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I selected my word of the year without much thought. An acquaintance on Instagram asked what our word was, and I immediately filled the little text box with the word, “Compassion.”
It’s not that I hadn’t been thinking about the word already, but I hadn’t thought about it in terms of guiding my entire year until I found myself typing it out on my phone in response to an Instagram story.
After hitting send, it seemed like the perfect word for 2022.
The word “compassion” had been on my mind a lot since I writing a goal-setting workbook. In the process of dumping words on the page for that project, I found myself writing the words:
What if we created goals from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing?
And that sentence changed my entire view of the process of creating and working toward goals. We tend to create goals and work toward them from a place of lack, meaning we feel like we need to “fix” something about ourselves or we think we “should” be doing something.
If you look up the word “Compassion” it is often defined as a feeling when confronted with the suffering of others and wanting to relieve that feeling. But I think most people, not researchers, think of it as a feeling of wanting to understand the situation of another and find ways to improve it, if needed and/or possible. (We want to improve the situation, not the person, because the person does not need improving.)
Yet, we try to “improve” ourselves, often without taking the time to fully understand our situation.
We create goals to match these feelings that we need to improve.
It’s no wonder that we have these feelings — that we need to “fix” something about ourselves or we should be doing something if we want [fill in the blank] result — because we are inundated with the message that we are not enough as we are.
Many people, me included, already struggle with feelings of not-enough-ness. We work all year to reframe those narratives that we have internalized from societal and familial expectations, then at the end of the year, we are pummeled with messages that we need to become a “new you” or “a better version of yourself.”
I have long found that a little disturbing because that messaging implies that we are not enough as we are.
And we are enough.
Is compassion the antidote to judgment?
The narrative that we are not enough, stems from comparison and judgment. In their book, Laziness Does Not Exist, Dr. Devon Price says that wild compassion reduces our tendency to judge — ourselves and others. If we show compassion towards someone (or to ourselves), we are trying to understand their situation. If we understand their situation, it is harder to judge.
In my book, Running Through My Thoughts, I talk about learning that it was my judgment of others that kept me from trying new things and putting myself out there. Since I judged others, I knew they were judging me. And the thought of being judged can be immobilizing.
If Dr. Price is correct, and I think they are, compassion will thwart judgment.
Is compassion rebellious?
This idea of showing compassion towards ourselves when creating goals and working toward them is a new way to think about goal setting. And maybe a bit rebellious.
Goals are important to challenge us and to keep us from being stagnant, but the traditional way to approach them doesn’t work for anyone except for corporations and the like. The people who want us to continue believing we need to work too many hours in a week in order to serve them.
Approaching goals from a place of compassion and self-love allow for growth and expansion, pushing us to work towards something with hope instead of dread.
So, I am going to spend this year creating and working toward goals with compassion for myself. And, I want to provide space for others to also explore what goals could look like for them if they show compassion to themselves.