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A radical idea: What if we practiced empathy and forgiveness on ourselves as a way to master it for everyone else?

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What if we practiced empathy and forgiveness on ourselves as a way to master it for everyone else?

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This time of year we ask others for forgiveness. We call people we think we may have wronged and we message people we know we have hurt asking them to forgive us. Asking them to put aside feelings of anger and hurt in favour of love and friendship. Or we put up a blanket ‘forgive me please’ request on social media, hoping that a plea reeking of vacuity  will be enough to assuage our souls.  

But while we ask God and our friends for forgiveness, the hardest place to seek and find forgiveness is within ourselves. It is easy to let others off the hook, say they didn’t mean it, or didn’t know better, or were just acting with the information they had.  

But somehow we fall short in doing that with ourselves. We extend love and care to others and their situations but neglect ourselves and fail understanding  our own circumstances.  

When a friend calls me and asks for help in a situation, my goto is always empathy “that must have been so hard for you,” “I’m so sorry you had to go through that” – but when I am talking to myself, my internal dialogue is a loop of self-recrimination.

I struggle, as I am sure many others do, with the balance between showing myself empathy and letting myself off the hook. It’s as though allowing myself those few rare moments of understanding will somehow weaken my resolve to do more and push myself further. But like cauliflower trying to be pizza, this is far from the truth.

Somewhere along living life we have made ambition and achievement synonymous with ruthlessness. But more telling is the reversal of those terms where empathy and kindness are equated with weakness. Allowing ourselves empathy feels like letting ourselves off the hook so we use self-hatred as a motivator.  

It’s like those weight loss competitions where the trainers are yelling in the faces of people desperately trying to change their bodies.

By the end of the show most of the contestants have lost significant weight but six months after the show, most have put it back on. It turns out that fear and self-hatred just aren’t great motivators, who knew?

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Why is it second nature to talk down to our inner selves but it takes conscious thought to offer ourselves kindness? In part, because it’s always easier to believe the negative whereas believing the positive takes effort. It’s as though our brains are hardwired with negativity as the default.  

We accept that our brains instinctively believe the negative over the positive. We accept that this isn’t a shortcoming but a reality. We accept that when negativity enters our brain, it needs to be challenged and tested before being unequivocally believed. We accept that people do better when they are loved and shown love. We accept that empathy needs to be our go-to. We accept that acceptance of who we are, flaws and all, is one of the greatest motivators to be better versions of ourselves.  

I have a radical thought but just hear me out. What if we accepted that we aren’t perfect, that we are only human, that we are bound to make mistakes, but loved ourselves regardless? What if when we failed, we accepted defeat in that one particular battle but kept fighting the war? What if we practiced empathy and forgiveness on ourselves as a way to master it for everyone else? 

We ask each other for forgiveness because only we can forgive each other’s wrongdoings. Just as we have to ask others for understanding and care, we have to ask it of ourselves first. We have to give ourselves the love we so easily give others.

Daniella English is the author of the acclaimed blog The Not So Single Life. She has written for various publications such as Savvymom and the CJN, and is now a columnist with TheJ.ca. She has been featured on What She Said Talks and The AM 640 Dating and Relationship Show.

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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