Are you willing to show yourself some compassion?

My friend Sarah H. Nicotra wrote an incredibly powerful post on Instagram back in June. It’s something that’s been popping up in my mind over and over again since I first read it.

In it, she discusses her chronic health challenges over the last 5 years.

“I have found a great deal of compassion for my own struggles despite STRIVING and WORKING REALLY F*CKING HARD TO BE HEALTHY/WELL.”

She explains how she has found compassion for herself in this place.

“You see, I don’t look at a bee and say why the f*ck can’t you get it together and survive. I’d never BLAME a bee for dying from exposure to man-made toxins. ⠀⠀⠀
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I’d never chastise a monarch for feasting on the milkweed plant, its primary source of sustenance. Turns out milkweed responds to climate changes by producing too much of a particular compound and that ends up poisoning the caterpillars. Epic, ooops. HOW on earth would the monarch know this? For centuries, it’s been a symbiotic relationship. But now things are precarious.”
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Let that all sink in for a second. Where in your life are you beating yourself up for struggling to survive in difficult circumstances? Where in your life has something that used to be life-giving turned into something that is life-draining?

Where can you offer yourself a little more compassion within your struggle?

The word compassion used to be extremely charged for me. I’d translate it into “letting myself get away with something I shouldn’t.”

It was too touchy-feely. It seemed that showing myself compassion would make me complacent. Entitled. Lazy. And those were all qualities I wanted to stay far away from.

(Sidenote: Laziness doesn’t actually exist as this post explores).

But as I’ve come to learn, compassion may be the thing that saves the world.

The literal meaning of compassion is “to suffer together.”

In studying compassion, scientists have discovered that compassion may serve a deep evolutionary purpose. Compassion creates a physical response in us that calms our heart rate, releases the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and triggers care, support, pleasure, and empathy. It encourages us to reach out and support others.

This is a wonderful thing for society. It’s a wonderful thing for the creatures and the world around us. And can you imagine the impact of taking those powerful actions and turning them inward toward yourself?

To show yourself compassion is to suffer with yourself. To feel your suffering deeply. And to care about that suffering. To care for yourself within your suffering.

Compassion is the opposite of turning away or avoiding. It means sitting with things that are uncomfortable but worthy of attention. It means admitting that you’re having a hard time. That something isn’t working. That something has hurt you. And that you are worthy of care, of self-care, for those very things.

To show yourself compassion is to be in the core of who you are. Unwavering. Deeply present.

Your fortitude and compassion are inextricably linked. Where you can show yourself compassion, there you will also find your strength.

Sarah ends her epic post with a declaration.
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“It’s time to drill down to EACH item in our lives and ask/explore/learn what HELPS vs HARMS you and of course BEYOND you — the earth, pollinators, etc.”

Consider her words this week for yourself, and for the world around you. Discern what helps you and others. Discern what harms you and others. Act accordingly. Act compassionately.