If you have read more than a few of my posts, you know that I frequently recommend that you be gentle and compassionate with yourself when you are experiencing painful symptoms or having a hard time because of your illness. I do that because I have seen, again and again, how people’s lives change significantly– and often dramatically– for the better when they do.
I have also seen, again and again, that many people have a hard time being gentle and compassionate with themselves. But that isn’t all that surprising, because few if any of us were taught to do that by our parents, teachers, or mentors. I sure wasn’t.
However, it is definitely possible to learn how to be that way with ourselves. I have, and so have the many people I’ve taught.
Some of those I taught learned how to be gentle and compassionate with themselves when I asked them how they would feel and what they would do for someone they cared about who had the same illness and the same symptoms and pain they did – and then asked them to have the same feelings for themselves. Others understood the concept when I asked them what they would do if they found a helpless injured bird. For those clients who were especially hard on and critical of themselves for not being able to do all the things they could before they became ill, I asked them if they would criticize the bird for not being able to fly. Their answer, of course, was always no, and they usually realized that their criticism of themselves was not justified or called for. Still others learned to be gentle and compassionate with themselves when I had them imagine how they would feel if their beloved dog or cat got injured, and then had them imagine how the animal would feel when it got the compassion and reassurance they would automatically and spontaneously give it.
Clients who were directly involved in helping people in difficult situations make their lives better often had very dramatic “aha’s” when they suddenly realized that they could give themselves the same gentle, compassionate caring they were giving others.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I have seen many, many people with chronic illnesses experience significant and often dramatic improvements in the quality of their lives when they give themselves gentleness and understanding. Here’s what a client with recently wrote about giving herself compassion and how it helped her: (Note: the hard work she refers to is giving herself compassion. It can be hard to do at first, but the results make the effort very worthwhile.)
“My coaching sessions with Tom over the last several weeks have brought me a level of peace, understanding and acceptance about living with a chronic illness that I never envisioned was possible. His masterful approach to helping you to extend the compassion to yourself that you would extend to a treasured friend experiencing similar challenges is brilliant and effective. You do the hard work, gently and compassionately guided by Tom, and before you know it you have opened yourself up to see beyond your condition to all that you still have to offer. For the first time in a very long time, I look forward to each day with joyful expectations.”
Roberta Somerset, NJ
Because of the difference it will make in your life, I encourage you to give yourself all the compassion you possibly can. And if you are one of those who have a hard time doing that, I hope you will take a good look both inside yourself and in the mirror, and realize that you truly deserve lots and lots of compassion.