
As your inner experience of compassion and acceptance changes you, you begin to feel whole and renewed. From this place of wholeness, your love and your hope are able to grow and be free. You then find that you are able to reach out to others and offer them compassion in a way that is free and respectful.
Can you make a new commitment to yourself, that you will try to treat yourself with compassion, taking time to listen to your heart and seeking to understand your struggles and fears in a new way? If you have the courage to say “yes”, then this is the beginning of a new and exciting journey of loving yourself that is full of love, freedom, and wonderful surprises along the way.
“At the end of the day, love and compassion will win.”
~ Terry Waite