The key to knowing we are acting with authentic compassion is that after we finish with our compassionate act, no matter how small, we feel energized, inspired, or fed from the inside. Often authentic compassion feels like a spiritual experience. For me, I feel energized and excited to the point where I immediately beginning looking for another meaningful encounter to experience. Authentic compassion brings a reflective perspective to our own lives and often puts our problems and self-pity in check—it gets us out of our own way. It doesn’t diminish our problems as if they do not exist, but it does give us some depth to see the grave challenges and difficulties that others face.
When we give our time or energy out of obligation, guilt, or the need to please others we are often left feeling taxed, tired, or overwhelmed. We must take care of ourselves by resting when we need rest, meditating when we need to meditate, exercise when we need exercise, or getting a massage when we need a massage. Remember, compassion is a circle and the first part of the circle is self-compassion—feeding our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. If we do not take care of ourselves the cycle of giving is not sustainable. Practicing self-compassion gives us the reserves to give compassion to others. When we run on empty or when we live in emergency mode for prolonged periods of time we are depleted in some ways and have much less to offer others. This is when we show up out of obligation and feel taxed or overwhelmed. In these situations, it would serve us and others better if we honored our bodies by recharging. Taking care of ourselves or practicing self-compassion can be very difficult. It is easy to buy into the guilt or the “shoulds” the world dishes out. The way out of buying into the “shoulds” is to further develop our self-esteem so that we value our needs enough to put them first when it is important.
Often, I see people who feel they are taxed by giving too much yet this giving too much is often coming from a place of disproportionately pleasing others, not authentic compassion. When we feel we are pleasing another, it is important to become conscious of our intentions and why we feel more ok from pleasing than being authentic. For example: Why am I feeling pressed to please Jay? I do not want to go to the party with him because I have so much work to do on my proposal for work. A lot of people on my team are counting on me to do a thorough job. I am feeling like it is difficult for me to disappoint Jay because he does not want to go to the party alone. Jay is a likeable guy, he will meet new friends at the party and most importantly it is not my responsibility to make sure Jay is ok.
Pleasing another is when we give up a part of who we are or what we want to make another person ok. For example, if I go to the party with Jay I am jeopardizing my proposal at work and my name as a competent, committed, employee and team member—that’s a high price to pay. My life is best served by staying home and taking care of me which in this case is spending a few hours tightening up my proposal. If I didn’t choose to work on my proposal I would be, in some ways, betraying myself. These small betrayals slowly diminish our self-esteem—at some point it becomes more important and more comfortable to please others, than it is to do what is best for ourselves. This is where co-dependency arises, and it is a very dangerous place to live. We may be left wondering why we never create the life we really want, blind to our own disease of disproportionate giving.
This is a very simple representation of what can happen when we are blinded by the need to please. Being a non-pleaser, doesn’t mean that we always do what we want and never sacrifice for those we love. We will give often, we will do things that are uncomfortable, there will be times when it is the best thing to rearrange our schedule to help someone we love, and these are good things. The key to remember is that it’s ok to stretch beyond our normal comfort zone (in fact that is a growth mindset) but it is not ok to agree to things that come at our expense or the detriment of our job, our well-being, or our family’s well-being. When we are acting out of authentic compassion, a sense of peace usually follows shortly after the commitment has been made—even if it’s a difficult or cumbersome task.
There is not a set prescription as to what defines and eliminates pleasing or disproportionate giving, only you will know your truth. The course to becoming more effective is through the daily practice of developing a more whole self-esteem. As we do this we will learn to question our intentions and listen more acutely to our intuition and our body which, if we are quiet, tells us when we are acting with authentic compassion or not.
If you are interested in developing your self-esteem, please check out our guided journal. Do you feel like you live more often from a compassionate state or a state of giving too much? Please email me or comment below.
May you feel peace and ease in life. May your path be brightened with light. May you become all you are intended to be.