In Week 3 we approached the theme of Compassion, which helped me to connect more deeply with myself and others.
I’m going through Selph’s Coaching Programme and recording my journey as I go!
My name’s Sarah-Lizzie, and you might have seen my other articles on our Learn page! Like everyone, I have my own goals and challenges to overcome. I can admit my health needs improving. Holistic health coaching sounded like the right place to start. A few weeks later here I am - looking back on the third week of my Selph coaching journey.
There are a lot of layers to being compassionate - you can have compassion for yourself, friends and family, for those you may find difficult, for complete strangers. I’ve usually been good at having compassion for people I know, but I hadn’t thought enough about giving that kindness out to those I didn’t.
I was nice and polite to strangers, but I hadn’t tried pushing that little bit further into warmth and compassion. Striking up a conversation, giving them a compliment, sharing an experience. I had been shy throughout my teenage years, as I’m sure many can relate. Drawing attention to myself was the last thing I wanted to do, even if it was positive.
The meditation this week was about extending compassion towards myself. I chose to bring to mind a difficult situation and offer words of kindness and patience to myself. Over the days that followed I felt more connected to my reactions in difficult situations and better equipped to treat myself gently with kindness.
During my gratitude practices I celebrated my wins - I was still loving doing yoga and I already felt myself improving slightly. I was eating mindfully and enjoying my mealtimes. I followed the suggestion to reflect on acts of compassion each day. Had I been compassionate to myself? To others? Had I witnessed any acts of kindness that day?
One of the suggestions this week was to share some compassion with strangers every day by putting a good deed out into the universe. The first day, I chose to go for a walk and smile at strangers. I felt the uncomfortable urge to look away quickly after making eye contact, to look down at the pavement. I had to push past this and give a warm smile while expecting nothing in return. And nothing was what I mostly got. My coach told me it’s normal to feel discomfort not knowing what you’ll get, if anything, in return.
How unusual is it for a complete stranger to give you a genuine smile? How would you feel doing it, or being on the other end? My first thought when someone smiles at me is usually “do I know them?” or “are they smiling at someone else?”. We’re so used to looking at our phones or the ground in front of us that we don’t look up to get that interaction.
One person out of around 15 who I smiled at on my “compassion walk” gave me a genuine, warm smile in return. It lit me up instantly and made it all worth it. My coach later told me that compassion is contagious, if you spread it then it can spread further. That person had spread a little of their compassion to me. Maybe I had inspired some silent observers on my compassion walk! At very least, I’d given one person a smile that they appreciated.
I thought about those people who give out free flowers or, pre-pandemic, free hugs. Over the next few days, I made an effort to start conversations with people at the supermarket, post office and cafes. I made some origami with notes like “I hope this brings you some joy today” and put them in a local book swap box. When I checked a few days later, they were gone! I knew it would have made me happy to find something like that, so I hoped I could give the joy of chance discovery to others.
Even though I thought I had put in the work to be kind to myself and not have negative self-talk, I dug deeper this week. I found that part of me still holds me back and doesn’t believe I can beat my fears.
One suggestion was to name this inner critic and imagine what they looked like. She was harsh on the outside and quick to go on the defensive. She bottled things up. On the inside she was very shy and delicate, feelings easily hurt. She held all of my fears and insecurities. “They’ll think you’re timid and nervous” she’d say to me. “Your voice is so shaky, you’ll never be confident.”
Then, in her place, I should imagine my best friend or the best friend I could ever imagine. What would they say to me? “You’re doing great, keep it up! You’re so brave, this is amazing, you can do anything! I love you!”. I definitely want to keep this person around and draw on their energy whenever I can. If I have it inside me to make myself worried and anxious, I can also do the opposite and build myself up.
Some of my role models are so selfless and kind that I never thought I could ever be as lovely as them. I realised I wasn’t even trying for the fear of failing or feeling awkward. But spreading warmth and kindness into the world is so worthwhile and I am definitely going to keep at it.
Some things are easier than others, like hiding secret gifts around the city. There’s no direct interaction there. But I want to push myself. I want to enjoy those uncomfortable one-way smiles which could spread some compassion further. I want to have genuine conversations with the people I come across.
Connection with other people is one of the most beautiful things in life. My fears have kept me from participating for too long, so from now on I’ll try to do it as much as possible.