Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves unconditionally and have compassion for ourselves? One would think that compassion would be a significant coping mechanism. But our ego, while supportive of every manner of rationalization to justify our actions or our failure to act, does not allow us to feel compassion and unconditional love for ourselves because that would undermine the power of the learned labels that it ruthlessly applies to us. Indeed we have spent our entire lives not loving ourselves unconditionally and not having compassion for ourselves because that is our learned experience ... we learned that we don’t deserve it and that the fault is ours.
“Wait,” you say, “I have felt pity towards myself or sorrow at my condition.” But pity and sorrow are not compassion, at least not in the Buddhist sense. Because pity and sorrow do not negate the underlying condition as perceived by our ego. It does not change the perception that we are bad or a failure or whatever.
“Well, what about all the people out there with huge egos? Are you saying they don’t love themselves?” They don't really love themselves, certainly not unconditionally and they don’t have compassion for themselves. People with huge egos have been shown to be at bottom very insecure people. The huge ego is a façade that hides their insecurity.
For a Buddhist, the origin of compassion is love, whether for oneself or others. It is selfless and unconditional. When compassion flows from unconditional love, we do not judge ourselves anymore. We accept ourselves for what we are … without labels. And that has been the issue here for us ... we have not accepted ourselves as we are.
But having worked the previous steps, we see ourselves and the world around us differently. Knowing that we are a product of our life experiences that have programmed us to act and feel as we do, knowing that our true self is our heart, and having opened our heart to embrace all aspects of our being and experience, we have found the source of compassion and unconditional love, and we do not judge ourselves anymore.
Knowing that we have everything we need inside ourselves to be at peace and happy, we no longer seek what we don’t have. We are free of cravings. We thus are ready and willing to accept both ourselves and the world around us as being the way they are because it’s just the way it is.
Having fully connected with our true self, our heart, we are also able to generate a continuous positive energy flow from out heart to ourselves and everyone and everything around us. As related in my post, "Change Your Life by Changing the Direction of Its Energy Flow," this will create a force field around you that prevents any source of negativity from penetrating your heart and disturbing your heart's peace and happiness, it's harmony.
For those who are at an earlier stage in their practice where they have not made a decision to surrender their ego and so have not completed the previous steps, learn how to begin loving yourself and having compassion for yourself by reading the section, “Accepting Ourselves - Cultivating a Compassionate Heart,” in my book, Making Your Way in LIfe as a Buddhist or any of the Practical Buddhist Series books. (As I stated in an earlier post, building a platform of serenity is such an essential first step for anyone walking the path that I’ve included that chapter, of which the section noted is a part, in all three of the Series books.)