Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Putting Someone Else in My Shoes… and Developing Self-Compassion

“Sometimes I wonder what it feels like to not have a headache,” my niece, who was 14 at the time, told me in August 2011. At the same moment my heart broke for her, it finally opened in compassion for myself.

I’d been trying for years to cultivate self-compassion. Yoga, meditation, Buddhist psychology, positive self-talk — all these strategies reinforced that I needed to have self-compassion, but no matter how hard I tried, none of them really stopped me from getting down on myself for being sick.

My niece’s chronic daily headache started when she was 11, the same age that mine began. She and I share a lot of personality traits and she even looks like me. I have spent many hours wondering what it is like to not have constant head pain. Her comment attesting to the same idle curiosity spun a scary vision in my mind: What if my niece’s headache trajectory follows the same path that mine did? The thought of her struggling against this invisible, slippery beast, not able to work or pursue her academic goals tore my heart to shreds. In that grief over her imagined plight, I finally saw just how hard my illness has been.

We’re often told to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This was the first time I put someone else, someone I love dearly, in my shoes. Doing so changed my perspective entirely. It was like putting on eyeglasses and seeing my surroundings clearly for the first time. Through love and compassion for my niece, I gained love and compassion for myself.

This experience and the practice of asking myself how I would respond to a friend with in my situation have helped me so much with the daily slog of chronic migraine. How do you show yourself compassion? Have your interactions with others changed how you perceive your own migraine experience?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Diana-Lee
    6 years ago

    I’m still working on this. Like you, Kerrie, I find it much easier to have compassion for others than for myself. I just don’t believe I deserve it. I’m aware I hold a double standard, and I’m working on breaking that down. But it’s been really hard for me and continues to be.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    I agree that it is tremendously difficult. I’m doing heavy duty work on this in therapy right now. Will let you know if I find some amazingly simple trick to nurture self-compassion. 🙂

  • juanitaschmidt
    6 years ago

    I have started putting others in my shoes. Since a bad fall has left me with chronic migraines. Have had only a handfull of days when I haven’t in the past year and half. I don’t say anything to anybody anymore about my migraines although most of the time then can tell how I feel. I hate complaining and I’m sure most people don’t like it either. So I try to put on a happy face and be social. but on the inside I just want to run back home and crawl in bed.The pain is almost bearable sometimes,But my ability to concentrate is very poor and so is my memory.I carry a notepad with at all times so I don’t forget critical things. Would love to hear about how others cope with this.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    I’m sorry you’re struggling so much right now.

    Ellen has some excellent suggestions for dealing with brain fog: I use these and am also working on not being so hard on myself when I do slip up.

    Hang in there and best of luck in your search for an effective treatment.

  • Poll