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Now, let’s talk about the difference between empathy, sympathy, and compassion, along with the 6 keys to being compassionate to yourself.
You have probably heard it said that you can’t be compassionate or loving to someone else unless you are compassionate and loving to yourself.
You’ve probably heard people say, ‘Hey, you don’t know what it means to be compassionate until you have been compassionate to yourself.’
That is not accurate at all.
You probably know someone (perhaps it is you) who is kind, patient, loving, forgiving and compassionate to other people but not to herself.
You probably know someone who does everything for everybody else but does not take care of herself.
You might even know someone who is there for everyone else (helping, giving, listening, comforting) but fails to allow others to give the same to him/her.
Yes. It is possible to be kind and compassionate and loving to someone else even when you don’t do it to yourself, or when you don’t allow others to do it to you.
However, when you do choose to be kind compassionate and loving towards yourself, you gain an extraordinarily different perspective and experience of compassion.
Think of it as the difference between handing someone a drink and taking the drink yourself.
When you drink from the cup of compassion then you begin to appreciate and experience the power of the compassion you have been expressing towards others.
Distinguishing Between Sympathy, Empathy, And Compassion
Generally, we tend to interchange the words sympathy, empathy, and compassion even though they have vastly different meanings.
When someone experiences a loss, we often look for a ‘sympathy card’ to buy for them, “I would like express my deepest sympathies for your loss.”
I teach that sympathy is an expression of regret for someone’s loss and pain.
Think of it as the perspective of looking down upon someone and having a sense of pity for their painful experience or loss.
Other than the card itself or perhaps some spoken words, sympathy doesn’t involve a lot of action.
Empathy can be viewed as the intellectual understanding that someone else is experiencing pain. “I know it must be awful and it really sucks to have lost all that money in that investment.”
The emotional understanding of empathy is when you feel the other person’s pain: “I feel your pain, my friend; a few years ago, I had to file bankruptcy, and I felt worthless and like a loser for such a long time.”
As with sympathy, empathy might involve some words, but it doesn’t necessarily involve any real action.
Think of empathy as being at the same level as someone because you have an intellectual understanding or perhaps an emotional understanding of that person’s pain.
Compassion, though, is quite different to empathy and sympathy.
With compassion, you feel the other person’s pain, and you want to and do take action to help relieve or ease their pain.
As with sympathy, you regret their pain; as with empathy you intellectually understand their pain (to the best of your abilities), you feel their pain; and now, though, you make a choice to help relieve their pain.
Compassion Involves Taking Action
Think of compassion as the perspective that you are down on the ground with that person hurting and suffering, and you are doing what you can to lift them up from the suffering.
Thus, with sympathy you’re looking down, with empathy you are looking across, and with compassion you go down deep to feel and be with their pain, but you are doing all you can to help lift them up and free them from their pain.
“I feel your pain, my friend; a few years ago, I had to file bankruptcy, and I felt worthless and like a loser for such a long time. What can I do to help; paperwork, packing boxes, making some phone calls, filing documents? What can I do? I am here for you.” Perhaps all you can do is listen and be accepting without attacking or reminding them of the reasons they failed. Perhaps, you might just sit there, right next to them and allow them to feel the pain without trying to shut it down or convince them that they should feel nothing at all. Perhaps, you might just say as you put your arms around them, “I am sorry you are hurting. I am sorry this happened.”
6 Keys To Being Compassionate To Yourself
So, what does it mean then to be compassionate to yourself? The obvious answer is to treat yourself the way that you treat others when you are being compassionate towards them.
In terms of action, being compassionate to yourself involves imagining the way you would respond to a friend if he/she were in your situation.
1. Articulate your emotions
Describe and label or write down what you are feeling (angry, sad, stupid, worthless, disappointed, helpless, etc.)
2. Accept and allow yourself to feel those emotions
Do not say, “I should not be feeling that way.” If you deny, judge or resist those emotions, you will simply feel worse. “It’s okay that I feel sad.” Approach your emotions with curiosity, openness, and non-judgement.
3. Encourage yourself
Use the same words you would say to someone else in your position: “It’s okay to make mistakes. We are all imperfect. You are not the mistake. You can learn and grow from this experience/mistake. You will be okay.” Yes, use the word “you” when speaking to yourself; it is a form of coaching yourself. Remind yourself of the times and situations in your life when you overcame obstacles. Remember that self-criticism and comparison with others do not lead to motivation or inspiration. There is a difference between self-esteem and self-compassion; self-esteem involves constantly comparing yourself to others.
4. Ask for help
Allow others to comfort you, to listen, encourage, and support you.
5. Take care of yourself
Exercise, sleep, rest and eat healthy. Don’t ignore your body if you need to rest. Be nurturing to yourself.
6. Focus on a solution
Where possible, take action to remedy the situation and to recreate something new. When you make a plan, and take positive action, you generate hope, optimism and resiliency.
Finally, remember that when you choose to be compassionate to yourself, you are shifting the value you give to yourself; you view yourself as worthy instead of worthless or insignificant.
If you or a friend need help to reclaim your power, and to be set free from the past, from the pain, abuse, hurts or disappointments, do what so many others have done: Resolve it rapidly and be set free of the pain by experiencing my SRTT process. Book a one-on-one session with me.
You can add to the conversation below.
I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.