What is compassion?
Compassion is the only universally recognised language with the power to change the world for the better, and it’s something that we can practise from the moment we wake in the morning until we fall asleep at night.
Every single human being on the planet is invited to bring compassion to the forefront of their lives.
Though it’s impossible to be compassionate without showing both kindness and empathy, compassion itself has an impetus behind it that makes it truly unique.
Compassion is seeing the suffering in others and wanting to do something to alleviate it, and it takes courage.
How does it work in the real world?
Imagine you’re walking down the street and you see someone in clear distress.
You stop and ask them if everything is alright. They tell you that they’ve just had their phone stolen.
You may of course immediately feel empathy with this person. You understand why they have become so upset, and you have shown kindness by stopping to ask them if they’re ok.
It is at this point, however, that you have a decision to make. Do you have the desire to assist them?
Offering someone help in this situation takes a degree of bravery, as you have no sense of their circumstances or how their lived experiences will lead them to react. You run the risk of this person shutting down or even becoming angry towards you for interfering.
However, your sense of compassion wins the day and you offer to let them use your phone to call the local police and get on their way to filing a report.
Courage, kindness and empathy all come together to form the compassionate whole.
Who is the first person you need to be compassionate towards?
In a word, yourself.
Compassion is impossible without self-compassion. Being gentle, supportive and understanding towards yourself will allow you to then show those same traits to others.
There are very few of us who have never given ourselves a hard time for failing an exam, for not getting to the interview stage for a job, for snapping at our loved ones or for choosing to turn the phone off rather than risk having someone call for help, or even a chat.
Psychologist Kristin Neff says that self-compassion can be seen as kindness towards the self, and that, ‘Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.’
Having the ability to recognise the difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person is crucial in defining your worth as unconditional.
Once you reach that realisation, it soon follows that loving someone else is impossible without first loving yourself.
Put another way, give yourself a break. If we hold ourselves to impossible standards and never give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, we’ll have great difficulty in doing so for others.
Compassion as a core aspect of I Am Here’s work
Compassion is at the very heart of what we do at I Am Here.
We want to see working environments across the globe where our Clients and their teams not only ‘get by’, but thrive. We can’t do that without doing everything in our power to build compassionate connections within the workplace, in communities and also at home.
Life has been tough for so many of us as we continue to come to terms with, and adapt to, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Home and working life are bumping off each other and causing us to feel stressed, anxious and often depressed. That is why it is so important to exercise compassion and to Show you care, Ask the question and, if it’s needed, Call for help.
How do we cultivate compassion?
Compassion, whether it’s towards ourselves or other people, doesn’t always come naturally. But we can all achieve it.
We can cultivate compassion by first practising self-compassion, and realising that this is the root of our courage and our magnanimity. It then becomes easier to put yourself in the shoes of others and to exercise kindness and empathy on a daily basis.
You will learn how to listen generously. You will understand how to shift perspective on how something affects you, to how it might affect others. You will also recognise how to be fully present in the company of others without regularly checking your phone, multitasking or letting yourself become distracted by the world around you.
Finally, always be aware that tending to your own needs first and foremost is not selfish. Rather, it allows you be a compassionate friend, colleague or family member to others around you and begin to make the world a more compassionate place for everyone.