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How We Define Compassion

Mali recently wrote a wonderful post about the importance of nurturing yourself that contained this nugget of wisdom: “I simply realised that, in the interests of fairness, I was just as worthy of my consideration as anyone else.”

I definitely think that we accept flaws in others that we would never accept in ourselves and that we hold other people’s opinions more important than our own.  But afterwards I kept thinking about whether you can really consider yourself a compassionate person if you don’t practice compassion for yourself?  If you are not included in the equation, or if you don’t give yourself an equal amount of compassion as other people.

I mean, if someone admitted they were a compassionate person except towards blue-eyed people, I don’t think we’d nod and say, “Oh, that’s completely okay.  We still think you’re a wonderful, caring human being.”  We’d think, “Holy fuck, why does this person hold such messed up views towards blue-eyed people?”

So replace “blue-eyed” with “you,” and ask yourself the same question: are you a compassionate, caring person if you do not show care towards yourself?

Of course it calls into question all sorts of questions, such as where does care for one person begin and care of another person end, since human beings often have conflicting needs when it comes to their care.  And it certainly blows the narrative of the martyr out of the water, since someone who sacrifices themselves for the sake of others isn’t really caring for the whole since they are part of the whole.

Which calls into question the whole Superwoman discussion, and the concept of not only having it all, but doing it all in the most Pinteresting way possible.


It certainly gave food for thought, especially in a season where we’re constantly encouraged to do more and give more to remember that we fit into the equation, too.  That our happiness is valid, and our needs equally important.

Your thoughts?


1 Rachel { 12.02.15 at 8:44 am }

Huh. What a thought provoking post!

2 Noemi { 12.02.15 at 9:48 am }

I have still not figured this out, and I think it’s especially hard for women because we are taught, with subtle and overt messages, to give of ourselves, to put others’ needs before ours. I don’t think men receive those same messages and they have an easier time meeting their own needs because they don’t equate their own self worth with how well they care for others. I just wrote about this yesterday, actually, and I really do think that it’s a big challenge for women because of how we are raised and the expectations put on us by society. I don’t know what the answers are. If I did I’d be a happier person.

3 Sharon { 12.02.15 at 11:25 am }

Hmm. I see compassion and the acceptance of flaws as something different and separate from self-care. Like most people, I can be my own worst critic at times, but generally I am aware of, and accepting of, my flaws as I would be those of a close friend.

However, when it comes to self-care — things like taking the time to eat healthfully or to exercise, or to have time to myself — I find that those things often take a back burner to family and work. I don’t feel it is through any lack of compassion for myself, but rather that my children and my job demand a lot of me in terms of time and energy, leaving little time left for things that are wholly self-focused.

4 Julie Aguas { 12.02.15 at 12:14 pm }

Thought-provoking post. I love the blue-eyed people analogy.

5 loribeth { 12.02.15 at 5:28 pm }

As I said to Mali on her post, I am so guilty of doing this… minimizing/downplaying my own needs & wants in deference to others — although I think I am a little bit better these days at saying “no” and sticking up for myself. Sometimes I think it’s one of the advantages of getting older, lol — you become less & less worried about what others think. 😉

6 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.02.15 at 9:29 pm }

I’m thinking of that rescuer’s creed, similar to what they tell you during the pre-flight safety announcement. I heard it something like: #1 is yourself. #2 is your partner. #3 is the victim. Meaning that it can be selfless to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. In that order.

7 deathstar { 12.04.15 at 2:30 am }

Buddhists talk a lot of about having compassion for people but also about having compassion for one self. Cause on the days I think I’m working on having compassion for others, I still slander myself but my own negative self talk and that’s a big no no. I find self care at odds with the demands of my everyday life and the expectations of others.

8 Middle Girl { 12.04.15 at 7:57 am }

Thoughts well worth thinking throughout this day.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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