Compassion is your compass to happiness — Lionesses of Africa

The definition of compassion is “to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help through acts of kindness”. The component of action is what separates compassion from empathy, sympathy, pity, concern, or any other compassion synonym. The difference is that compassion gets involved”.

I am sure you have heard the phrase that you cannot truly have compassion for another person until you have compassion for yourself. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat.Pray.Love’, was interviewed on the Tim Ferris show and she spoke about how universal compassion that does not include the self is not universal:

“You cannot have compassion for others if you have voices in your head that are so vicious and constantly holding you to an impossibly high standard. Universal human compassion starts by extending an olive branch of mercy between you and yourself”.
Self-compassion truly is the compass to happiness, joy, contentment and fulfilment.

Develop a kind mind

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”- Jack Kornfield

Self-compassion is one of those cryptic concepts that leaves you wandering how exactly do you demonstrate self-compassion? There is often a sense of guilt about taking time for your self-care or even self-praise feels indulgent. Self-compassion begins by choosing to adopt the philosophy of a kind mind. Without a kind mind, you can experience your days in a mental jail with the inner critic as your inmate.

Here are 6 ways to start the journey to a kind mind:

Develop an unconditional friendliness towards yourself

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Sharon Salzberg

The concepts of unconditional self-love and acceptance are difficult for most people to digest. I like to use the Buddhist concept of Maitri which is about developing an unconditional friendliness towards yourself. When you can treat yourself like you do your best friend, you will begin to make very different choices. The first choice to make is a new internal vocabulary.

Beware the second arrow

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

Research shows we have between 12 000 and 60 000 thoughts per day but 80% are considered to be negative – battling the inner critic, guilt or shame. Dr.Srikumar Rao, is one of the top-rated professors at many renowned Business Schools – including Columbia, Kellogg, Berkeley and London Business School. He explains how our mental chatter can seriously sabotage our state, actions and view of ourselves. 

Dr. Rao, tells a story explaining his concept of the second arrow:

Teacher: “If you were shot with an arrow, would that hurt?”
Student: “Yes, it would hurt very much.”
Teacher: “And if you were shot by a second arrow, in the very same place, would that also hurt?”
Student: “Oh, yes! That would hurt even more, a more grievous injury.”
Teacher: “Then why do you persist in shooting the second arrow?”

In short, the second arrow is our negative self-talk. For example, you missed a deadline that really made a client upset and let down the team. This is already difficult to deal with because of the consequences. The second arrow is when the self-talk becomes critical about the action “You are so useless, how could you let that happen. You are a failure”. Srikumar explains that “The first arrow is the offense of ill-preparedness, incompetence, or unethical behaviour. The second arrow is suffering, a reaction to the first arrow, often remorse, embarrassment, self-loathing, self-mockery, or shame.” Stop shooting the second arrow, it only makes you feel worse about yourself. Have the self-compassion to forgive yourself and change the pattern of shooting the second arrow by asking better questions – “what can I learn from this? How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

Insert daily acts of kindness

“You can’t build joy on a feeling of self-loathing.” – Ram Dass

It’s time to ditch the guilt and schedule yourself into the calendar daily. But it’s not enough to schedule it, you need to honour that slot and treat it with the same respect you would anyone else. I’m not talking about going off to the spa. Kindness is about basic self-care. You already know whether you should start exercising more, eating less sugar, having a recovery ritual or getting more sleep. If you’re honest, you probably know exactly what to do. Daily acts of kindness can include taking a break when you are completely fatigued and not working weekends to recover. Kindness is carving out 15 minutes each morning for an activity that will energise you and fuel your soul for the day; think meditation, yoga, reading, exercise, dancing or journaling. Now it’s just a matter of giving yourself permission and taking daily doses of action. Replace guilt by asking yourself ‘what will it cost me NOT to invest in myself? Where will I be emotionally, financially and physically if I continue on this trajectory?”

Comparison is the thief of joy

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” – Brené Brown

In challenging or stressful moments, is your default to distract yourself through social media? You are already in a low mental and emotional space and begin scrolling through your feeds and start comparing your reality to everyone else’s. By the time you get to the bottom of the page, you are feeling worse about yourself and head to the freezer for some ice cream to cheer yourself up. Clearly, this is not a strategy for success on any level. Comparison is the thief of joy. Please be aware that people are sharing a manicured version of their story. They want you to perceive them as having it all together and living the perfect life. When did you see them post about their anxiety, stress and fears? We watch the curated versions of their lives. Please keep this in mind next time you scroll your feeds and start telling yourself that everyone else is achieving more than you. Instead of the socials, listen to an inspiring podcast or read a book. Find stories where people are real and openly share their failures and the lessons they learnt through the tough times. Self-compassion is about reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you have. It is about honouring where you are at right now. Then go back to basics, write down the simplest next action you can take to make progress on your situation and then go and do that. Micro wins are the antidote to inaction, not comparison.

Ask for help

“One of the biggest defects in life is the inability to ask for help”- Robert Kiyosaki

When you feel yourself moving into a negative space and you forget everything you have just read… reach out for help. Drop the belief that asking for help or being vulnerable is weakness. The more real you can be with someone, the more they connect to you because you are prepared to drop the illusion of being perfect. Asking for help is an act of kindness to yourself. It doesn’t have to be something deeply personal, it can be as simple as ‘Hey, I am dealing with a really difficult client or situation, what is your experience in dealing with this?”. I can assure you people in your company or your friends have faced the exact same situation and have been through it. Learn from their experience and even their mistakes, you don’t have to feel that you are alone or your situation is completely unique. The act of requesting a different perspective and chatting through the problem will reveal the solution. Just have the self-compassion to allow yourself to.


“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” – Christopher K. Germer

Self-compassion is the compass to a happier life because you are choosing yourself as the reason to make decisions in your own best interest. When you can extend that olive branch of kindness to yourself, you will feel more energised and full from the inside out. Liz Gilbert has a profound way she practices self-compassion and shares the internal dialogue to begin this journey: ‘I don’t know why they gave me you to take care of. They dropped me into this body, this mind, this family, this culture. They dropped me into this moment in history, they gave me these talents, these mental illnesses, these gifts, these addictions. I don’t know why they gave me you but I accept. I accept the sacred responsibility of taking care of you and I will take really good care of you. I haven’t always, but I will now.”

Here’s to following your compass,

Warm wishes

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