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, spoiled...you 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.