Munira Premji

Compassion Begins With You

This past week has been a tough one for me.

After tolerating my new immunotherapy treatment extremely well since December 2022, I started to feel a bit unwell. It started when I noticed that I was fatigued. Not tired or even merely exhausted, but fatigued – not wanting to engage, staying in bed without embracing the day as I normally would, just feeling yucky. Part of this was clinical – my white blood cells and neutrophils have dropped and the medication is expected to cause fatigue. Yesterday I experienced brain fog after many years.

All this was playing havoc with my emotions. I noticed that I was feeling deep sadness. I felt I was not able to keep up. I was feeling less relevant. I was beginning to say it’s too hard. I noticed that my level of adding value to society was diminishing, and that was very hard for me to accept. This time, rather than having a meeting with my mind, I reached out to Nagib to share what I was going through. He was able to offer me much needed perspective, reminding me of all the things that I was doing brilliantly, and how the treatment is actually working phenomenally well. It is exactly what I needed to hear to shift my mindset and reframe my attention.

This was a reminder to me that compassion is not how just about how we treat others. Compassion begins with us. It is how we treat ourselves when things are challenging. It is the message we send to ourselves when we are not at our best. That self-critical voice, that inner critic when we are sad or angry, can be painfully judgmental and can lead us into a horrible downward spiral. I find it curious that when a friend has a failure, messes up or makes a mistake, we find it within ourselves to be compassionate toward them (“these things happen”). Why is it that we have such a hard time being compassionate to ourselves? (“I’m such a failure”). Self-compassion is accepting our emotions. It is understanding that part of being human is understanding our own imperfections. It is knowing that we always have a choice. It is treating ourselves with gentleness and kindness, rather than judgment and self-criticism. The key is to recognize this early and have the supports in place so these don’t turn into major relapses. For me, it was being vulnerable enough to open up to Nagib. To his credit, he gave me the space to open up, really listened, held me tight, did not dismiss what I was feeling, did not give me advice or a lecture. Instead, he validated my emotions and offered much needed perspective and support. Exactly what I needed to find my way back to the light for now.

So I spent the week taking care of myself. Resting when I needed, trying to get stuff done when I was able, practicing gratitude and staying connected with people, rather than shutting them off. This gave me the energy to spend a fabulous Mother’s Day at the Rogers Centre and reconnecting with my friend Lynda after 6 years, and feeling like we had not missed a beat. And this week is shaping up to be a much better week where I feel like I am able to cope better.

I interviewed Katherine Jansen-Byrkit, author of River to Ocean: Living in the Flow of Wakefulness, on my podcast, Choosing Hope: Living Courageously Through Adversity. She talks about worthiness, about being enough. We live in a culture that defines worthiness in terms of social status, work, income, accomplishments. What if our worthiness came instead from a place of innate value and acceptance of who we are, just the way we are? What if our worthiness was not conditional and need not be earned? Before cancer, I defined myself very much by work and my worth was tied to it. It took me a long time and a few hard knocks from cancer to finally come to a place where I wake up most mornings feeling intrinsically worthy. I think that practicing self-compassion is accepting that we are intrinsically worthy and not having to prove ourselves every day (which can be exhausting). This is particularly important when life events like health issues or job losses or relationship changes, or aging, or not feeling comfortable in our body, can shake us to the core and make us question our worth. There is freedom in claiming our worth because it gives us the courage to deal with difficult situations from a place of worth and knowing we are enough and figuring out how we move forward constructively. Kathleen shares a poem by Nayyirah Waheed that captures the essence of intrinsic worth :

‘as you are.’ says the universe
‘after…’ you answer.

‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘before…’ you answer.

‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘when…’ you answer.

‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘how….’ you answer.

‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘why….’ you answer.

‘because you are happening now, right now, right at this moment and your happening is beautiful. the thing that both keeps me alive and brings me to my knees. you don’t even know how breathtaking you are; as you are.’ says the universe through the tears – as you are | you are the prayer.’

NEJMA – Nayyirah Waheed

So today is an ode to self-compassion, to intrinsic worth, to treating ourselves the way we would treat a best friend, of accepting our fallibility and imperfections and knowing that this is part of the human condition, of reaching out to trusted people who care about us when things get tough, of tackling difficult times from a place of hope and gratitude, of remembering that after every storm the sun always shines.


  • Linda G , May 24, 2023

    Dearest Munira,
    So good to be together again! Your spirit is awe-inspiring always and I love being with you so much. ❤️ Thank you for reminding us all through your journey to keep the self love alive, it’s so important. Can’t tell you how I look forward to time together again soon!

    • Munira Premji , May 24, 2023

      Linda!!!!!!! I too can’t wait to get back together with you. It really felt like time just melted away. Yes to self-love and self compassion. I have practiced it many times this week….

  • Anny , May 21, 2023

    The universe always finds a way to bring the messages I need to hear. Today, once again, it is through your words. ❤️

    • Munira Premji , May 21, 2023

      Dearest Anny – – Everytime I hear from you I miss you and send you lots of love! This is such a good reminder for all of us. I am committing to being kind to myself and choose compassion.

  • Noor , May 18, 2023

    Munira, I am held spell bound by your words. So eloquent and real. Thank you for sharing. I send you you healing vibes and prayers. May the good days outnumber the bad! New baby? How exciting to be a Gramma many times over!

    • Munira Premji , May 18, 2023

      Dearest Noor! This is a heavy blog and I felt like I had something to say. Amen for your love and prayers. Finding the gratitude through the storm and feeling much better. Yes, looks like we are being blessed with an abundance of grandchildren!!!!!

  • Lynda , May 18, 2023

    You are a real trooper. I can’t imagine all that you are going through. You are blessed to have Nagib at your side. I know you will get through this struggle together. Le us know when that new grandchild arrives.
    Lynda and Dave❤️❤️

    • Munira Premji , May 18, 2023

      Hi Lynda! I have been spoiled by having great days most days. So this past week was just a bummer and a reminder of how lucky I have been. I will never take good days for granted. Waiting for the new baby!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: