The definition of compassion, according to the Webster Dictionary, is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

We all feel compassion. Whether it’s seeing an elderly person holding a cane who looks in pain as she’s slowly crossing the street, or a homeless person begging for money so he can feed himself, or our own child who comes home from school feeling bad about himself because he was teased that day by the other kids.

The feeling of compassion we experience in these moments flows out effortlessly from our hearts.

Buy why is it that we effortlessly feel compassion and act upon it when it comes to others, yet we lose access to it for our own selves when we need it the most?

Somehow, we’ve come to equate self-compassion with self-pity: being compassionate towards ourselves means we are “feeling sorry for ourselves”, we are “stuck in sadness”, we must be “playing the victim”.

There is the perception that it’s useless and won’t help to move us forward. It’s not helping us to soldier on in the perpetual societal quest to achieve more. There is no time, no space when it comes to giving ourselves a little love, a little understanding, a little empathy. We must remain strong because only the strong survive (as the Jerry Butler song goes).

I’m all for getting back up when you fall down, but we somehow have gotten stuck in the extreme part of that scale when it comes to ourselves.

When we choose to ignore the hurt and disappointment we feel from not having done well, we are actually making ourselves less resilient. Self-compassion is about acceptance, and giving ourselves patience. It helps us rebound from miss-steps much more quickly. It gives us strength. It enables us to fully digest the experience.

This is what we give our friend who is going through a divorce or our child who is feeling bad about himself. Your compassion lifts them up, makes them stronger, and normalizes their experience so that they don’t feel so alone. Compassion is the very thing that helps them process the experience.

And yet, we don’t care for ourselves the same way.

What would change if we did?

Even envisioning this possibility is difficult because we are so practiced at being our harshest critic.

Self-talk the likes of “I’m just not good at what I do”, “I’m a failure”, “if only I’d stayed longer hours at work the last few months, I would have…”, “I’m so mad at myself, now we can’t …”, or “I’m just not as good as …” just pile personal attacks on top of the original disappointment.

How those statements help us move forward, I cannot see. We certainly wouldn’t make them to our kids or our best friend.

So, what’s the alternative?

Perhaps, instead of trying to make meaning out of the disappointing experience, and drawing conclusions from it about who we are and are not, we can simply learn to be with the feelings.

“What am I feeling in this moment”: Sadness, hurt, anger, frustration, suffering?

We best care for ourselves when we make space to be in that moment, and sit there for a while. We listen and ask “What do I need most in this moment?”

We are just with the experience, not looking for answers, or meaning or trying to get anything out of it.

Taking the time to experience these feelings fully from beginning to end.

Soon those feelings pass, and we feel calm again.

We are ready to turn the page, and start fresh. No lingering negative feelings from that experience will continue to pollute our minds, or shake our confidence down the line.

We come out feeling more resilient, more knowledgeable, and more mindful.

We have grown. Maybe we even feel grateful for the experience.

If we can learn to do this, what a gift it would be to pass it on to our own children…

Larry Cazenave is a transformational coach, and the founder & CEO of Empowered Path Coach (https://www.empoweredpathcoach.com). If you are wanting to play a bigger game in your life, and are not sure how to get there, please contact him for support at: info@empoweredpathcoach.com