Whoa, wait a minute. Do those words even go together? How can compassion be fierce?
What I’ve found is that it takes a great deal of fierceness and awareness to be kind towards yourself.
Think about the last time you got called into your boss’s office, or heard a certain tone in a friend’s voice. I’ll bet your first thought was “Oh crap, what did I do?” or some variation of that line of thinking. That YOU did something that made someone mad, sad, or unhappy with you.
While you might be certain that you didn’t do anything wrong (um, yes, pretty sure?!), this reaction isn’t uncommon. We are trained to look for flaws, to aspire to perfection, unattainable as that may be.
I cannot tell you how many times over my years as a massage therapist that I heard things like:
“I almost cancelled my session today because I forgot to shave my legs this morning, I’m so sorry!”
“Ugh, I know I need to lose 20 pounds…”
“I have to leave my phone on in case the office calls.”
As if any of those things were more important than the relaxation and stress relief they so deeply needed.
As if the world would stop or fall irreparably apart because you took an hour for yourself. AN HOUR.
As if showing up just as you are, perhaps with 1/8″ of stubble on your legs or a body that hasn’t been showered in, oh, 8 hours, isn’t acceptable.
So what does fierce self-compassion look like?
First, it’s not to be confused with the self-indulgence or self-gratification of a glass of wine at the end of the day, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or your favorite Netflix binge. Not that any of those things are bad or wrong; that type of relaxation and comfort is also essential for your mental health, in its own way.
Fierce self-compassion is a turning inward, a way to nourish your heart and spirit. It’s a way to look clearly at what you need, and give yourself permission to grant that to yourself.
It’s taking the time to purposely turn away from the rest of the world and offer yourself the kindness and support you would grant a friend without even thinking.
And it does take practice. It’s not our natural place of refuge.
One of the best ways of doing this is through the practice of metta or loving-kindness. You stop your busyness for a while, sit quietly, and silently offer these phrases of compassionate support:
May I be safe
May I be strong
May I be peaceful
May I live with ease.
It’s an aspiration. It’s a reminder of who you are at your core. It’s a blessing poured into your heart. It’s a respite from your habitual way of being.
It might feel unfamiliar and tender. Good. Stay with it.
That’s a great place to start.