In my former life I was given an assessment by my peers that my greatest “skill” was compassion. I reacted very negatively to this feed back. Compassion after all did not seem to have any direct correlation to boosting our revenue, to giving clients accurate and timely results, to being able to advise them from a position of knowledge and business acumen or even to being able to transfer my (apparently non existent) skills to other in the business, Clearly they could not think of anything nice and businessy to say about me so they came up with something that seemed nice whilst backhandedly giving me a slap about the chops. I almost spat, like cat.
And I continued to beat myself up about being a waste of space, a failure as a good little worker bee, as a human being, if the only thing I was good at was being compassionate.
Do you see the hole here?
I may well have been perceived as being compassionate to others but there wasn’t a whole lot of self compassion going on. What was going on was a whole lot of repression, of just push it down, keep a lid on it, ignore the pain, grin and bare it. Write out those to do lists, repeat a few affirmations, but above all do not under any circumstances acknowledge the pain.
The truth is that I did have those other skills; except perhaps for being timely, that has always been a struggle for me. Not being “on time” to get somewhere, I’m generally pretty good at that, it’s a simple goal, but to weave complex threads together to finish in a timely manner without getting lost in a maze of side roads and rabbit holes as something attracts my interest.
In the end I could not contain it any more. I had to do something and that something was to leave my business and enter a new one where my outward focused compassion was perceived (by me) as a more positive attribute.
And along the way I started to develop just a little bit of self compassion. Wow, you mean I can be kind to myself as well as to others! Surely not. Does that not mean I am just giving my self a bit of self pity, or an excuse to slack off, to be a wuss? Not at all. To be have self compassion is first to be aware of the pain you are feeling, to be mindful, to acknowledge with no judgement and to accept and be self comforting in order to be resilient. Not to hide the pain, suppress it, try and make it go away. Rather like the description of courage as being afraid but doing what has to be done anyway.
Recently I have been following the work of Kristen Neff and finding it is helping to build a process to rely on around what was developing ad hoc.