Why I took a class about compassion

and what I learned

Part 5: Acceptance of who you are

Life coaches will often ask you to list what you like about yourself so you can see your own value. The first time I did this, I listed mostly activities I did well, not qualities or aspects about who I am that made me feel good about myself. I was too “modest” and frankly, I didn’t want to see who I was, only what I achieved. It took me a few weeks to be able to see a fraction of myself and who I was in the world.

I realized that through mediation and by accepting that your mind will wander, then you can learn how to accept yourself as you are right now. That is where self-compassion truly starts, and again, it’s not an intellectual exercise. Self-compassion goes well beyond being your own best friend or feeling that you have value and are enough. You switch your belief system from valuing your actions and what you do to seeing your value in being who you are. I have known this intellectually for decades, but when you feel it is different.


This is why I find the most powerful meditation as being the tonglen meditation. In it, you learn how to sit with someone’s suffering. But what this means for you is that just by being unapologetically, authentically yourself, just sitting next to someone breathing can help them feel compassion and joy. The air you exhale is your compassionate offering to others.

We are so often taught that when we exhale that we are removing the bad, the ick, the dangerous CO2 from our bodies. But in this case, we are sharing what is good about us. This shift in thinking can change how we see ourselves as having something good to offer the world rather than believing that when we exhale, we are releasing the bad parts of ourselves. In a way, we are purifying what’s not great in the world to make it a better place.

When doing this meditation you learn that there is no need to fix yourself, no need to be right or conform. Just be you. Sure, we may hire coaches to tell us this, but knowing what it feels like to be you can be profoundly life-changing.

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