Give Yourself the Gift of Compassion

I’m not perfect. Quite the opposite, my life is a shining pillar– or more accurately– a toppling pile of imperfections. So this is not intended to be a sanctimonious, out-of-touch-with-the-real-world tale of how to juggle the demands of the holiday season while never breaking a sweat or breaking down. I have no idea how to do that.

But I find, as I move my way through the short days and long nights, that I can forget my own commitment to imperfection. Forget my commitment to what I’ve become over the years, the ways in which I’ve come to appreciate myself through hard-won lessons and growth.

The desire to celebrate the people I love, honor the traditions I was raised within, keep pace with the real and virtual friends— the pressure to not just do it all, but do it according to expectations– at best feels like sandpaper rubbing up against the life I’ve created for myself, a life that centers on my soul’s calling.

At worst, the beast of perfectionism reappears and I try to be all the things. Which is a natural disaster waiting to happen, a tsunami of overwhelm, anxiety, exhaustion, sadness. I forget to treat myself with compassion.

Compassion is a powerful and beautiful gift that comes with deep connection to all beings— feeling the pain of others and desiring to ease their pain with love and kindness. It’s an act of generosity for others, that’s especially potent this time of year.

I invite you to join me in giving ourselves a Gift of Compassion, an offering of love, kindness, generosity. A deep inhale & exhale at a time of year when it feels like we’re either holding our breath or laying flat on the ground panting, inches from the marathon finish line.

First, start by embracing your imperfections. Inventory them. Remind yourself of how awesome you are, how magical your imperfections make you. Even (especially) if these imperfections may not match with the expectations of family, friends, society. For me, I have deep, introverted social anxiety… which means I’m supremely qualified to host events filled with humans who aren’t sure if they want to be noticed (spoiler alert: they usually do). Give yourself permission to be a perfectly imperfect, flawed human being who is striving to make a deep and meaningful connection with the people and causes you care about.

Surround yourself with your chosen family, the people who love and support you. How much energy is consumed by a parade of family gatherings where you have to squeeze into the uncomfortable stories of who you used to be?  Or the social events where you know one person, or can’t relate to those who are there?

A close friend hosts a white elephant party every January– I love her dearly and despised the aggressive vibe of the party itself. I was always itching to leave. Several years ago, I finally confessed my aversion to the party. The friend was initially taken aback, but now we opt for quiet “girl time” one-on-one or with other friends who cherish each others’ imperfections.

Feel like you’ve not found your “people” yet, the ones who soothe your soul and make you feel like you belong? Consider online or in-person communities of folk on similar paths to yours. Or contact me about our Souldust community and we can see whether it feels good to you.

Give yourself permission to opt out. Curate your time like it’s precious resource that it is. Mid-December, a friend came by my house. She looked around and said “so… no tree this year?” Nope, no tree. Or the usual mass of twinkle lights and garlands. I had decided my cozy, welcoming house with its big fireplace and warm kitchen was good enough.

Who says you have to do all the things? Or be all the things? Consider showing yourself compassion by creating space to see how your soul actually wants to be using these quiet winter days. Maybe it’s nourishing yourself with a good book, hike in the woods, or a simple nap. Instead of hurtling towards the next year, try staying in the present.

Bonus round:  Do all of the above for those around you. In my experience, the more compassion I have for myself, the more I have to give. And vice versa. The Dalai Lama says “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Tell someone how you appreciate their magical imperfections. Encourage your friends to opt out if you see them hustling, or find ways to make it easy together.

There are many days when I remind myself to pause, not push so that the beautiful imperfection of the present can reveal itself. I’d love to know what practices you have to keep your day-to-day aligned with your soul’s purpose!