“There comes a time in the spiritual journey when you start making choices from a very different place. And if a choice lines up so that it supports truth, health, happiness, wisdom and love, it’s the right choice.”
—Angeles Arrien (1940-2015)
When I read this quote, I thought this is what compassion for the self looks like. Everything I have learned from my research and interviews with parents, doctors, teachers, and policy makers about healing from childhood obesity comes back to compassion for the self and for your child. Without that, the world is a lonely place where you and your child feel vulnerable and abandoned. Learning to have compassion for yourself first will help you better understand what your child needs from you.
Compassion for yourself is about respecting, accepting, and choosing joy for you and your child. Compassion for yourself and your child is easier to act on when we understand what it is not.
What compassion is not:
- Compassion is not about white lies and hiding the truth. When we conceal the truth from ourselves and from the people we interact with it prevents us from being fully present and living without fear.
- Compassion is not conditional. When we put conditions on whether or not we love ourselves or our child it prevents us from engaging in love and joy. Conditional love sounds like this. “I will be happy when I lose 20 pounds or when my child is thinner.” “If only my child could get past this abuse, we would all be happier.” If you are waiting for happiness to come to you and your child, you’re putting conditions on your own and your child’s joy.
- Compassion for your self is not self-pity. We all know people who are like the Eyesore character in the Winnie the Pooh stories. An Eyeore tends to think in absolutes—either it is good or it is bad. People who feel sorry for themselves don’t see that shades of gray between good and bad are opportunities to change their environment or behavior. Compassion for yourself and your child is about having the confidence to accept yourself in every way every day, and seek ways to change the environment or the behavior to make yourself and your child more comfortable.
- Compassion for yourself is not over-giving. Looking at one’s behavior or thoughts with compassion is to accept that we are human and we make mistakes and we are not perfect. Being honest and introspective can help you understand when you should say no to things that are not aligned with your commitment to finding balance and joy in your life.
When we spend our lives waiting until we are the perfect size, the perfect weight, and fit into the perfect dress or jeans before we will be happy, or feel joy, we are sacrificing our ability to live to our true potential and to share our gift of love and friendship in the world. We lose our opportunity to participate fully in a meaningful way, which is unique for each of us.
Although we may know on an intellectual level that no one is perfect and that there is always someone smarter, thinner, stronger, or more beautiful, we still let this idea of the perfect weight or the some ideal we have of the shape we should be diminish our compassion for ourselves and our children. Because of the weight of our flesh we can feel less than others, and perceive our children as having something wrong with them, something to be fixed. Rather than sitting on the sidelines feeling imperfect, wishing to disappear because of our size we must see ourselves and our child from a distance – from a place where love and compassion sees only your heart, your intention, your own vulnerability. It is from this slight remove that you can begin to feel compassion and worthiness; to let yourself be seen as the best self you are on this day, at this time, for this purpose.