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Put Your Self-Compassion on First, Then Assist Others

Airplane fasten your seatbelt before assisting others

Getty/Kateryna Kukota

“I am a good, kind, and ethical person, but I feel that I sometimes lack compassion. Maybe that’s because in the family I grew up in we were not taught to think of others. I would like to know how I can become a more compassionate person.”

I am a good, kind, and ethical person, but I feel that I sometimes lack compassion. Maybe that’s because in the family I grew up in we were not taught to think of others. I would like to know how I can become a more compassionate person. Kevin: Your question made me think of a safety instruction anyone who flies has heard many times: “In case of a loss of pressure on the plane, put your oxygen mask on first, then assist others.” If you try to be a hero to the people around you without first ensuring your own oxygen flow, you will quickly pass out. Then you’ll be in real trouble and unavailable to help others. What does this have to do with becoming more compassionate? Growing up I was taught that the highest ethical guide is love your neighbor as yourself. The emphasis was always on expanding our perception of who’s our neighbor. We were to be sources of love, and presumably compassion, for every other human being. As important as that is, though, no one taught me how to put my self-compassion mask on first. Self-compassion was never discussed because we were supposed to be other-centered, not self- …

About the Author

Kevin Anderson PhD, Psychotherapist

Kevin Anderson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, poet, and writer who lives in the Toledo, Ohio area. His two most recent books are Now is Where God Lives: A Year of Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul and The Inconceivable Surprise of Living (225 brief essays inspired by life-changing quotations). He can be contacted at [email protected] or through his website: thewingedlife.com

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