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Filling your Empty Cup: Lesson in Self-Compassion

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

A lot of us struggle with being alone.

Without the voices of family, friends, colleagues, or even our neighbours, the only voice left is our own.

How one communicates with self is telling. There are many people in this world who are kind and patient with others, yet short and critical with themselves. It’s an odd disconnect. We live in a society where manners count, likability matters and we do not hesitate to rise to the occasion. Yet do we, actually?

What makes you ask that question?

I’m calling out the dissonance. If you’re the first to help when someone makes a mistake, yet you beat yourself up for the rest of the week if you flounder - one could call your sympathy disingenuous. More specifically, a pretense. You offer up a kind word because that’s how you’ve been socialized. If you’re unable to show yourself the same degree of kindness and empathy, then maybe consider that your behaviour with others is not a real reflection of self.

What do you mean by a reflection of self?

Behaviour that reflects who you are in your true authenticity. Masks and personas discarded.

How you talk to yourself, when no one is listening or paying attention, offers a real reflection of who you are.

There’s an old adage that states, “You cannot give from an empty cup.”

Wise and philosophical, it rings true. We can even test it out. Say, I see someone who is parched with thirst. I offer them water with a big smile on my face. Except, this person is fully dehydrated, and my smile counts for nothing, they could really use the water. My smile broadens as I state, “Well, I don’t actually have water. I just see that you’re really thirsty and it felt good to offer.” Cue shocked silence. The stranger looks on at me, taking notice of the peculiar, broad, plastic smile frozen to my face, while slowly stating, “Thanks… for nothing.”

While those around you might be less than likely to notice the falsity interwoven throughout day-to-day interactions - you know. You're aware of the degrees of separation that exists between the self that shows up in public spaces and who you are when you’re behind closed doors.

Don’t you think you’re being harsh and critical?

Honesty can feel harsh and critical when it forces you to look in the mirror - really, look.

The one person who is a guaranteed constant in your life is you.

You can choose to be your truest friend and dearest ally. That means deciding that you are worth the kindness and civility you demonstrate to those around you.

Compassion starts with you, not with the people around you. If you display understanding and patience with a friend or colleague, create space and tolerance with yourself when you feel you are falling short. Learn to be friends with yourself, and hold yourself accountable for the tone you take with yourself and the words you use when you are pushing yourself through difficult situations.

The truth is, compassion starts with self. It starts with the first words you say to yourself when you wake up in the morning. The way you comfort yourself when you’re having a bad day, or the way you encourage yourself when life feels like a struggle. Be your own ally, be kind to yourself when no one is watching.

While I don’t feel great about myself, I know I love the people around me. I’m working hard at loving them the way I know they deserve.

Well. It starts with loving yourself. Flaws and all, through and through.

Learn to love yourself, so that the love you give to others is more than a charade.

You muster a smile at a stranger, yet you have barely looked at your reflection in the mirror all week.

If your cup is empty, there’s no way you can put a droplet of water in any of the cups of the people around you.

Treat yourself with kindness, patience, love and respect. In other words, focus on filling up your cup.


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