THE BLOG
02/23/2011 09:06 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Good Are You at Self-Compassion?

What do you envy? Come on, now. Be truthful. Even the Master Teachers have been tempted.

"I wish I had what Oprah has!" Sybil said, in an exasperated tone, as she flounced into the chair, having just returned from her C.P.A.'s office.

"Like what?" I asked.

"Are you kidding? She's got more gold than King Tut. She'll never have to work, for openers, until she's 75, like me. Oprah is loved wherever she goes. She gets wined and dined by kings and queens, celebrities, movers and shakers. She's got dancing partners like John Travolta, for C's sake! An inspiration seizes her, and her team puts it into operation, while she moves on to the next, like her new network, OWN. Then there's her Stedman, who seems like he hangs around, accompanies her whenever she wants, and they don't ever have to deal with divorce, much less marriage. He just hangs in there, without a whimper. Of course, she's got her school, her so-called 'girls.' What kills me is that she's figured out a way to get paid for working out a gig with her best friend, Gayle, while the rest watch and weep. What I'd give to be able to do that!"

"That's quite a list," said I. "Of all that you mentioned, or didn't mention, what is the one experience Oprah seems to have that you envy, and why?"

"She's doing something big in the world, something that helps people. Everything she does seems to turn to gold, so she's never worried about where to get the next buck. That makes philantropy pretty easy. I've always thought how great it would be to be able to help people that aren't looking for a hand-out, but a hand-up, people who take initiative to do better and be better. But, I don't have even a savings account after the past few years, when my hours got reduced at work. Yes, I have a job, and I'm lucky. But I want more than that. I want to leave a mark, so that my kids and their kids will know I was here as more than a drudge."

Copy-Cat Syndrome

Can you relate? Have you ever felt this way, or known someone who has? If we are truthful, who hasn't known the urge? There's a lot of it going around these days on personal and collective levels: the Copy-Cat Syndrome. When things aren't going our way, how easy it is to look in somebody else's direction and wish we had what we believe is in their lap. Maybe we even gather the toys, the props, the duds that they use and wear in order to imitate what they seem to have. Problem is, this leaves our spot empty, like Akiba's.

An Ancient Illustration

There's an old teaching story from the Talmud that goes like this: "When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi that he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses. The poor man began to cry, admitting that he feared God's judgment. At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently, "God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses. God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba."

Sybil will not be judged for not being Oprah. That job opening has already been filled. Sybil's job is to be free to be exactly who she is, as her own Best Self. Sybil's job is to get her rear in gear, to "leave her mark," beginning with giving herself a "hand up" to a better picture of herself, helping others in the way that her heart dictates. The beauty is that none of this is determined by your bank account, but by the gold we see inside.

I've never met Lady O, but from what I've observed, she knows her way around the block. If there were one thing that accounts for Oprah's success, in addition to being in the right place at the right time, it's this: Oprah has discovered the knack of being herself, and knowing who that self is. Whether you love her or have grown weary of her story, Oprah is authentic, having sufficient self-compassion to trust her process and most Essential Self. Let's look at the other factors:

Oprah's Top 10 Secrets that We Need to Know and Practice

  1. Gratitude

  • Clear intention
  • Devotion to what's greater than the self
  • Awareness that we are all connected a part of a bigger whole, and need to be here for one another
  • Courage to step up and take on what is beyond self-limiting belief, helping others up
  • Willingness to ask for help and to receive
  • Humor which includes the tendency to laugh at herself
  • Commitment to friends and community
  • Concern about the planet and its children
  • Trust and use of her God-given Voice
  • Another Way to Look at Self-Compassion

    If you read between the lines of Sybil's wish to be Oprah, it is easy to see that she is looking for a Calling -- a purpose that's bigger than the way she's seen herself. The step she's been missing, like Akiba, is self-compassion. Until she -- and we -- are willing to look in the mirror and like what we see, until we are willing to dance to the music maybe nobody else hears, until we are willing to "get our show on the road" and whole-heartedly enjoy being exactly as we are, we, too, are sunk when it comes to being fully alive. So, where do we start? Self-compassion, my friend.

    Those best at self-compassion self-elect. Even the greats, like Mother Teresa, had to have enough compassion for their "unreasonable" desires to act on them before gaining agreement. In Mother Teresa's case, she started picking up the dying from the streets of Calcutta before she received "permission" from the higher-ups. She took action based on instinct, beginning with compassion for what she felt in her own heart. She did not "lolly-gag." How many times do we notice something that pulls on our heart-strings, but lack sufficient self-care to honor our instinct? It all begins with self-compassion.

    Self-compassion begins with self-election. Only you can choose to "care enough to send the very best" back to the one in the mirror. To do otherwise is to say to Creation, "No, thank you. Unlike the rest of creation, I am an error." If this is you, take note. You are no more a mistake than are the "purple mountain's majesty," the beauty from "sea to shining sea," the twinkling light of the stars at night, the softness of Mother Moon. You are no less glorious than the gentle sunrise over a meadow covered with mist, in the early morning air, no less grand than the mighty forest beyond my back porch, at sunset. You, my friend, are put on notice. You deserve self-compassion more than is imaginable. It's time to self-elect.

    Now it's your turn. Without judgment, reflect on who you admire and why. If you are brave enough to "say it aloud," this will move you in the direction of self-election, the undergarments for self-compassion. The "telling of your Truth" requires you to own your Truth, to "get it out there." The beautiful thing is that as you honor what comes to you, uncensored, your psyche will respond, over time, with the steps that would move you in this direction. Remember Universe is waiting and here to help. Ready, set, go. I'm listening...

    ***

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