At times, human beings can be incredibly compassionate towards one another. A family member going through a difficult time is encouraged to take extra care of themselves. A teen struggling with adolescent challenges is given support and encouragement. We offer our assistance to a neighbor who’s spouse is seriously ill. When others are at their worst, humanity is at its best. And yet, we are sometimes remiss in extending to ourselves the same tender care we offer to others. Is it that we feel we are not deserving of such compassion or can a little pampering be misconstrued as a sign of weakness or indulgence? Regardless, God tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He is instructing us to extend the same mercy to ourselves that we do to others. What can we do to extend compassion and understanding to ourselves? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be your own best friend. When asked, “Who is your best friend?” I would venture to say that people don’t respond with, “I am!” Typically, we think of our best friend as the one who is always there for us, kind and thoughtful, who accepts us as we are, and so forth. Do we posses those same qualities that could qualify us to be our own best buddy? The consideration we show to our friend – are we willing to treat ourselves in the same manner?
2. Develop beliefs that work for you. Do you have belief systems that were imposed on you by others? Do they work for you? A particular religious belief, a healthy living plan, an idea of what a successful life looks like – these are all beliefs that can cause internal unrest if they do not align with what works best for us.
3. Know your inherent worth. You are not who others say you are. You are not your mistakes, flaws, or bad choices. You are first and foremost a sacred child of God. Your value has been pre ordained by the One who created you and no one or nothing can ever diminish that.
4. Do not project your needs onto others. Expecting others to want the same things as you, to feel as you do, or act in the same manner causes unnecessary stress and frustration in life. Be free to be yourself and extend the same courteously to others. Life is much easier that way.
5. Choose happiness and peace of mind. Would you advise your best friend or child to be happy or miserable? Would you recommend that they fret over things they have no control over? Of course not. When you care about someone you encourage them to be happy and at peace with what is. Each is a choice. Love yourself enough to give yourself the gifts of happiness and inner peace.
6. Take good care of yourself. From the physical, to the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects it’s important to give yourself only what is absolutely in your best interest. Carefully choose your friends, foods, activities, beliefs, feelings, and intellectually stimulating material making certain that each enriches your life in some way.
7. Tune into your authentic self. In other words, know thyself. The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, stated that “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” One must first know their authentic self before being able to provide all of their needs.
8. Eliminate negative reactions. The simplest way to avoid reacting to any situation is to train yourself to stop and assess the situation before responding. A deeper understanding of what has transpired coupled with an evaluation of what one hopes to achieve by responding, allows for a more thoughtful and positive reply, thus ensuring the situation improves rather than deteriorates.
9. Appreciate what you have. Gratitude goes a long way in bringing us joy and happiness. Those who focus on what is lacking are generally miserable and unhappy. Give yourself the best. Be grateful.
10. Enjoy the present moment. Too often, we are trapped in the painful experiences of our past, leaving us feeling helpless, remorseful, and bitter. Excessive focus on the future can lead to anxiety and worry. Regardless of where you reside, if you are doing either, you are not fully embracing the present. Let go of both. Live in the moment.
11. Pass your compassion on to others. Remember the same love we express to one is meant to be shared with all. In this way we can be an instrument of compassion and thoughtfulness to others. Good deeds have a way of paying us back tenfold.
Confucius once said, “Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” Treat yourself well. You deserve it.
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