I have a confession to make. When I first moved here from the UK, I just didn’t get the “Bring A Plate” thing. Not only did I not get it, but I (sorry) also hated it. The silent speech bubble over my head would read something like:
Or words to that effect as I fiddled around last minute throwing together an artistic salad that would pass muster or frantically made a batch of brownies from a very dusty recipe. It was a cultural gap I fell into big time. It seemed so much easier with the English system of a dinner invitation: bring one of the Acceptable Dinner Present Trifecta (wine/flowers/chocolate). Done. Any one of the three hits the mark guaranteed. Two is gracious. Three – WHOA – stop right there pal, that’s overkill. Don’t do that! So easy. An entirely acceptable social convention that also can handily be purchased in any off-licence or petrol station on the way to said event. There is no rifling around last minute for almond flour or a ripe avo. Simple. Easy. What’s not to love!
So, in the beginning, I would Bring A Plate, slightly grudgingly, but aware of the acute social faux pas if I did not. But – oh my goodness I simply could not do it in return. It seemed to my Acceptable Dinner Present Trifecta brain just RUDE beyond belief to ask for someone else 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. But, there we are, I could bring a plate for them, but I couldn’t ask it for myself. I know – weird right? Makes no sense.
Which brings up for me the whole subject of compassion, and the equality with which we practice it in our lives. I see a lot of people in my coaching room who are burned out from giving, giving, giving to all around them at home and work. 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. To motivate. To soothe. And yet, they do not extend that same self-compassion to themselves. These compassionate human beings who rarely have a cross word for anyone, 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. To slow. To fat. Too whatever. All words that 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 very hard on ourselves.
So – here’s the thing.
If your compassionate nature does not extend to yourself, then it is not whole. If you cannot extend the same compassion to yourself as you do to others, then you have work to do. When we pay lip service only to self-compassion, we unbalance the scales. Compassion is something we must extend to ourselves as well as to others. It makes so much more sense that way. If we believe compassion is necessary, and we clearly do from the way we treat others, then it’s important enough to extend it to ourselves too.
So back to my Bring A Plate hangup. Have I got over it and myself? I am pleased to report that indeed I have, and in fact, I now embrace the concept most enthusiastically! It makes SO MUCH SENSE! It makes a party so much easier to organise! And cheaper! And…more inclusive somehow. I love that you can even specify the EXACT THING YOU WANT to be brought, and no one takes offense! “A lovely fruit platter please Sharon, with that lovely hot chocolate dipping sauce you do” is met with a delighted acquiescence. People (shock) WANT to bring a plate! And the reciprocity and equality of that are key. Bringing A Plate is a really compassionate and friendly thing to do, as is allowing a plate to be brought. And 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.
So – your mission today? To give yourself a big serving of self-compassion and kind words. Just as big a slice as you so generously give to others.