Friday, 18 October 2013

Food for thought: compassion all round

Earnest Ross and I have been talking about compassion recently. Specifically, the idea of being compassionate towards oneself. It’s the kind of thing that sounds like it should be a no-brainer. But I’ve been shocked by the amount of resistance I’ve felt towards it.

“It feels,” I told him today, “That if I accept the need to be more compassionate to myself then I am giving myself permission to act or behave in a negative way. That I am excusing myself. It feels like weakness and failure.”

But, he countered, is showing compassion always an easy option? To be compassionate is not necessarily to excuse so much as to accept and not apply moral judgments. To be compassionate requires you to face difficult things head on. Nothing easy or weak about that.

Perhaps part of the resistance lies in the fact that we are all programmed to find fat distasteful. Just this week I saw this article on the Guardian website about NICE telling doctors that they should treat overweight people with respect. Exsqueeze me? They have to be told? Doctors, who I fondly imagine to be the most compassionate of people (with the possible exception of nuns), need to be actually told by a clinical institute that fat people should not be sneered at but offered realistic and practical and non judgemental advice? What hope is there for the rest of the society if our medical professionals need to have this spelled out to them?

I have been remarkably blessed in my dealings with doctors. The GPs I have seen in the last few years have been absolutely lovely and supportive and never made me feel as if every little niggle, from a cough to an ingrown toenail, was related to the fact that my BMI was over 30. But I understand that I am in a minority with this experience. Actually, I have been remarkably blessed full stop in that I have never encountered any major discrimination or bullying or unpleasantness related to my size. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I am so much more critical of myself than anyone else could ever be.

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