Friday, March 28, 2014

Compassion

In my RSS feed yesterday there were two posts about a recent photo in Self Magazine (from Fit and Feminist and Olive to Run. The photo showed a woman running a race in a tutu  listed in their BS meter section with the text “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

Without even knowing the back story of the photo (see the Fit and Feminist post above), it seems plainly ridiculous that a health and fitness magazine is wasting time shaming anyone for any fitness behavior. This is not to say they shouldn't include article on bad form or nutrition mistakes, etc. but any activity that is causing someone to enjoy being active should be embraced. Our culture has a fascination with judgment – of ourselves and others.

News and social media spend endless amounts of time/space covering gossip and making judgments about the lives of others. This creeps into our collective psyche, and is crowding out the compassion we should feel for our fellow human beings. In the example that sparked this post we find out that the woman in the photo was battling cancer and used her tutu to lift her spirits AND raise money for charity! I hope that we can all try to foster our compassionate selves, although it’s not an easy process.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend about using machines vs. lifting free weights and how much easier it is to just do the machines. There are times when I catch myself having judgmental thoughts about what other people are doing. It is hard to change these thought patterns that are so ingrained in our culture. The first step toward a more compassionate path is to first recognize when these thoughts occur. Once you identify a judgmental thought you have control over it. I usually try to do one of two things: acknowledge that the person might be struggling with something I can’t see or find something positive in their behavior that I can celebrate.

Judgmental thoughts often impact our view of ourselves as well. I've still been struggling with my foot injury and when I go to the gym I am exclusively doing exercises that don’t require me to put weight on my foot. This is hard. Sometimes I look around and wonder if people are thinking I’m lazy or don’t know what I am doing. I am getting better at recognizing when I judge myself, and am trying to turn those thoughts into “Well, at least I am still doing what I can”.

Fostering compassion for others and ourselves is a practice that takes thought and energy, but one that can be extremely rewarding. We can also choose to not support media outlets and people in our lives who choose to be judgmental and critical of others.  We are all struggling and we are all doing things worth rewarding, and it’s important to keep that in mind.

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