A plateful of compassion
I have a confession to make. When I first moved here from the UK I didn’t get the bring-a-plate thing. Not only did I not get it, I hated it.
The silent speech bubble over my head would read something like “You’ve invited me for dinner and then you are telling me to bring my own food? What’s the matter with you people.” Or words to that effect as I fiddled around at the last minute, throwing something together. It seemed so much easier to do as they do in the UK and take some wine/flowers/chocolate.
So easy. An entirely acceptable social convention that can handily be bought at a bottle store or petrol station on the way to said event. So, in the beginning, I would bring-a-plate, slightly grudgingly, but aware of the acute social faux pas if I did not.
But I simply could not do it in return. It seemed rude beyond belief to ask someone to bring a plate to my thing.
“Just bring yourself,” I would trill merrily as I worked myself to the bone getting everything prepped. It was a real cultural block I couldn’t get past. It was also a very unequal situation I was perpetuating and I know guests felt guilty or awkward that I refused their help. I could bring a plate for them, but I couldn’t ask it for myself. Which brings up the subject of compassion and the equality with which we practise it. I see a lot of people in my coaching room who are burned-out from giving and who are so kind in thought and word and gesture.
They know the exact words to pick up those around them. To encourage when needed. To comfort, motivate, soothe. And yet, they do not extend that same compassion to themselves. These compassionate human beings have a mind filled with thoughts that push them harder and harder. Not good enough. Not fast enough. Could do more. Must do better. Don’t stop. Too old. Too slow. Too fat. Too whatever. All words they would never use out loud to anyone else, but will on autopilot say to themselves a dozen or more times a day. Interesting how compassion can come so easily for others, but yet we can be so hard on ourselves.
Compassion is a two-way thing. It doesn’t just flow from you to others, it should also flow from you to yourself.
If your compassionate nature does not extend to yourself, it is not whole. If you cannot extend the same compassion to yourself as you do to others, you have work to do. If we believe compassion is important — and we clearly do from the way we treat others — then it’s important enough to extend it to ourselves too.
I am now over my bring-a-pate hangup and I embrace the concept most enthusiastically. It makes a party easier to organise, and cheaper, and more inclusive somehow.
I love that you can even specify the exact thing you want brought, and no one takes offence. And the reciprocity and equality of that is key. Bringing a plate is a compassionate, friendly thing to do, as is allowing a plate to be brought. So it is with our own compassionate nature — it’s a two-way street. Being kind to ourselves is as important as being kind to others. Your mission today? Give yourself a big serving of self-compassion and kind words. Just as big a slice as you so generously give to others.
See our bring-a-plate collection for your next potluck dinner party.