A Cancer Survivor on the Healing Power of Compassion


This post is part of an ongoing collaboration with The Chalkboard Mag

OUR COLLECTIVE REFLEX to self-criticize and act harshly toward ourselves can majorly impede our wellness plans. Our thoughts and emotions are deeply tied to our physical well-being in ways modern medicine is just beginning to understand.

Kicking our hard-on-self tendencies is even tougher when a health challenge is in the mix. For holistic nutritionist and Cancer Hacks author, Elissa Goodman, learning to embrace compassion as a healing tool was key in managing her cancer recovery and the new stage of life that followed. The power of compassion is a very real thing and Elissa is showing us how a little self-love can make a word of difference.

Healing begins when you have compassion for yourself first. Our life experiences are unique and ever changing, but we all experience joy and pain. We embrace joy, but it always seems fleeting. Pain is the opposite – we often push it inward or outward and fight against it, but too often never release it. I have found that the only way to move past the pain of our experiences is compassion.


I have a huge responsibility to practice kindness and compassion for myself and for others. I could not do what I do and be the example I want to be to my clients without it. There are days when I see clients who have just received devastating cancer diagnoses, clients who have suffered unjustifiable pain and loss, and clients who have experienced trauma that has left them emotionally scarred.

In the beginning of my practice, it was a bit overwhelming for me. As I heard their stories, I often felt helpless and, yes, in some circumstances, I even felt a little judgmental. I was responding to their pain and treating their pain as I would my own. I judged myself, I was hard on myself, I felt shame and I had the tendency to “beat myself up.” As I developed compassion for myself, I learned to truly overcome and heal emotional trauma by offering that compassion to others.


Exercising compassion is what enables you to treat yourself with kindness and love, which enables you to heal and reconnect. When we really care for others, our hearts are full, our bodies charged with positive energy and our souls are nourished. In that moment of opening our hearts to self and others, we recognize the immense healing power of compassion and reconnect with life and love.


When you fail or when you are suffering, how do you deal with it? Do you criticize yourself? Do you get stuck in a cycle of self-loathing and hatred? Self-compassionate individuals recognize that failure is a part of life. They are able to recognize that disappointments are inevitable. Next time you experience difficulties, take it easy on yourself – self-criticism will only exacerbate the situation. Instead, focus on the lesson learned and opportunity to grow.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness nurtures a sense of balance, balance that serves us well when faced with disappointment and pain, allowing us to avoid getting caught up in negativity. Mindfulness is non-judgmental and observational. Instead of suppressing or exaggerating emotions, you are able to feel them, work through them and put them into perspective.

Remember, “I’m only human:” A large part of self-compassion is understanding these three little words: “I’m only human.” The human experience includes pain and suffering; it is not exclusive to you or anyone else. Recognize that you are not alone in suffering, yet your unique personal experience – everything from your childhood to your environment – is part of the process. This awareness can increase your compassion for others and reinforce the pointlessness of being judgmental. It’s critical to understand that someone else’s response to pain is affected by factors that we’re usually not even aware of. Just as we’d like others to understand us and accept that our pain is real, others would obviously want the same compassion from us.

Leading from a place of listening, understanding and compassion has been a growing experience. If you are ready to thrive, but lacking compassion for self or others, you can begin by practicing mindfulness – any exercise from breath work to meditation can help you live in the moment and become more aware of your response to your own pain, as well as the pain of those you love.


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