Self-compassion involves caring for yourself with the same amount of love and understanding you would offer to a friend, family member or animal during challenging times.
For the longest time, the notion of receiving compassion seemed like a very foreign concept to me. That all changed when Valentine, a 1000-pound rescue horse galloped into my life.
It was a crisp fall day, in southern California, as I drove up the long driveway leading to my friend’s horse ranch. My inner critic had been very loud constantly reminding me of what I needed to do and especially what I had not accomplished in my career and personal life.
As I walked up to the pasture, I noticed an emaciated, timid, long-legged mare that stayed back, weary of my presence. This was Valentine, a former race horse turned rescue horse. I did not try to pet or engage her, but there was something about Valentine that stayed with me after I left that day.
The next time I visited the ranch, I brought an apple for Valentine. She was clearly frightened when I approached the fence, her entire body started to shake. I spoke to her in a soft voice and slowly and gently extended my hand toward her. She didn’t come up to the fence and I didn’t prod her to do so. I just sat on the fence and talked to her softly.
I repeated this pattern during the next 4 or 5 visits until, one sunny day, she got just close enough to the fence, where I could reach out and touch her sweet face. At first, she retracted back, but then dropped her head forward, so I could give her a scratch under her chin. I was elated! As I scratched Valentine’s chin, I realized that I was very much like her, weary, hanging back, not allowing myself to feel the love and kindness I so desperately needed.
The following week, I went into the pasture with a soft brush and comb. Ever so gently and slowly I brushed Valentine. As the sun beamed down on her, she closed her eyes and relaxed. I remember that moment of pure tranquility. My heart felt full. I had eased the suffering, of this gentle giant, by offering her love and kindness.
I decided to apply the same compassion I had offered Valentine to myself. As I looked back on my actions, I always spoke softly to Valentine, so I started to speak softly to myself. I never pushed Valentine to do anything that she didn’t want to do, so I stopped pushing myself to do things that caused me grief. I surrounded myself with a “herd” of friends that treated me with kindness and listened to me without judgement. I scheduled in time for self-care and made a point to bask in the sunshine. I recognized my accomplishments, understanding that, like Valentine who was once a race horse, that sometimes bad things happen that are not in your control and starting over is the only option… and starting over can be very good, once you can move out of the fear of the unknown.
Valentine taught me that I was expecting myself to win the “race” every time as an actor, writer, daughter, partner and friend. I had literally abandoned mySELF and my self-compassion. Valentine is a testament of what compassion can do and a reminder of what self-Compassion can do for me and you.
To learn more about Valentine and to help donate to her long-term care, please visit http://www.theshoegal.com/valentine/