What is Self-Compassion?

When we hear the word ‘compassion’ we often think about being compassionate towards others. Imagine someone close to you is going through some hardship, you would probably try and let them know you are there for them and show them compassion from the bottom of your heart.

  • Release Date: 20 May 2022
  • Update Date: 15 March 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency
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When someone close to you needs you, the feeling that you are able to be there for them is rewarding, isn’t it? But, what if it’s you who’s going through troubled times?

Self-compassion is a positive attitude we can have towards ourselves. The kindness and understanding buried in self-compassion allow it to be an empirically measurable construct. The ability toı relate to yourself in a forgiving, accepting and loving way when the situıation is not ideal or optimal is the definition of self-compassion. It sounds like self-love and clearly it’s different from self-esteem. Then how does one show self-compassion? Starting with self-kindness.

Sometimes we are hurt or we fail in doing something.This is when we need to show kindness and understanding towards ourselves and this is called self-kindness. Instead of judging ourselves harshly when we already feel pain, we can recognise the negative impact of self-judgement and treat ourselves with patience. It’s easy to be hard on yourself. And sometimes we do it much more than we realise. When we forgive ourselves, accept our flaws, and show ourselves kindness we attain a level of self-compassion. 

Let’s say you’re experiencing trouble, would you be as compassionate to yourself as you’ve been to others? This is where the concept ‘resilience’ comes into the picture. Just as you speak words of comfort and try to help your loved ones, it’s important to speak those words to yourself and show compassion to your own situation. It’s quite simple to be honest, treat yourself as you treat a friend. 

Why is Self-Compassion Important?

Fundamentally, self-compassion is about learning to love and care about yourself before loving and caring about others. Self-compassion has been becoming a popular subject and is being discussed more and more. Even if we make mistakes, once we have the understanding for ourselves, we can then learn to love ourselves as well. This is the fundamental component of self-compassion. Our thoughts and emotions sometimes block our view about ourselves. Mindfulness is the utmost tool to remove this block and increase self-compassion. Mindfulness practices give us the chance to look into ourselves in deeper ways and allow us to build an understanding of kindness towards us. Research shows that mindfulness practices have immense benefits on physical and mental health.
Dr. Kristin Neff has come up with eight tips and techniques to practise self-compassion.

  • Treat yourself as you would treat a friend
  • Let yourself make mistakes and care for yourself as you would care for a friend
  • Become more self-aware
  • Release yourself from negative thoughts about yourself
  • Practise mindfulness with your breathing, eating, and going about your life in every way
  • Try not to judge yourself too quickly
  • Re-gain perspective and let go of the need for outside validation
  • Reach out to others, remember common humanity

How to Build Self-Compassion?

All practices about mindfulness will help you to build self-compassion. Mindfulness is about ‘now’ and ‘at the moment’. Our daily responsibilities and basic activities in life make it hard for us to get in touch with our feelings. Taking a step back during the day and stopping to smell the roses might just be the ticket to feel better. If you are in emotional pain, admit that you are in pain instead of ignoring it and show compassion to yourself. This will make you feel the care you need.

Being aware of your breathing is another step when understanding self-compassion. Doing breathing exercises regularly reduces stress and it has other mental and physical benefits for the entire body and mind anyway, thus it can be a tool to build and increase self-compassion. Time spent focused on your breathing is the time spent on your awareness of ‘now’, the moment you are in. Your body relaxes while you’re focusing on your breathing and compilation of these moments are the key for a strong and productive mind.

In other words, we’re all human and one of our collective experiences is making mistakes. We should always remember that none of us has the perfect life and it’s important to be able to say “I’m only human after all, it’s alright to make a mistake” 

What Does Self-Compassion Change?

Self-compassion can change a lot of things  but one of its many benefits is the fact that it develops psychological endurance. The need for connections is a part of human nature. That is why ‘being a part of something bigger’ is a concept in positive psychological studies. Our own individual experiences are embedded in common human experience, hence the term common humanity. We are in no way isolated from others in terms of our life experiences. Granted every experience is unique in its own way, we still build common humanity by this collective memory of experiences. Common humanity is realising  that we are not alone in being imperfect or being hurt. Others experience similar feelings as well. The concept of common humanity helps us to have a better understanding of ourselves and our imperfections. Here are some other benefits of having self-compassion:

  • You will get a more positive attitude towards life.
  • Constant self-critique can lead to loss of motivation. Stronger self-confidence is possible with self-compassion.
  • You will actually start to enjoy your work, your duties and your life in general.
  • Many negative aspects in life such as depression, having constant bad feelings, emotional stress and other behavioural conditions will be avoided.
  • Your communication with people around you will improve and you will express yourself better.
  • When you have self-compassion, you start respecting your body which will lead you to make healthier life choices.

According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the opposite of avoidance and over-identification is mindfulness in the theory of self-compassion. Mindfulness entails acknowledging our own thoughts and emotions as opposed to reacting to them. Reaction comes with a judgement and the self-criticism you deploy against yourself might affect you in worse ways than you know. When one has self-compassion, he or she is aware of his or her own negative thoughts and emotions without disregarding their importance. Rather than ‘putting them aside’ we adopt a positive balance.

One of the ways of building self-compassion is to do more reading about the concept. Let’s finish by quoting Dr. Kristin Neff. “Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill not good emotions. We willingly and mindfully accept the pain in that moment when we have self-compassion. Then we can give ourselves care and kindness bearing in mind that imperfection is a shared human experience and it is a part of life.”

Please refer to our Resilience Speakers page if you want to find out more about self-compassion and awareness. Speaker Agency’s experts Dr. Martyn Newman, Felicity Aston, Geoff McDonald, Jamil Qureshi have the knowledge and insight you might be looking for. Please feel free to contact us for any questions.

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