The next step in building self-compassion is connecting with common humanity. I discussed loving-kindness and softening self-judgement in previous blog entries and now it is time to build upon those skills. This step involves realizing that we are part of a world where many people suffer and experience anxiety and depression. I’ve talked about it before but it’s worth reiterating: our brains are built to find problems. It is normal to focus on the bad and the negative! But, again, we can train ourselves to look at the good and the neutral along with the bad.
A first important step toward connecting with common humanity is to understand that suffering is not failing. Remember that many others may be experiencing similar thoughts and emotions to you right now. Billions of other people are sad, angry, anxious, content, happy, and joyous all right now. To be human is to feel and to feel includes both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Suffering is part of the overall experience of life, which means it’s normal. Since it’s a built-in part of life it also means that it does not indicate failure. It is so important to see suffering as part of the learning experience of growing as a person.
Next, keep in mind that our failures and our pain do not make us alone but rather part of our common humanity. Most of the time society teaches us that failure is not normal and that we should feel guilty or ashamed. However failure and suffering are one of the most normal feelings anyone can feel. Being able to openly talk about our difficult feelings and experiences can actually strengthen our bonds with others. Community support and genuine connection to others is one of the most important aspects of mental health.
So how do you start to build connection with common humanity? A great way to start is by asking yourself some questions. First, remember of a painful event, situation, or interaction. You can think about this, say it out loud, or write it down. Next ask yourself, “Have other people in the world suffer this way?” Even when you feel totally alone, it is more likely that others have experienced something similar to you. Then ask yourself, “Has this suffering taught me something?” It probably has taught you more personal awareness of how you respond to difficult situations and maybe even how you might want to move forward. And finally ask yourself, “Will this suffering pass?” Most likely it will, especially if you can continue to build self-compassion.
If you would like to continue to explore self-compassion please read the other self-compassion blog entries. Reach out today if you need help answering these questions with more honesty and self-kindness. Remember, you are not alone!