Compassion and the Holidays

During the holiday season, there is a lot of talk about compassion, good cheer, kindness and goodwill.  As I listen to the bombardment of commercials, cards and other reminders, I am struck at how they all reference compassion towards others.  And that’s not a bad thing, but I think it leaves someone out; ourselves.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

I was talking with my wife earlier this week after a story about how women talk to themselves.  It was very eye opening for me.  The description of what goes on in there was extremely self-critical.  In my completely unscientific polling of a handful of male friends, I found that while we can be critical of our actions (especially mistakes), we are nowhere near as internally brutal as the women.  However, we men are still pretty hard on ourselves.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

In the spirit of the season, I would like to invite you to take a breath, step back and be compassionate with yourself.  What does that mean, being compassionate with your-self?  For starters, it means not mentally raging against your-self for every little mistake or taking a left turn off your plans.

Image courtesy of like_shipwrecks    / Flickr.

Image courtesy of like_shipwrecks / Flickr.

As I constantly remind myself, no one is perfect.  So it isn’t perfection or a lack of that defines us.  What defines us, our strength of character, is how we deal with being imperfect; how we recover from mistakes.  It sounds easy, so first a little exercise to tune in and see where you stand.

Settle in to a comfortable position, close your eyes and bring your attention to your body.  What is the first thing that passes through your mind?  Are you questioning whether or not you should be “wasting” time on this?  Was it something about how much you’ve eaten and asking why you did it?  Making or reviewing your to do list for today?  For many, thoughts along these lines will come first.

So the thoughts came.  Now what?  The first step is always awareness.  Nothing can be changed if we are unaware of what we want to change or the resulting impact we want to avoid.  Now you know these thoughts roam around in your head.

The second step is to build in space.  Allow for these thoughts to come, and when they do, give yourself the gift of space so you can choose your reaction.  I encourage you to choose to be compassionate with yourself.  I’ve found the best way to do that is not to remind myself of a piece of advice from the Dalia Lama; (paraphrase) –

If you are in a situation and no matter how bad it is, you know you will survive, then you do not need to worry.  But if you find yourself in a situation where no matter what you do, you will not survive, then there is still no need to worry.

I’m not suggesting that when we go off course to simply shrug it off and not fix it.  What I am suggesting is that we give ourselves a nod to our efforts, acknowledge the mistakes and work to move in a direction we are happier with; just without mentally berating ourselves.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Now that you are aware of the thoughts and will at least consider giving permission to choose your reaction, that allows for the option to let the negative thoughts continue; to beat yourself up, or you can just not do that.  That kindness you are more inclined to show to others, take a moment and show that same kindness to yourself.  You are worth it.

Image courtesy of flickr by Christopher Michel.

Image courtesy of flickr by Christopher Michel.


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