For many years I suffered from an extreme behavior; that of beating myself up for things that I didn’t do or did do.
I never needed anyone to hold me up to any accountability or standards. I did that on my own and to such a high level that it was obvious that I had set myself up for failure.
At a certain point, things got so bad that I even imagined taking my own head and hitting it against a wall. My mind wanted me to pay for being stupid or for not being perfect.
It was then that I realized that the compassion I offered to others when they were less than perfect, I should also give myself before I crushed under the weight of my intolerance.
Yesterday, I read something I had never thought about, but which it makes perfect sense: when we do something good for someone else we experience the feeling ourselves. That is why giving is receiving. Our brain, heart, soul, experience the doing and the result without discriminating who the ultimate receptor is.
Think about it: if a friend needs consoling over something that has happened in their life, as we embrace and love them, the love we give is also felt by us. The act of consoling is felt by both parties.
If you give money to someone who is in need, as you think about how much that’s going to help that person and the gratitude that will bring, you get to experience the excitement involved in the gesture. Again, the satisfaction impacts both the giver and the receiver.
On the other hand, in the giving and receiving world, it is important to play both roles. Unfortunately, some of us have a hard time receiving, mostly because of low self-esteem. We either think “I’m not worthy to receive” or we masquerade that by thinking: “I don’t need it. I’m too great.” Both thoughts are the two sides of the same coin because thinking we are too great for help is only covering up for I’m not good enough.
Now, truly receiving requires us to embrace our imperfections and our need of others.
Of course, we intellectually know that none of us can ever be perfect. But, in the emotional reality realm, we often struggle with the acceptance of our mistakes and flaws.
It is in those times that we have to apply compassion towards ourselves and remember that ultimately our journey is about acquiring wisdom and that can only happen through trial and error.
Lastly, we are social beings. It is through relationships that we experience life. Giving and receiving is how we relate.
And as Buddha said…
If you knew what I know about the power of giving you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way – Buddha
Even though we know if we settle down, breathe and center ourselves that our outlook on life will change, we are often so ramped up that we are not able to do it. Instead we feel like we are being swept up by life or at best trying not to trip while we’re running our perceived obstacle course.
It would be so simple to stop it all by just stopping our brain from jumping around. But, somehow this simple action becomes unattainable.
As I go through my personal development I realize the three possibilities that play out: 1 – totally lost in life events and having a feeling of no control, 2 – partially lost while a nagging feeling that there is a different way to be keeps tugging at my psyche and 3 – a centered and in control experience.
I am proud to say that feeling totally lost in life events is no longer a reality for me. I now reside in the space between being partially lost and in control.
Getting to this space has taken a lot of self-growth. I have had to learn to let go of comparing my life to that of others – after all every life is unique – as well as learning about acceptance and compassion.
When we learn to exercise acceptance and compassion toward ourselves we let go of demanding and unrealistic level of perfection. We are reminded that life’s journey is about learning and attaining wisdom and there is no space for that without trials and tribulations.
Now, when we truly realize that there is no way to compare two people’s existence, as each one of us has a truly unique experience, we also drop envy and jealousy.
So armed with compassion and acceptance while rejoicing in the loss of envy and jealousy, we start to feel a sense of purpose and control over our responses to life’s events.
It is not an easy process. And it’s not a process without setbacks. But, it is a process worth under taking. Living as if we are mere leaves blowing in the wind is not the most satisfying way to walk through life.
So when life feels out of control; stop, breathe, exercise acceptance and compassion and see your outlook change.
That’s a tough one, simply because it’s complicated.
We have responses to everything that touches our lives, but sometimes it is difficult to manage all the feelings. We question ourselves: Is this my real feeling or is this made-up to cover up for the “truth”? Do I have the right to feel this way?
Anyone, that has spent time delving into the inner-workings of the self, know we must pull all the layers back – the ones we have created to fit in, or the ones that have been created as a protection mechanism – to find how we truly feel. And even when we get there, we often have the impulse to explain why we feel the way we do.
I have known and have finally learned that my feelings don’t have to be “right” or “wrong”, but do have the right to exist.
It is a mistake to look at our feelings and try to understand them from a point of view where we need to classify them as good or bad, right or wrong. If we could instead just look at our feelings as our own response to something or someone without judgment, we would find a great deal more of well-being and compassion for own selves.
Learning to allow our feelings to exist, come as a result of a great deal of inner-working. It is usually then followed by trusting our instincts and knowing that our core is strong enough to support us in whatever results from our actions. In that there is great freedom.
Feelings often evade logic and operate at a different cadence. That is most clear in romantic relationships. Why do we like each other? On paper it may not work, but in life it does. Or the other way around. Why is that? Feelings don’t necessarily follow logic.
Often instead of simply acting according to our feelings, we try to explain them away and get others to help in this endeavor. But, regardless how well-intentioned a friend, partner or family member is, they can’t fully understand and therefore help guide our responses.
It all comes back to an intimate relationship with the self. Once we have that we learn to give room to our feelings knowing they are valid as they are and regardless of the results we will be okay.
We stand-up for how we feel without anger or judgment with the singular thought of: this is who I am and this is how I feel.
One of the most difficult things to understand is that we’re not responsible for other people’s happiness. Better yet, that we have no control over it.
The reason it is so difficult is that sometimes someone who is close to us chooses time and again to see and experience life in the darkest way possible. We try to show them there is a different way, but they are stuck in their dark perception. They are unhappy and unnecessarily so. It is frustrating and painful. But it is their choice and there is nothing we can do about it. Insisting in the same methodology of trying to show light points to our incapacity to accept our own limitation.
I’m not suggesting giving up in being present in the lives of people we love who choose to be unhappy. I’m suggesting we accept the fact that we can’t make anyone change if they don’t want to. I suggest not adding to the situation by embracing the unhappiness and frustration ourselves.
Getting to a place of acceptance can be difficult because we often think there is one more thing we can try or we think we can change others if we only apply ourselves a little more. But, the truth is we know it really isn’t up to us.
Accepting that others have the control of their experience is an indicator of our own growth. We can offer compassion and friendship, but as we are responsible for our happiness so are others for theirs.
I have always wanted to be perfect. Not because I think I’m better than anyone, but because I always thought I had the means and the possibility. Simply put my thinking was: “I should know better and just do right.” And when I didn’t feel I acted “right”, the backlash was huge.
Of course, when I write this I am reminded of the silliness of such goal. But, I’m afraid I’m not alone. There are many of us in this world that keep ourselves on a short leash and demand nothing less than perfection.
While for the less informed that can seem like a lofty ideal, the reality is imbued with much suffering and chastising.
What is perfect? It depends on the situation and who we ask. So, if we can’t even define perfection how could we aim to achieve it? And how can we expect ourselves to deliver the right action in every circumstance?
The only antidote for people like myself is another very powerful drug; compassion. As we struggle to achieve the impossible, compassion comes-in as a way to allow us to see ourselves for who we truly are; human beings. And to be reminded that at every second of our existence we are making choices from a high-wire.
We walk a thin line through chaos and uncertainty trying to do the best we can. Sometimes the results are exactly what we want and sometimes they are not. But, if we apply compassion towards ourselves we will realize we are deserving of forgiveness. We’ll also realize we are not commander in chief of life itself.
Living means inter-acting with others which means we cannot hold ourselves to be the only voice in any relationship or situation. We all have our conflicts and difficulties that we have to work through which we do as live our lives.
I’m working hard at letting go of my want to be perfect. These days I use the phrase: “I’m doing the best I can.” And that is all I can ask of myself.
What about you? Are you asking yourself the impossible?
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there –Rumi
One of the first things I do every morning is read the news. I believe that is the same for most people. We want to know what is happening in the world and in our communities. We want to know how yesterday’s developments will be impacting our lives today. But as we read about all the wars, poverty, and instability we feel overwhelmed and start to shut down. Unfortunately, the shutting down to the pain in the news carries on to our daily lives; we start to become disconnected from our ability to feel compassion and to empathize. But, the news is not the only reason. Our own life’s difficulties and struggles take care of whatever compassion we have left in our hearts.
The human experience is based on exchange and connectedness. How many times we have a good experience and wonder how much better it would have been if shared with a loved one?
I have just recently returned from a business trip in Brazil. While there I reconnected with a friend I had not seen in ten years.
This friend and I had been really close and our fall out I believe had more to do with me than her. Let me explain: My friend is bright, funny but insecure. I didn’t understand that and let my ego get the best of me. All it took was for my friend to forget a couple of times I was coming to Brazil to visit to make me stop calling her. I felt she didn’t care enough about me. What I didn’t understand was that her behavior was for show only.
Anyway, this time I picked up the phone and called her. We met at a coffee shop and although we had not been speaking when my husband passed away, she ignored that and immediately embarked in telling me what had been going on in her life.
Unlike times past, I didn’t get offended by her being more interested in telling about her life than mine, and sat back to get reacquainted with my friend.
She told me her husband of twenty five years had had an affair. She then went on to describe the process that brought them back together. Her first reaction was to reflect on the state of their relationship. Was she happy? Was he happy? Did she still love him? Did he still love her? After some soul searching she knew she still loved him but she also realized she had been taking him and the relationship for granted. That’s something she could work on. That’s something she could change she thought. But in order to do that she had to get her ego out of the way.
My friend did not accuse her husband of betraying her. She knew accusations and fights would only lead to more separation. Instead she told him she knew about the affair but wanted to see if they could find a way to rediscover what had brought them together in the first place.
It was not an easy process. She had to time and again leave her pride out of it and remind herself what her ultimate goal was; to save her marriage.
My friend succeeded and today they are sharing a second honeymoon.
I’m not condoning betrayal or affairs but I also think sometimes we fail to remember we all make mistakes. In a relationship sometimes stepping back from the role of husband and of a wife and embracing the role of friend, is the best way to keep the connection alive and healthy. It brings forgiveness and compassion.
I remember another friend years ago telling me she regretted having divorced her husband for the same reason; an affair. She said if she could go back in time she would have tried to work it out instead of being indignant and demanding the end of their marriage.
Both my Brazilian friend and I have put our feelings aside for something that was more important to us. In my case her friendship—although sometimes selfish she is interesting and does show up when needed. In her case, her relationship with her husband.
It is important to always remember what is it that we want to accomplish in the end. Doing that allows us to fight for what we really want and not be sidetracked by our pride which only brings regrets.
Interesting post below discussing self-abandonment. It basically states – and I agree – that no adult can really abandoned by someone else except by their own selves. That’s because as an adult we physically no longer need someone to feed and shelter us. We must do that for ourselves. We won’t be discussing physical abandonment but psychological and emotional.
I know a lot about self-abandonment. I have loving parents who for many reasons didn’t do a lot of parenting. When things at home turned to being impossible for me to grow and thrive, I left. But what followed were decades of self-deprecation as a way of me “paying” for having been “bad” and having left my family. The results were devastating: abusive relationships and financial turmoil.
It wasn’t until a real disaster happened in my life – the loss of my husband – that I stopped to think why I had let depression and anxiety be my constant companions. I took a long trip inward, got to know myself, and realized it had been I who had abandoned my life.
If you are in touch with your real feelings and desires than you must have compassion for yourself because you know how you have struggled and overcame all the difficulties in your life. You know where you have been, who you were and who you are.
Compassion is a door to love. You open that door and love comes out.
If you love yourself than you know no matter what happens and who walks in or out of your life, you will always be there for you.
People always say we come into this world alone and we leave alone. That’s mostly true but what is missing is pointing out that in having our own companionship we keep depression, anxiety and a sense of loss at bay.
No one is truly alone when they have themselves.
Please read on.
By Margaret Paul Ph.D.
If you feel alone, empty, anxious, depressed, hurt, angry, jealous, sad, fearful, guilty or shamed, you are abandoning yourself. In this article, discover the ways you might be abandoning yourself.
The Encarta® World English Dictionary defines “abandon” as: “to leave somebody or something behind for others to look after, especially somebody or something meant to be a personal responsibility.” Continued…
“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” – Stephen Vincent Benet
I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago, about turning pain into self-knowledge. My friend was having trouble understanding how hurting could have any positive aspect such as wisdom. I told her by embracing with awareness that which is painful we allow suffering to have a transformational quality.
Recently, my father came very close to dying. As I now am a widow, the possibility of losing my father took on an added layer to my possible loss. But, instead of dulling my pain, every night after making sure my mom was okay, I would spend time with myself and let the full impact of what was happening take hold of me. It was not easy to feel the full force of loss one more time. But, by doing so I was able to understand that loss is a part of life as much as happiness is. I was reminded in a deep level that in the human journey, experiences – good or bad – is what creates wisdom and compassion in every one of us. There is great humility in acceptance, and when we do so, we transform.