Compassion May Not Come Easy, But it Delivers
Compassion is a complicated thing. Sure, we’re taught to be compassionate and caring as children, but it certainly isn’t as universally valued as strength or intelligence. After all, how does being compassionate get you ahead when you’ve come from a perfectionist family and your self-worth has always hinged on setting and achieving goals, not how gentle you are with yourself when you haven’t worked hard enough.
Throughout my journey of self-reflection, I’ve felt more than a little uncomfortable. Being compassionate is something I’ve had to work really hard at. In fact, I used to kind of look down on self-compassion, as if it meant that I was letting myself “off the hook” somehow.
But recently I was reminded of the power of compassion when I shared some very personal information on Instagram about myself and my fertility journey.
After years of cracking a relentless whip, yet never getting great results, I’ve realized that there’s no correlation between how hard you are on yourself and how successful you are. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I now know that being kind to yourself and feeling supported by others drives far more success than impossibly high standards do. However, “knowing” that compassion is the way, and “living it” aren’t quite the same thing.
I needed to be reminded, and it occurred to me that you might need to be reminded too. In my recent reveal, I learned a lot of new (and practical) lessons about practicing compassion that I firmly believe are helpful not only in our fitness journeys, but in our life journeys as well.
Compassion Lesson #1: Say it Out Loud to Release It
For many of us, it feels instinctual to suffer in silence. Whether it’s that we feel like we’re strong enough to soldier on, or we don’t want to risk vulnerability and dropping the facade that we depend on as Type A women (you know, the one that we think empowers us to ‘keep going’ even when we aren’t truly feeling it), I believe we all carry a lot of fear around sharing our vulnerable truths. But… it’s a mistake.
When you share what you’re dealing with inside, some amazing things start to happen. The first, is that you can name it and release it. Those two acts performed in unison start to allow us to break down fear, and abolish the power that these secret burdens hold over us.
For me, as soon as I shared my IVF journey on Instagram, I could breath again. I felt free to be me – a not-so-perfect woman who is just doing her damn best. And while she’s accountable to friends, family and her amazing community of followers, she has her good days and bad days. She’s dealing with things behind closed doors, and revealing those truths isn’t going to alienate her community, rather it’s going to strengthen their bond of authenticity and support.
Compassion Lesson #2: Revealing Your Truth Doesn’t Alienate You – It Connects You
The outpouring of support, kindness and understanding I had after sharing my struggles with IVF were truly overwhelming. Although I’m aware of how many women struggle with fertility and hormonal issues – knowing it and truly feeling it aren’t the same thing.
By breaking my silence, I found that so many women felt empowered to reach out to me and connect. Some offered support, some shared their personal struggles and fears, and some were simply able to connect on a deeper level. Ladies dealing with fertility issues: we might all be members of a club that no one really wants to be a part of, but we’re in it together and being able to connect and shoulder the rough stuff together won’t just make you feel less alone, but it’ll also make you feel normal at a time when you feel anything but.
My recent experience reminded me of something important: you never really know what’s going on with people behind closed doors. Once someone is brave enough to be vulnerable and its met with compassion, things begin to feel okay again. The isolation dissipates and you begin to realize that your feeling won’t last forever.
Compassion Lesson #3: Compassion From Others Can Show You The Way
Although I knew I was struggling with some heavy stuff behind closed doors, I hesitated to share my vulnerability publicly. I felt responsible as a pseudo-public-figure to maintain my strength and ability to deliver consistent support to my community through positivity and helpful tips. I truly felt challenged thinking about how to share my struggles in a way that could empower people. But my concerns about how my community might fail to relate to my fertility issues were blocking a very important lesson: everyone struggles with trying to ‘keep it together’ and maintaining their image. Interestingly though, what I’ve come to re-learn, is that people don’t expect perfection from us, and they don’t suddenly question our value or our ability to deliver because we reveal some ‘messy truths’… in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The outpouring of support and appreciation I received for sharing was overwhelmingly positive. I was doubting myself and extremely emotional (brought on by hormones and the immense pressure I’ve been putting on myself.) But it was my community that SHOWED ME HOW to be compassionate with myself. In experiencing kindness from the many caring women in our community, it paved the way for how I should be treating myself throughout this process.
We need to take a small risk to open up and share some messy details in order to feel better. Compassion is an incredibly powerful emotion. Giving it and receiving it in the face of vulnerability is never a risk. It drives connection and allows you to release many of those heavy burdens you’ve been carrying.