Show yourself some compassion. Show yourself some love. Every day we are encouraged to love ourselves and give ourselves grace, to make the practice of self-compassion part of our daily routine.
But doesn’t all this talk of self-compassion and self-love place too much emphasis on the self—steering us away from developing compassion and empathy for others? Won’t that lead to selfishness and narcissism? And how can we balance the two?
Good news! Developing self-compassion can actually lead us in the opposite direction of narcissism. Surprised? The concept of self-compassion is rooted in the acceptance of human suffering and human imperfection as a shared universal experience. If we see ourselves as imperfect beings among many imperfect beings, and we learn to show ourselves grace, it is impossible not to extend that same grace to the rest of the human community. In fact, when self-love emphasizes loving ourselves in the context of a universal human experience of imperfection, it is the furthest thing from selfishness. Rather, it embraces our humanity, uniting us with all the others who are doing their best to make their way through life. Self-compassion and empathy and compassion for others go hand in hand.
Now, if when we practice self-love, we remove the notion that our humanity—our shared humanity—is what makes us fall and fail from time to time, then yes, we do risk developing a selfish or narcissistic outlook. But then we are not truly practicing self-compassion, but rather a warped version of it, divorced from its purpose. We’re disconnecting ourselves from the rest of the human race.
True self-compassion and self-love don’t make this distinction. They allow us to accept ourselves because of who we are at our core—human. And by acknowledging our imperfections and loving ourselves anyway, we free ourselves to love and accept the equally imperfect, equally complex, equally loveable human beings within our community and across the world.