Hypocrite: a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs ~ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Leah is the kind of woman we all want to have in our lives. She’s fun to be with, easy to talk to, and fiercely compassionate. If you’ve got a problem or just need some tenderness and friendship, Leah is your go-to girl.
When her mother fell ill, Leah moved her into her home and rearranged her whole life to support her mother’s healing. She said it was an “honor” to support her mother. Leah made her home a sanctuary filled with light, flowers, music, and inspiration. She worked a little less, grew vegetables in her garden, and made fresh elixirs and tonics for her mother.
Leah’s husband Michael, a Wall Street executive, lost his job at the height of the recession. She welcomed him home with loving support, deep understanding, and belief in him. She picked up extra work as a consultant and stoked her husband’s confidence by highlighting his many prior successes and triumphs. It took eighteen months for Michael to find a comparable job. Michael credits Leah with surviving what he calls the most destabilizing event of his life. She loved and supported him all the way through.
Leah’s best friend, Jen, endured a bitter divorce this year. She’s spent the last eleven months spending most of her savings on legal bills. Jen is angry, raw, and often succumbs to overwhelming pessimism. It’s a challenge for most people to spend any length of time with her, but Leah—with her gifts of compassion and understanding—can spend hours with Jen. Leah says that being there for someone who’s suffering is the greatest gesture of love one can make.
This summer, Leah learned that she has an auto-immune disorder. While not life-threatening, it causes her significant pain and debilitating exhaustion. To manage it and reduce its occurrence requires a serious commitment to extreme self-care. She must eat certain foods, avoid others, get 8–10 hours of sleep, exercise daily, take supplements, see a specialist, and work less.
Stunningly, the Leah who loves, nurtures, and feels endless compassion for others is nowhere to be found. Instead, she’s critical, judgmental, and irritated with herself and her illness. She’s pissed at her body for “being weak” and resists giving herself the level of care that would make her disorder manageable. She refers to herself with insulting names, like lazy, tubby, and loser. Instead of asking the people in her life—who love her immensely—for support and care, Leah attempts to hide her pain and fatigue. It’s taking a destructive toll on everyone.
I meet women enacting some form of Leah’s scenario regularly. Women are natural nurturers who care, support, encourage, and love others. We do it for strangers and people close to us. Yet, when we need our own care the most, many of us abandon ourselves. We don’t treat ourselves the way we would treat someone else in the same situation. We betray our values and beliefs and withhold the love that would help us the most—our own. We become hypocrites by contradicting the value system we live by with others.
Your situation may not be as significant as Leah’s, but any discrepancy between the kind of compassion and kindness you give to others and the kind you give yourself deserves your attention.
As the Buddha so perfectly explained,
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the
entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”1
The cause of this emotional hypocrisy may be the pervasive belief in being “not good-enough” or unworthy of unconditional love. And while the source of this belief is interesting—and one could spend a decade talking about it in therapy—you can decide to put an end to this self-sabotaging behavior, today.
The next time you’re sick, exhausted, hurting (emotionally or physically), or dealing with a challenge, take a few minutes and imagine someone you love dealing with the exact same situation. Ask yourself how you’d feel about them and what you’d do for them. Notice how you’d refrain from incessant criticism, judgment, irritation, and impatience. Observe how you’d come up with ways to create more ease and support for your loved one. Take notes and let them guide your self-care and treatment.
Do you treat others in need better than you treat yourself when you’re in need?
~ Cynthia Occelli