What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion refers to a wise and kind way of relating to ourselves when we suffer.
Research suggests that it consists of several components. Instead of ignoring our pain or getting caught up in telling ourselves stories about the pain, we simply notice that we are hurting and acknowledge how it feels physically and emotionally. Instead of feeling uniquely isolated and inferior to others for experiencing this difficulty – no matter how big or small -, we recognize that all human beings go through difficult times in their lives and that we are all connected through the trials and tribulations of human existence. Instead of feeling angry with ourselves, we simply offer ourselves comfort and a helping hand, as we would do to a dear friend.
Why does self-compassion matter?
How did you treat yourself the last time you felt bad? Research found that around three quarters of people in most developed countries find it easier to be compassionate to others than to themselves. A lack of self-compassion and harsh self-criticism have been associated with major depression and worse outcomes when you have a mental health problem. Greater self-compassion, on the other hand, has been consistently associated with better mental and physical health and with more satisfying relationships.
However, you may understandably have some doubts such as: “Do we not become lazy or more self-obsessed or self-indulgent? Does our society not need us to develop more consideration and compassion for others instead of for ourselves?”.
Research shows we put more effort into pursuing our goals after failure when we motivate ourselves with self-compassion instead of self-criticism. Studies also show that self-compassion goes along with greater emotional resilience when faced with hardship and increased personal responsibility for one’s health, lifestyle choices and for failures and shortcomings. These findings suggest that by learning to meet our own needs, we become more resilient and have more capacity to be there for others in a sustainable and authentic way.
For more on the latest research findings please visit Dr. Kristin Neff’s Website.
How can I become more self-compassionate?
Everyone can learn to be more self-compassionate. Each person has his or her own pace and style of learning. If you have identified a need for greater kindness towards yourself, you may want to consider which of the formats below is most suitable for you at this time in your life. If you are experiencing mental health problems, you are advised to first consult with a licensed mental health clinician.