Step 3 really was an interestingly challenging step. At first glance the title of this step, "Compassion for Yourself," sounded like a touchy-feely "you can't love others if you can't love yourself; when was the last time you had a manicure?" sort of things. Of course, I know this book, so I knew better.
Compassion for yourself is not the same as unconditional love for yourself, in the same way that Compassion for all people isn't the same as unconditional love for all people. You can have Compassion for someone while still holding them accountable for their actions. Having Compassion for yourself does not excuse your flaws. It does, however, start with love.
The first part of this step was to list out or ruminate on all the positive things about yourself. Sounds like fun! Erg, turned out to be a bit of a chore. Turns out that, even inside my own head, there are certain things I feel guilty about giving myself credit for or being positive about. I actually found myself making caveats inside my head, sort of like this:
Hmmmm.... my good traits.... Well, I'm very fit. I work out a lot and really love the way my body looks. Not that my body is perfect - or any better than anyone else's. I mean, I obviously have flaws. My top abdominal muscles are a lot more defined than the lower ones, and some people don't even like defined abs. But I like the way my body looks, which is really the point. But it's ok if other people look different. Lots of people with much different bodies than me have very beautiful bodies ....
And on it would go. Ridiculous. It's one thing if I come out on my blog and say "I love the way my body looks!" I might, in that case, want to point out that just because I love my body doesn't mean I in anyway dislike other bodies. Actually, the fact that I find most human bodies beautiful in some way is part of my problem here, ha. But I shouldn't be going back and forth in my head. Part of my learning process with this step was being able to internally compliment myself and just stop there and take joy in it.
I would also like to say that my physical traits were not the first traits I found myself thinking about, but the ridiculousness that occured inside my head when I tried to compliment myself on more important or deeper traits resulted in ridiculousness I couldn't even begin to capture here.
But I recognized the issue, the harsh judgement I was using on myself, the wierd societal effects that had seeped into my brain, programming me to believe that 1) I should feel guilty for complimenting myself because that meant I was concieted and 2.) I should not compliment myself because that amounted to insulting others who are different. Both of these are soundly untrue. If I tell a co-worker she is really eloquent, that doesn't mean no one else in my office is. If I tell myself I'm smart, that is not the same as saying I'm smarter than anyone else.
Being concieted means (to me), complimenting yourself too much, for traits you don't have; valuing traits you do have too highly; discounting your own flaws; and, most importantly, believing that your positive qualities are the best, better than others, and entitle you to certain things. Acknowledging the postitive about myself does none of those things. So, here it is, in short, a few of the good things about myself:
(I wasn't going to do this because I still find it really embarassing, even though I have occasionally complimented myself on this blog before)
- I am rather intelligent.
- I learn things quickly.
- I am kind and understanding, and am becoming more so.
- I am a loyal and caring friend.
- I am a devoted wife and mother.
- I am hard-working.
- I perservere.
- I deal with major stressors well and typically remain calm under pressure.
- I try to make the world a better place, if even on a small scale.
- I have a certain degree of courage.
- I am fit.
- I try to live ethically and morally.
- I'm good at a whole bunch of stuff.
Like I said, though, this step isn't just a whole bunch of hugging yourself in the mirror stuff. Compassion isn't just about recognizing good qualities, but also about accepting people's faults. And your own.
The practice of looking over your own faults is a little different than that of looking at your positive traits. The author warns at this stage that one should not become mired in self-pity or disapproval. The point of this excersize is not bring yourself down. It is to recognize that you are human. You have flaws just like anyone else. Your flaws to not make you better or worse than anyone else. If you can look at your own flaws and see them clearly, two things happen. First, you recognize that you are not better than other people; you see your own humanity. Second, you become better able to accept the flaws of others, even if they are different flaws then your own. Different people have different strengths and different flaws. The goal is to accept all of these without judgement.
I have lots of flaws. In a way, recognizing my own flaws was easier than recognizing my positive traits. There was no guilt. Well, maybe guilt about the flaws themselves, but with every flaw there is the possibility of remedy or improvement. I think the bigger changes for me with this step were in working toward accepting the flaws and moving on. Leaving it at that. I might improve upon my flaws, but I won't linger on them, and I must not linger on the flaws of others.
You want a list of my flaws? After all, I gave you a list of my positive traits. Well, I'm not going to lay it out quite the same way. You see, just because I recognize my flaws, doesn't mean I have to waive them around the internet. Plus, as sad as it is to say, I suspect that there are a couple people reading who might take more pleasure in reading my flaws than I'm comfortable with.
I wil say this, my flaws are many and myriad. I struggle with a lot of failings. I procrastinate badly. I still catch myself being judgemental from time to time. I speak without thinking. I am a crap housekeeper. I thrive amidst clutter. These are the easiest and most concise ones to list.
Lastly, (and I'm running out of time to post today), this chapter touched on our Western perogative to be positive about things. The drive to, as the author puts it, "think positively, brace up, stiffen our upper lip, and look determinedly on the bright side of life." Sometimes, this is a good thing. Sometimes, it helps people push on. But it also sometimes amounts to a denial of our humanity and emotions. Maybe someone wants to share their grief. Sympathy can be a very helpful and soothing reaction to offer someone. Sometimes people are hurt more or feel like their pain is being discounted by the persistant positivity.
This is a big topic that I could go into more, but it also comes into play in Step 4, so I'll try to remember to touch on it there.
Overall, this looking at myself, and the daily meditation excersize the book assigns with it has been a big eye opener, as have all the steps. I can feel the changes taking place, and I am grateful. Another way of looking at myself.