Ode to Compassion
This is for anyone that wonders, “What’s wrong with me?” Maybe you feel stuck or inadequate. You try to force yourself to do things you should do, or be how you should be, but you can’t. So does it mean you’re just lazy, stupid, stubborn, or all of the above? I don’t think so.
On Name Calling
If you work a lot on some things and not others, then you’re not lazy. So don’t believe it. Also, you’re not stupid if you’re capable of learning, and surely there is much you’ve already learned in life. These names are confusing and frustrating. They are a weak attempt to explain our experience by blaming ourselves.
“I have been called a lot of names in my life. Some positive, and some far less than positive, and I can never recall learning anything valuable by somebody telling me what I am.” -Marshall Rosenberg
Here’s a simple idea. When we call ourselves names, we feel bad. When we feel bad, we get stuck, or we avoid things. To get unstuck, we call ourselves names and hope it pushes us out of the hole, but it’s just a vicious cycle.
Ultimately we reduce ourselves to a label, and we then focus so much on that label that we forget we were trying to understand something bigger than ourselves in the first place. Resist the tendency. Dare to go further to find understanding. There may be an explanation that doesn’t depend on our supposed inabilities and that better explains what’s happening.
What you’re feeling is not senseless. It is for a reason. Your subconscious is hijacking your conscious mind hoping you’ll shut up and listen to what’s within. What is it saying?
Maybe that you’re bored, and you seek cultivation over grooming. Maybe that you sense a conflict of interests, and you have a need for consistency. Maybe that the task seems meaningless, and you desire to live a meaningful life. Behind every negative feeling, there’s a fear, and behind every fear there’s a sweet intention. Connect with the intention instead of the fear.
Why do I pretend to know this?
This has been my experience. For two decades, I taunted myself, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t fuck up!” I had learned these words from others that would see me stuck, and wanted to push me. While probably well-intended, in the end it was crippling.
So much I taunted myself, that I began to taunt others in the same way. Eventually I saw them using the same words to taunt others still. What I didn’t see was whether in-between they had learned to taunt themselves, too. It’s a vicious cycle that spans generations.
It’s true what they say. To love another, we must first love ourselves. Put another way, if we think it’s OK to hurt ourselves, then it’ll be OK to hurt others.
Why do I say this to you?
I want to break that cycle. Compassion, like courage, isn’t a trophy, earned once and forever sits on your shelf. It’s a commitment to an idea, that pain should be met with care, and it is only alive while in practice.
It took someone that I trust to tell me, “you’re being too hard on yourself,” to interrupt that cycle. My shoulders got a bit lighter, and my stomach went into freefall. That’s how I knew it was significant. Since then I’ve practiced that mindset, but it’s not easy to let go of an old habit. Not without a new one to hold onto.
So here’s an alternative. Next time you call yourself a name, instead name the fear. Then seek the sweet intention, and ask yourself how else you may support it.
Try the alternative
Maybe you avoid trying something because you’re afraid of failing. If you fear failing, then it might be because you care a lot about the thing you’re avoiding. If so, try asking yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Or, “How can I make it easier to succeed?”
Maybe you taunt others because you worry about them and so you’re trying to push them to be better. How else can you help them to be better? Maybe you can ask them what they need.
Whatever the case, try the alternative…
- Don’t name yourself. Name the fear.
- Find the sweet intention behind the fear.
- Try another way to support the intention.