Many people consider themselves compassionate individuals. Some practice compassion by helping strangers or being there for a friend or family member in need, but many forget to be compassionate towards themselves. I have been a follower of Brene Brown every since I watched her TEDtalk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” After reading two of her books, Daring Greatly and The Gifts Of Imperfection, I am somewhat well versed in her work.
One of the things Brene teaches is self compassion. Earlier today I was told an anecdote about a man who was trying to quit smoking and his story inspired me to write this blog, it also brought the words of Brene Brown to the forefront of my mind. The story is like that of many smokers, a man was trying very hard to quit but was unsuccessful after many attempts. His therapist one day suggested to him that he write himself a note everyday forgiving himself for smoking. After he started doing this he was able to kick the habit for good.
Now why would something as simple and weird sounding such as this work? Because this man was practicing self compassion. Without delving too deeply into Brown’s work, two of her topics of expertise are shame and guilt. This man obviously wanted to quit so he felt guilty for smoking because it was detrimental to his health. He felt shame because he tried to quit and failed. Those two emotions are unpleasant and most likely led him to light up. The moment he forgave himself both for the act of smoking and the failed attempts he was able to achieve the success for which he’d hoped.
That story was so powerful to me because it demonstrates how much self compassion can change someone’s life. By writing himself a note forgiving himself every morning he was forgiving himself for not being perfect and giving himself room to fail. By internalizing this forgiveness, the shame and guilt that he was feeling lost power because he was practicing self love and compassion.
So today when you have a moment to be compassionate to a stranger, act on it, but don’t forget to give yourself that same love.