Compassion is for strength. After all, if you want to help people, you’ve got to have the strength to actually do so.
But can you be “tough” and “caring” at the same time?
Absolutely you can. There’s a stereotype that “soft” and “caring” are not compatible with “tough” and “resilient”. There’s also a view that being tough means not taking care of yourself, because only “softies” need to take regular breaks and rest up after a hard day’s work.
Well, psychology is making new ground in this area, and I find it all really exciting. It seems to be the case that those of us who are kindest to ourselves, cope the best. So, you don’t need to “have a word” with yourself, or mentally beat yourself up to get the best out of yourself. On the contrary, you need to be a compassionate friend to yourself . When you have been made to feel foolish, you don’t tell yourself “crikey, what on earth was I thinking, I can’t believe I made that mistake, others must think I’m an idiot” because that isn’t what a compassionate friend would do. A compassionate friend would sweep you up in her arms and tell you that we all make mistakes and that you’re amazing just the way you are. Similarly, you are not more valuable to the NHS if you don’t take regular breaks, or if you work beyond your shift hours. This is because you are in danger of making yourself weaker, and of not keeping yourself strong enough to be a gem of a worker. If you are not compassionate towards yourself, your compassion towards others will run on empty at some point.
So, you can stay tough and resilient at the same time as being kind and caring to yourself. You can be tough and caring at the same time. This is what compassion is. Tough and caring. And it is very good for our mental health, for the health of the nation, and for keeping us strong enough on the inside, so that we can help others on the outside.