CompassionCoping strategies

Why you need to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others

Self-compassion
Caroline
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Caroline

Director and Mentor at Quiet Connections
I always struggled to understand and manage myself and my own wellbeing as a teenager which had a significant impact on my personal confidence and self-worth so I know how challenging and painful this can be, especially for young people. I am determined to make a positive contribution to help people feel they have the power to be and do whatever they choose to which is something I am learning more about everyday in my own life.
Caroline
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Shelving Self-Compassion

When I first heard about the concept of Compassion as a therapeutic tool to support people, I thought ‘Great! I love that idea; it’s right up my street!’ so I bought a few books, read a couple of chapters and then put them on a shelf somewhere, feeling positive about the basic idea of using empathy and understanding to help people help themselves. But there was one problem. I am great at showing compassion to others; listening and helping them to learn and find ways to move forwards, but I didn’t want to admit that I needed to apply this to myself first.

‘If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others, you will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself, then you are not able to develop compassion for others’

– Dalai Lama

You know the safety announcements on the aeroplane: ‘in case of emergency put your mask on first before helping others? Well, it’s the same with compassion. If you’re not compassionate to yourself first, how can you survive and show others how to support themselves? Well that makes sense so why don’t we just do it already?!

Compassion is defined as ‘a sensitivity to the suffering of self and others (and its causes) with a deep commitment to try to relieve it and prevent it’. So self-compassion might actually sound like quite a challenge if, like me, you have the world’s most critical, evil, demoralising internal filter for pretty much everything you say and do. But then I listened to a great podcast by Natalie Pescetti, Supercoach and Numerology Consultant and this got me thinking about how I might start to approach this.

The Phoenix

Natalie describes the age old story of the Phoenix that leaves paradise and eternal life for the mortal world and burns to ashes from which it is reborn. Far from this being death or the end, it reveres who it once was and holds it sacred. It is suggested in this context is for us to use our past and all the baggage as the fuel to propel us into a new future rather than using it to weigh us down and give ourselves a hard time. She offers examples to demonstrate how you can only feel confidence if you know self-doubt or appreciate feeling fulfilled in a relationship if you have had your heart broken. In fact, Nat states the obvious but often missed fact that we, humans, are just not trained to ‘let go’ of things and gives us a simple way to do this:

  1. Write down what you’re holding onto, dwelling on or scared of and reflect on what these things have taught you and what you’re grateful for
  2. Create a space that loves and honours the fact that the only way to get where you want is to have been where you were
  3. Let this inform your vision and what gets you excited about what you want

‘It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine’

– Byron Katie

If any of you out there believe in synchronicity, it just so happens that the same day in my therapy session, we talked about the idea of a more ‘open-hearted’ approach to my daily life and taking the pressure off. Which leads me to quite a personal challenge: what if I could try to approach things with a more open heart and step back enough to actually just Be instead of a perpetual state of Doing all the time, and powering on through to make sure everyone knows I am fine….? Food for thought!

Love and light

Caroline x

Want to know more? Book your space on our next workshop to grow your self-compassion.

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