This week I have a drink to go along with my post as I want you to raise a toast to yourself and extend compassion for whatever you are going through at this moment. This drink is my all time favorite because it warms my soul and gives me comfort:
Rum Punch – Alyssa’s style
2oz of rum (Appleton Estate is my favorite)
1oz of grenadine
Pineapple or POG juice (note: image shows pineapple juice)
Mix all together and enjoy!
Compassion, by definition means “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings of misfortunes of others.” This term embodies the essence of altruistic actions. When a child gets hurt or your best friend’s heart is broken by the love of her life, we tend to go out of our way to help to eliminate or alleviate their suffering. This action is effortless when it comes to helping others – or at least I hope so. We learn at a young age to help those in need and to extend compassion where it is needed. But let me ask you, how effortless does it feel to give yourself compassion? I don’t know about you, but giving myself compassion is uncomfortable, it seems unnatural, and is hard, especially when growing up in a culture that encourages self-critical thinking.
This week I caught myself more than once beating myself up with critical thoughts about my body, my relationship status, my efforts as a student, my writing, and my breakup. Y’all I got mad at myself because I am having a hard time moving on from my heart-break, telling myself it has been a month and I should be over it – well, I hate to break it to you I still grieve over our relationship and him – I even told myself to “buck up buttercup” I bet he is not grieving like me. To be fair, I don’t know if that is true.
I think we have a hard time giving ourselves compassion because we don’t want to admit we failed, or we don’t meet the “status quo” whatever that may be. Who even comes up with the “status quo”? Is it some robotic generated machine that each year on groundhog’s day someone presses and tells what needs to come into fashion again? If you ask me obtaining the “status quo” is like threading a needle blind, you feel where the thread needs to go into, but just can’t seem to make it work.
I recall when I worked in the restaurant industry that perfection was expected. Your uniform had to stain free, station had to be clean, when baking you had to be precise to prevent food waste, and when decorating it had to be flawless. What made it worse was at some of the places I worked at, the kitchen had windows for everyone and their cat to watch the chefs at work. You had to be perfect, no ifs, ands, or buts.
I remember making caramel one time, and during the point where I had to incorporate the other ingredients into the sugar mixture, I had a moment of panic. As I was incorporating the additional ingredients during a critical point in the process that would either make or break my caramel, some of the melted sugar splashed onto my hand burning into my skin. I knew I could not mess this caramel up as I would be wasting food, money, and time. So, what did I do? I continued making caramel while my skin was being burned away – I did not cry, I did not flinch, I just allowed molted sugar to sit on my hand devouring my flesh. As 10 years have passed from that moment, I still see the discoloration on my hand from where the sugar once laid. Once again, I had told myself to buck up buttercup, I don’t care if you hurt, you push through the pain.
We as humans want to live our best life, we strive for the best, to be the best, and to have the best. And there is nothing wrong with wanting and being the best versions of ourselves – see how I changed that? Instead of being the best, it is being the best version of ourselves. I suffered through the pain of hot sugar because I could not mess up, I could not fail, I could not extend compassion to myself for hurting – I had to buck up butter cup. The caramel meant more than my life – I hate to admit that. I was trying to be “the best”, but I was not being “the best version of myself” which would have been letting the caramel burn and me taking care of my injury.
Another example can be my grief with my past relationship – I could say buck up and move on, reflecting on songs like Ariana Grande “Thank you, Next” meaning we are just supposed to move onto the next guy. But it is hard, and right now I don’t want too because (at least for me) this person was a part of my life, I put my entire mind, body, and soul into the relationship and loved hard. Extending compassion to myself shows me my grief represents my love. He was important, I cared about him. I want to honor the relationship and all that it taught me, I don’t want to treat it like a lamp where I can just turn it off and on, this was real life – messy and filled with emotions. These experiences are teaching me that I need to have compassion for myself because I am learning, I am growing, I am processing, I am grieving, I am human. I am becoming a better version of me, because of the compassion I extend to myself.
Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014), was a well-respected American poet, author, dancer, singer, and civil rights activist. Her work focused on themes of identity (she was known to write about her childhood), racism, family, and travel. Angelou experienced hardship and pain, including rape, sexual assault, and witness to murder. In the mid-1950s, Angelou performed Calypso in clubs, off-Broadway productions, and released her first album, Miss Calypso (1957) (Biography.com, 2018). She fought against oppression and systemic racism along side Malcolm X in 1964. Dr. Maya Angelou was a brilliant woman with wisdom beyond her years. In fact, her wisdom oozes with compassion – lets look at a few of my favorite:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better do better”
“If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be”
These three quotes feed into self-compassion. Let me explain. Let us take the first quote, how many times have you said to yourself “why am I so harsh to myself”? As mentioned, we grow up in a culture of self-abuse and self-criticism. Change can be hard and painful – growth and comfort can’t exist together. But while you are changing and growing, you can make a change to be more compassionate to yourself – a friend once told me would you speak the way you do to yourself to a friend who might be going through the same situation – NO! So why would you speak that way to yourself – this hit me hard. So, I began to change how I talk to myself. Now I have failed many times at this, but like Dr. Angelou’s second quote, do your best until you know better – well, I apply that to compassion – I do my best and I continue to learn and grow, when I fail I learn, making me know better. I begin to rewrite how I think about myself by extending compassion during this time of learning/healing. And lastly, trying to be normal. As mentioned in the beginning, what is the status quo? No one knows, so why try to measure up to something that no one knows who created it? It is extending compassion for radical self-love and acceptance for who you are.
Reflecting on all of this, I know I am not perfect and striving for perfection is different than striving for being a better version of you. When you switch to focusing on being a better version of you, you give compassion and grace to the imperfections that we as humans have. It is those mistakes that we learn and grow, but we can’t give ourselves space to grow from those lessons if we continually beat ourselves up. Because sooner or later we are going to get tired of the constant beat-downs we give ourselves and just eventually give up – I’ve been there. So, to end this blog, I have a few suggestions to help you along your journey with giving yourself compassion:
- Meditate – meditating allows you to give yourself time and space to sit with yourself and express love over your mind, body, and soul. There are many different ways of meditation, I personally like to lie down and listen to music, you have to find one that fits you.
- Re-framing – this can be done for many things, but I am using it to help retrain my mind. How it works is your write down your original thought, for example this is something I said to myself earlier in the week – “I am pathetic because I keep crying over my ex, its been four weeks I should not longer allow it to affect me, he no longer wants me I need to move on” – I took those harsh words and re-framed it, now it looks like this– “It is ok to cry, crying shows me how much I cared about him, how much he meant to me, how much the relationship meant to me, my grief is honoring the relationship and the love we had for each other, I don’t have a timeline on healing because I am Alyssa, I process at my own pace”. Now you might not agree with your new thought (I know I did not), but it is showing compassion to myself, acknowledge how hurt I am, and understanding that I process differently than others.
- Honoring yourself – what do I mean by this? Well, it will be different for each person, but honoring yourself might look like self-care, setting boundaries, reading your favorite book, giving yourself space to do something you like – honoring you, not what other expect you to be or what you expect to be. For example, I love flowers, so much so I became a florist after I dropped out of college the first time. I use to feel guilty getting myself flowers because I thought I was wasting money, or that someone else should gift them to me. Now, changed my thoughts and I buy myself flowers every week to honor myself.
I know this week’s post is longer than I typically write, but as I am struggling with self-compassion, I figured others might be as well. We have to change the culture of perfection, or comparing one’s success over another, or trying to measure up to the status quo, because reality is this is YOUR life, not your moms, not your friends, not anyone else’s but yours. You have to live with yourself every day, everyone else gets to walk in and out, so why not create a life where you can allow yourself to be unapologetically you and remove the self-criticism that we tend to tell ourselves daily, you don’t have to buck up buttercup if you don’t want too, because right now in this moment you are enough and what you are going through is growth – so show yourself some damn compassion!
For now, my warriors – be loved, be kind, and know you are loved!
Until next time…
-Alyssa, the salt woman