This can change everything for my beloved people pleasers. Yes, that’s you, love. Lets talk about compassion.
Definition of compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it (from merriam-webster)
I disagree with this definition. It has one too many words. “Others” needs to be removed to redefine it as: “Sympathetic consciousness of distress together with a desire to alleviate it“
With this new definition, if you are people pleasing someone else but doing so increases your own distress, then you are not being fully compassionate. Here’s a story showing what I mean.
Mary is married, has three children and a full time job. She has a close friend, Jill, who is going through a divorce and has a child struggling with depression. Jill calls Mary regularly to rant. Mary listens with empathy and provides support, she makes dinner, picks up groceries, and offers to help with transportation for Jill’s child. Jill is a great friend and Mary is treating her with compassion to the T of the definition. Considering the official definition, we don’t even think about Mary in the context of compassion. Mary doesn’t think about herself either and she is starting to resent what she is doing to support her friend. Jill isn’t causing that resentment. It’s Mary’s own people pleasing that is, and that is something completely in Mary’s control.
Mary needs support of her own. While she is helping her friend Jill, she just got a call from her doctor with a very worrying test result. Her own child is struggling in school and she is feeling stress and burnout at work. While Mary is comforting Jill she is holding in her own emotion, not talking about her own worries, and not addressing her own needs for care. She resists and avoids her own distress. She hides her suffering from Jill in an effort to be compassionate.
If Mary was compassionate using the new definition, then she would be showing up and addressing the distress of both herself and Jill. Any request for help would consider both needs. If an exhausted and stressed Mary got the question: “Can you pick up my son from school today. I am so exhausted and can’t cope”. Mary can compassionately reply with “Jill I love you so much but, no, I’m afraid I can’t today. Lets ask John if he can help.” A very compassionate response.
It’s a slight shift – but so powerful. I know you. You are compassionate. Consider this and apply it. Whether you say yes or no, you will feel great about it and not have resentment or guilt. Be compassionate to the fullest of your ability. Show the deepest level of love to everyone who is important to you. Including you..
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Be compassionate my friends,
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