In the personal growth world, we talk a lot about the importance of self-esteem, emphasizing that it,s healthy to have a positive self-image and learn to value ourselves as we are, as a way to take care of our energy and mood and to encourage self-support, to cope better with the challenges of life. No one disputes its relevance.
However there is another concept, which use is equally favorable and even more beneficial, we do not value enough, and even ignore and feel it like second division feeling, because of prejudices and negative sensations about it .. It,s compassion. Writing this article I have discovered that even the dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (www.rae.es), which reflects the thinking of our culture, devalues it, defining it with only one meaning: Feelings of sympathy and pity you have to those suffering hardship or misfortune. Which means that we associate compassion with feelings of weakness, sentimentality and disgrace.
Before this my great surprise and disappointment, not only because it is put in negative terms a feeling that has to do with sensitivity, solidarity, fraternity, let us be touched by what happens to the other or ourselves without judgment, and therefore responsiveness, openness and empathy with vulnerability, so necessary for our relationships ( word defined by the RAE as moan, lament and thing that causes disgust, in several of its meanings) . The world of psychology and neuroscience, especially in the field of mindfulness, has devoted in recent years many efforts to study and communicate the benefits and radical importance of this quality. Recent studies have shown the welfare that compassion provides to our brain, being an element that maximizes our health, our happiness and well-being, and help us in reducing depression and as a motivator.
To live in full awareness or mindfulness, is composed of three elements: intention, attention and attitude. To live a healthy life and have to consciously decide what is first priority for us, what we pay attention to, this being first ourselves and our inner experience, what is happening to us in our lives. After doing this, we cultivate attention to this, and finally, in the process, we cultivate the attitude of compassion, attitude that is accompanied by curiosity and acceptance. Acceptance means that I open myself to what I am feeling or experiencing at this moment without judgment, that I am able to sustain that of which I realize with compassion and consciousness rather than self judgment and resistance. With compassionate consciousness.
The reason for doing so is that there is a motivation that comes from the absence of criticism and self-questioning, and this is where compassion comes into play, as an internal source of self-support. According to studies, the only way through awkward situations without reinforcing old patterns of addiction or anxiety or pain is to do with this friendly attitude of mindfulness. This creates a space within ourselves open to feel the vulnerability and tenderness, capable of receiving moment by moment all that is going on and, instead of addressing the problem with the old repetitive thoughts that reinforce the negative self-concept: ‘ you’ve let me down, you’re a failure, you’re a mess, etc. .. ‘, what makes the benevolent attitude a generating force of confidence and trust, like that of a loving and compassionate father.
Another virtue of compassion is that, when compared to self-esteem, while the latter depends on emphasizing the positive qualities we already possess, to look at the ‘successful’ side of the person, which encourages social comparison and competitiveness, which in turn brings us back stress, anxiety and the need to meet expectations, whether foreign or own. Compassion, however, does not require any compensation in exchange. It is unconditional kindness. A stable and secure support in which to sustain ourselves internally under any circumstances.
If when you fail you do not say, ‘I hate you’ but ‘I accept you anyway’, this is a motivational force. Because it focuses and takes compassion to relieve suffering. Simply commit to attitudes and thoughts that do not hurt but help you, from that place of vulnerability, tenderness and internal spaciousness, promotes the welfare, safety and trust, and is a peacemaker. Nothing more necessary when we are going through difficult times.
So self-pity becomes that internal patient and loving father that tells us when we need it: hey, I accept you, I love you anyway, how can I help, encourage and support you?
By Belén Giner
Sources: Kristin Neff and Kelly Mc Gonigal, researchers Mindfulness and Compassion