Overcoming body image issues and pity have been central themes in my journey to change my life. To me, compassion is about concern for the pain and hardships of others as well as for yourself, with an emphasis on the suffering that goes unheard or unseen. Compassion is not pity, in that pity indicates perception of weakness, while compassion is empowering.
“DEGRADING, FELT SORRY FOR ME”
I felt that when I told certain people, or they caught a glimpse of my struggles, they felt sorry for me. I could see it in there eyes, it was degrading and made me feel inferior. I thought that was what I wanted- people to take pity on me, the damsel in distress, if you will. But this only perpetuated the problem. It was only when I let people into my life who were genuinely concerned, curious, and helpful, that I became uplifted through their compassion.
RELABELING MENTAL ILLNESS
I just recently came to terms with a lot of these facts, and also realized that it is fear and ignorance which breeds stigma around these kinds of things. Enrolling in University was when I started to really meet intelligent people who were not afraid of me or my mental illness, and they weren’t afraid of me because they recognized that they had so much still to learn about mental illness, and that labeling me as “crazy” or “unstable” was not only inaccurate, but also simply naïve. I have so many people to thank for their open-mindedness and ability to feel compassion and understating, because they are the people that pushed me to improve and come to find self-actualization.
The ability to empathize with others in no way takes away from your own feelings and happiness, but rather opens your eyes to certain realities and motivates you to make a change. I have compassion for others because I know pain isn’t always evident, and sometimes, it is so evident that it is blinding. I have compassion for animals and the environment because they are voiceless and long for those with agency to speak out for them.
LOVE OF ANIMALS
I owe a lot of my journey to discovering the depths and possibilities that come with being compassionate, to my discovery of love for animals. Aided by my being in the Nutrition & Food Program (BASc) at Ryerson University, and listening not only to the professors there, but also to my classmates and colleagues, I have learned so much. More than anything, however, from what I have learned came the realization that there is even more I don’t know. Every day I discover something new about the industrialized treatment of animals and the environment, and it blows my mind. As a result of this, I fall in passionate love every day with the idea of humane treatment, the equality of all species, and the pursuit of growth and continuous exploration.
Lastly I have compassion for myself, and the ability to forgive myself my past helps free me of emotional and cognitive dissonance. I truly believe that if everyone pursued educating themselves, and recognized compassion and aspired to live by it, that we as a global society would be able to reach our full potential. With this we could halt the debts of black-and-white thinking, and make great strides to improve many of the issues experienced by the world and the beings that inhabit the earth.
The mind is so powerful, and if we all start being compassionate towards others while simultaneously being able to recognize their potential and strengths, just think of everything we could accomplish.
My goal is always to live by HONESTY, GRATITUDE, and COMPASSION so that I can put faith in my ability to possess RESILIENCE and come across SERENDIPITY.
–Jessica Barrera is a Good Elephant Compassion Influencer based in Toronto, Canada who is passionate about emotional health, nutrition, animal welfare, and making the world a better place.
You can find her on Instagram @jessicabbarrera