Once you have accepted your life and its boundaries as they are (not as you wish them to be), you work on being accountable to uphold them. Doing this makes it easier to hold others accountable to observe your boundaries.
It may sound like this is some ideal that the elite use to feel better. But these compassion meditations originate from the Buddhist tradition in Tibet. The Tibetans were forced to flee from their homes and have been refugees for decades. They still use these practices to encourage happiness and joy.
What I learned and value from this experience is how self-compassion becomes more than a self-improvement tool but an approach to social change and advocacy. We all hear how change starts with us. But in compassion training, you learn how to feel that it does start with how you feel about yourself.
Many societies are structured around beliefs that suppress individuals from being themselves based on their natural state and being. Many may not even like themselves in such societies due to sexism, racism, ageism, and other types of -isms. And some societies are structured so that altruism and helping others aren’t part of daily life; it is an afterthought. However, by changing how you see yourself in relation to others you can make social change. If you accept who you are right now and know that you are okay and don’t need to fix yourself, you will compare yourself to others less often and start to feel that you belong in the world. And if you don’t feel that you belong to a group, then at least you feel that you belong to you. You loving yourself gives you everything you need. It sounds corny, but when I first felt that love and acceptance for myself, I felt a contentment that I didn’t know was possible.
During meditations for compassion, we wish others happiness and to be free from suffering. However, I realized doing this meditation that what people perceive to be happiness is based on who they are as a person. And this is a type of boundary as well. You may be striving for and are accountable to yourself for that definition of happiness. That means that if your view of what makes you happy isn’t right for you, you may be silently suffering. But until you accept that how you define happiness is not right for you, you won’t see it that way – suffering to you may be a form of happiness. Knowing who you are and what you want in life will help you realize what calls you to be happy, and this defines that boundary for you. If you start life with no boundaries or boundaries that you didn’t make on your own, then you’ll have a challenging life. I originally followed my parent’s life rules and those of Catholicism. They weren’t for me, but I didn’t realize this until later in life. I had to spend a long time figuring that out and after the compassion course, I realized who I was, which rules were right, and where I needed to make new ones. I realized that if you observe your personal boundaries based on love and self-compassion to allow you to thrive as a person, you could have an easy life. If you test your boundaries, you may have an adventurous life. If you break your boundaries, have no boundaries, or don’t accept who you are or your humanity, you will most likely have a painful life.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you were told all along in life to be a lawyer by your parents. Law or debate wasn’t your passion, but you accepted your destiny as you were told. You may believe that being a lawyer will make your life happy. But that’s not your dream – it’s your parent’s dream and their passion for you. You may have a challenging life as a lawyer because you accepted a view of yourself and defined life happiness that wasn’t accurate for you. You may have built boundaries around that perspective that always felt wrong. After some reflection, you may realize that you were meant to be an artist and create beauty in the world. Once you start doing that, you notice the change. You make beautiful things and feel radiant and happy.
My passion has always been helping people use technology better and clearly communicate with each other better. I didn’t know that I would be in the field I was in when I was in high school. There was no profession for the web at that time; it barely existed. I didn’t enter the programming world because I was a horrible programmer. I tried to get into architecture school, but that didn’t work out due to timing and I wasn’t an artist or designer anyway. I was a decent writer and enjoyed the humanities while at engineering school. I was a master at creating event flyers, selling ad space in playbooks, and getting people together for parties. Since that combination of skills didn’t make much sense for me to stay in engineering school, I transferred to a liberal arts college to complete my studies. But something was missing from that experience too. I spent my Friday afternoons watching futuristic arthouse movies that connected technology with the meaning of life and hung out in galleries and coffeehouses, often debating the impact of technology on the world with random strangers. It wasn’t until I was 23 that I got to work on a website. My life was never the same and I haven’t left the field. I enjoy the combination of communication, art, technology, and human interaction. It makes me happy.
If your happiness radiates from within, then your happiness comes from an honest and authentic place, expressing your truth. That’s authenticity. And by holding yourself accountable to be authentic, you become more trustworthy. Self-compassion allows you to experience this level of authenticity through accountability, so you can be your real self and lose the facades of the lies. They no longer make sense. I have found that lies originate from shame, fear, or judgment, and if you don’t feel those things about yourself, you will have no need to use them. This goes beyond vulnerability. You become comfortable being authentically you, experiencing you, and feeling the emotions you feel.