Thursday, March 03, 2011

Share and share alike...

Why is it so much easier to be nice to others than to myself? I’m quick to offer mitigating circumstances for another’s misstep, rarely jumping to, “What else to expect? He’s just an idiot.” (okay, not too often)

But when I’m the one who needs understanding, the worst possible motivations are always first up in my mind. I’m undisciplined, I’m weak, I’m selfish, lazy, name it, I can find a way to make use of just about any derogatory term on the books. Even during three days of fighting yet another debilitating migraine, far too many of those unproductive hours were spent in bouts of self-flagellation cycling with unremitting pain. If only I meditated more regularly/better, if only I hadn’t had red wine with dinner, if only...if only. How ridiculous is that?

Hubby and I have had a number of good discussions recently about compassion, about seeing the world through other perspectives and realizing that while we can’t possibly experience life in the same manner as those we encounter, we can still have compassion for their struggles. It’s an ongoing lesson, of course, but much easier when the recipient of that compassion is another individual. Never myself.

A posting this morning from Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times blog on Health titled “Go Easy on Yourself” couldn’t have been more timely. “Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?” she asks. Of course not, don’t be silly! Why would I do such a thing? In her article, Parker-Pope reviews an emerging field of psychology labeled “self-compassion,” a way of thinking that proponents claim has links to everything from over-eating to happiness. I’m not sure I buy all the conclusions drawn from what seem to be rather ambiguous research, but the premise is worth considering.

As a writer, I constantly fluctuate between elation over the works I produce and total despair at facing yet another blank page or, even worse, editing a first draft and realizing it’s nowhere near the lyrical prose I envisioned. Is my negative personal attitude spilling over to my writing, or vice versa? When I talk to other writers, such thoughts seem to be fairly common but by no means universal.

Maybe we need a Self-Compassion Writers Group to supplement our critique sessions. We’re always quick to compliment each other’s writing; ‘love notes’ before criticism is the norm. I know I leave our group energized, if not occasionally deflated by the wonderful quality of writing I’m up against.

Come to think of it, many of our meetings are just that – compassionate. Only we call it loving support, with the occasional kick in the pants when we wallow too much in our misery. And we’re all worth that form of shared self-compassion, even me.


  1. Be true to ones self means more than just being honest,it mean tending to what you need. Is it selfish to put oneself first? I think that's the intended dilemma. It's a prevalent thought among many that we must put others first and that's where our misstep is. How can we effectively give to others if we do not first give to ourselves? My father repeatedly told me growing up that you cannot truly love another person until you can love yourself. I can see that. If we listen to the Bible, God says to put him first (paraphrasing of course), but let me put my thoughts on this. If we are made in his image, if he is everywhere and in everything than he is in us and by not putting ourselves first, we do not honor him.
    Remember you are the most important person in your life, yes, above your husband, your children, you animals, and those who depend on you. Before you offer a kind word to another, offer it to yourself.
    As a writer and can testify that I fluctuate between thinking my writing is comparable to the greats of my genre, and believing it is the scribblings of just a juvenile mind. Although I almost always leave our writing group feeling justified in my abilities, often I am stalled in heading out. The last half hour before the group is to begin, I get this feeling of dread,feeling that I am wasting my time and most importantly (others first) those in our group because my writing doesn't come close to the level of everyone else.
    If it helps you, think of yourself as someone else, and put them first. Look in the mirror at Cyndi, and take good care of her.
    BTW, I love your writing.

  2. Lori: the honor of sharing your talents is never a waste of my (our!) time. You set a very high standard of creativity that I can only strive to match.

    We keep each other going - thank you!


Your thoughts?