Episode 86 | The Compassion We Withhold

By nature, veterinary professionals tend to be very compassionate… at least outwardly so.
We also tend to be very judgmental when it comes to ourselves.
Despite what we may believe, this self-criticism is not self-contained.

In this episode I explore how the lack of compassion we have for ourselves is impacting the compassion we are able to extend to others and share four indicators that help us see where we have opportunity to create more acceptance for ourselves.



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How identifying as compassionate just may be one of the biggest lies you tell that's what we're talking about. An episode 86, I'm Dr. Cari Wise, and this is the Joyful DVM podcast. Well, my friends welcome to episode 86 today. We're going to be talking about compassion and specifically about the compassion that you withhold. Yes. You heard me, right.

The compassion that you withhold. Many of us identify as compassionate people. And as a population, we think about the work that we do in veterinary medicine, there is a certain element of compassion that just plays into our normal daily life. Our compassion for animals for example, is a lot of what led us to these career fields. We were drawn to being able to care for the animals,

but this profession is more about the people than it is about the critters. Would you agree? So because of that, and because of the human perspective, the human component of veterinary medicine, we have to take a moment to consider how compassion impacts that. And not only for the people that you interact with, but the compassion for yourself as well. So if you're wondering if you're a compassionate person,

I want you to consider the next four things. So here over the next few minutes, we're going to do a bit of a compassion inventory. And as I go through these four factors, I want you to consider where these play true for you in your own life. Many of us are going to find something that we're not really all that excited to find,

but remember, the only way that we create any forward movement in our life is by first creating awareness. So let's start out and just have an open mind and open perspective and consider these four things. Number one, let's talk about opinions. Do you have a strong opinions about things in your life that don't leave any room for any kind of healthy conversation?

Is it just not up for discussion? You don't ever even want to consider an alternative perspective, these strong opinions and the intolerance of hearing a counter opinion can be an indicator that you are suffering from this compassion withholding syndrome that you aren't so easily able or willing to extend compassion. So strong opinions. Number one, that doesn't leave any room at all to consider the opposite or alternative perspective that is indicator.

Number one, that you're withholding compassion indicator, number two, or factor number two has to do with judgment. Do you identify, do you notice that you're judgmental about how people care for their pets? This one's a big one. So when the clients make decisions for the care of their animals, do you judge their choices? Do you judge them when they elect to not give heartworm or flea prevention?

Do you judge them? If they elect not to spay or neuter their pet, do you judge them? If they've got kennel cough, and you know, they're getting ready to take them to the groomer, these things that seem like really normal things to do, right? Things to have an opinion about. I'm not saying you shouldn't have an opinion. I'm not saying that you shouldn't even have judgment,

but what I want you to do is to recognize whether or not you do so in the judgment, isn't just limited to the way that clients care for their pets either. So let's look at some other areas that judgment may be playing a part in your life. How about the way that people care for their kids, the way that they teach their kids,

control their kids, or how they care for their parents or their friends. We're looking for areas where you might be judging other people. I also want you to consider if you have judgment around how people choose to live their lives. So do you have a really strong opinion or judgment against someone that makes more money than you do, or perhaps against someone who makes less money than you do,

or the way that people spend their money, the way that they pay for school, do you have judgments about the way that they spend their time, the hobbies that they focus on, the relationships that they're in, do you have judgments around what they do with their free time? These are things to consider. And finally, in the category of judgment,

I want to know, do you carry judgment around the choices that people make? So we've talked about some specific choices, choices around pets and choices around family and friends, and about making their lives or living their lives. But just in general, do you find yourself just judging people's choices, whether it's what they wear, the way that they behave, whether it's the car they drive,

the handbag they walk in with, and then decline your services, where in your life can you find where you're judgmental? Now, we're all human. We have human brains, we have human tendencies. So there's not going to be a single person who listens to this podcast that can identify somewhere that they're judgmental. But where, what I want us to do as we're looking at this is to recognize how pervasive it might be,

how frequently we do this. And a lot of our conversations stem from these four factors that we're going to talk about conversations with others, stem from these things. So I want you to consider that as we go through. So, so far we've taken a look at strong opinions and not having a lot of tolerance. We're interested in alternative perspectives, factor.

Number two, we've looked at judgment, all the different areas that you may be judging people without even realizing it, especially because often it's just part of a quote unquote, normal conversation among friends or among peers factor. Number three is being critical. So do you spend time and your days being critical of the performance of other people? So the performance of other people,

it could be coworkers. So it could be technicians. It could be doctors, it could be managers, it could be owners. It could be organizations. Are you critical of the way that they perform? Are you critical of what they do? Are you critical of your colleagues, both people who you work with in the same organization, when you're reading their records,

are you critical of the choices that they made of the way they wrote their notes or didn't the way they handled a case? Are you critical with colleagues outside of your organization? If you see somebody else's client, somebody who has said they've been somewhere else, and that client then gives you an opinion of that colleague, are you critical of that colleague based on the information that you've gotten from a client,

and how about yourself? Are you critical of your own performance? Are you evaluating your success based on things like patient outcomes in the client interactions? How often are you critical? That's what I want you to consider as factor number three and in factor number four, we've got to look at the whole concept of perfectionism and hyper responsibility. Are you driven to try to control all of the things?

So nothing goes wrong. Do you have a real intolerance for mistakes? Do you, would you rather just do it yourself? So you can assure that it's done, right? Do you self identify as a perfectionist? Do people around you identify you as a perfectionist, these four things in and of themselves aren't necessarily big problems though. They can definitely contribute to a live experience that isn't uplifting and helpful in moving us forward.

But the reason I wanted to look specifically at these four things is because I believe that they absolutely reflect the compassion that you withhold. We identify as compassionate people. Most of us do. Most of us think we are compassionate, but can you really extend compassion when these kinds of behaviors are under the surface? Are you truly a compassionate person? If you've got strong,

such strong opinions about certain things that you're not even willing to listen to the other side, are you truly a compassionate person? If you're constantly judging the decisions of other people and how they live their lives and the choices that they make, are you truly a compassionate person? If you're hypercritical of everything critical about the performance of the people that you work with of your colleagues,

if you're family of yourself, of yourself, and are you truly a compassionate person, if you are consumed with perfectionism and hyper responsibility, if you feel the need to control all of the things, to make sure that it goes right, my friends, here's the truth. The most genuine compassion that somebody can experience and can give to another is simply an extension of the compassion that they give to themselves.

Let me say that again, the most genuine compassion that we extend to others is an extension of the compassion that we have for ourselves. And so when we look at these four factors in our lives, when we look at the opinions, when we look at the judgment, so we look at where we're critical, where we look at, where we're perfectionist.

What we want to notice is that every single one of those behaviors is simply a reflection of the compassion. We withhold from ourselves, the compassion that we don't have for ourselves individually, when you have really strong opinions and you're unwilling to consider an alternative, that's simply a reflection of fear. You're afraid of what might happen and what you might learn. If somebody has a differing opinion of you,

that is quote unquote, right? Being intolerant of another opinion automatically shows us where we believe there's a right and a wrong. And it's just not that black and white. It's just not that binary. The human experience is a spectrum of gray. They can be 100% and supportive and opinion that is completely opposite of yours, and nobody has to suffer for it.

It isn't life-threatening most of the time when people have different opinions than you, honestly, it's never life-threatening. If they have a different opinion of you it's actions, that can be life-threatening, but you're never going to control actions by controlling opinion. What about judgment? If you really, really accepted yourself, if you accepted who you were and your skillset, if you accepted the choices that you made and the way that you lived your life,

would you really be so critical of what other people were doing? Probably not. We become judgmental of other people as a reflection of the judgment we hold against ourselves. So what do you need to forgive yourself? What are you holding yourself, hostage over? Where's the shame as you work to release that the judgment you have for others starts to melt away and confession can really start to come through.

And what about criticism? How are you evaluating your own performance? Whether it be as a doctor, as a technician, as a support staff member, whether it be as a member of a relationship or as an organization, as a human, if you're critical of your own performance, there's a lack of self-acceptance there. That lack of self acceptance, the way that you're coping with that is by pointing out the flaws in other people that's never going to make you feel better.

And it causes you to withhold compassion from them. When you can instead accept yourself flaws and all, then you have the opportunity to change what you want to change. But if we just resist it, if we ignore it, if we bury ourselves away from it, then our coping mechanism becomes this constant criticism of others. And our compassion for ourselves never grows from there.

And our true ability to be compassionate toward others. Won't either. And finally perfectionism and hive responsibility. It's exhausting to try to control all the things. It's an impossible task. You'll never be able to control enough to guarantee that you get a positive outcome. You're never going to be able to control enough to guarantee that a client never is unhappy or that you never get a negative review.

You're not that powerful. And the more that you try to control in order to protect yourself, the more you're going to push away the people around you who are there to help you, who are there to be part of this mission. And this vision that you're part of is in veterinary medicine. It does nobody any good to be the perfectionist and the control freak on your team.

We all can identify who those people are. And what I want you to consider is that if that's you, and it was me for a long time. So I can say this very honestly, that if it's you give yourself a break and realize you're so much stronger than you think you are, the only reason that you think you need to control everything is because underneath that,

you believe that you can't handle it. If a case doesn't turn out the way you want it to, or that you can't handle it. If a client gets angry or you don't want to deal with it, but it's all this guided because Kate case outcomes are never something you control you at at the most influence them. But case outcomes are never something you control.

You're not that powerful and the way that a client behaves or responds to you or to information that you give them or to how their pet does absolutely out of your control. You're never going to control the humans. So you can stop trying, because what I can guarantee is as you continue to function through this perspective of needing to be perfect in everything you're becoming exhausted.

And on top of that, you're recognizing that you're not perfect. And that that recognition of not being perfect is playing right into your judgment and your criticism of yourself. It's killing your ability to experience compassion. We love to label ourselves as compassionate people in this profession. And I do believe, I do believe that we have some very pure compassion for the animals right out of the gate.

I do believe that I think that that is probably the part that's not all that much impacted by this, but the animals come with a human. And it's the human interactions that tend to influence the quality of our days. Way more than the animals, those human interactions and your perception of them are first anchored in your own perception of yourself. So although you may identify yourself as compassionate,

I'll give you, you have compassion for the animals, but if you don't have compassion for yourself first, if you aren't accepting of your own flaws of your own shortcomings as a human, if you can't forgive yourself, when you make a simple mistake or when you're human, the shows, if you can't accept that, just sometimes things don't turn out the way that we want them to.

And that's not a problem. If you can't create space to hear an alternative perspective about some of the things that you're most passionate about in this world. And if you can't let go of your need to control everything, just know that there's no way that you're extending compassion to yourself or to anybody else. To the extent that's possible. The most genuine compassion is an extension of the compassion that you have for yourself first.

And so if you want to have a different experience, it doesn't require being better or being more or being perfect. It doesn't require you to achieve things to con to create a sense of self-worth. It simply is all available to you. When you first start to trust who you are to accept who you are without that judgment, without that criticism, to be curious about why you are so critical and judgmental towards yourself and then towards others.

And to really recognize that so much of this as simply a coping mechanism, it's the way that you've learned to defend yourself against the world, because the world is a scary place, but here's the secret. The world can't hurt you unless you let it. This is a skill to be developed. We are programmed with that lower primitive brain. That's always looking for the things that are life-threatening to us,

but in the modern world, there are very few things that are life-threatening. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us are still interacting day in and day out in our lives as if we're about to be eaten by a lion. And so there is an awareness piece that changes everything for us. As we become curious and compassionate students of ourselves and of our own experiences and have our own reactions and our own behaviors,

we can start to see the path forward. The path forward is one of self-discovery it's. One of self-acceptance is one of self-love. You cannot serve others to the highest of your capacity and ability to the point that it fills you up in your soul until you first learned to love who you are along the way. And friends, that's the most important gift that you can give yourself.

I know that in my journey, I didn't know where to start. There's a lot there, but that's okay. That's the human experience. We are here on a journey. We don't need our journeys to be like anybody. Else's. We have our own curriculum, if you will. And if you're looking for a place to start, I want you to consider joining us in that life academy,

because that's where we dig into all of this. That life academy is not about being a better vet. It's not about being a better vet tech. It's not about guaranteeing that clients never say nasty things to you, and that you never get a board complaint. That life academy is not like that at all. That life academy is all about how you live and flourish and bloom in your own life while being a veterinary professional.

And they're not exclusive the way that we expand what's possible for ourselves first starts with understanding who we are and what has driven us to this point. And only as we develop self-love and self-compassion can we then start to make the decisions in our lives that profoundly change our life experience and create all possibility for the future. All right, my friends, I'm going to leave you without the ponder.

I'll see you soon. Bye for now