Everyone, including you, is worthy of compassion.

What is self-compassion?

Take a moment and reflect on the following two questions.

  1. Think about those times when you’ve had a close friend who is struggling and/or suffering in some way.
  2. How do you typically respond to your friend?
  3. What do you say?
  4. What time do you devote?
  5. How were your posture and non-verbal gestures?

Write down some of the things you discovered.

  1. Now think about various times when youwere struggling and/or suffering in some way.
  2. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations?
  3. What do you say?
  4. What time do you devote?
  5. How were your posture and non-verbal gestures?

Write down some of the things you discovered.

Compare the two lists.

Self-compassion means being a good friend to yourself as well as others.  Simply put, self-compassion is treating ourselves with the same kindness as we would treat a friend in trouble.

Compassion is a state of mind that is open, abundant and inclusive.  Compassion manifests as the offering of kindness to ourselves and others.

The Buddha said that if we truly loved ourselves we would never harm another, because if we harm another it is in some way diminishing who we are; it is taking away from, rather than adding to, our lives. (Sharon Salzberg: The Kindness Handbook)

Dr Kristen Neff describes self-compassion as having three main components:

  • self-kindness versus self-judgment,
  • a sense of common humanity versus isolation, and
  • mindfulness versus over-identification.

She writes:

Self-kindness versus self-judgment. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  Self-compassionate people tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.

Common humanity versus isolation.  Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation—as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.  All humans suffer.  Therefore, self-compassion involves recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of something we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness versus over-identification. Self-compassion also requires the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness.  Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive state of mind in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.  We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.

The development of greater self-compassion, through the cultivation of mindful awareness and loving kindness, is the way we can come up against life’s inevitable frustrations, mistakes and disappointments, love ourselves anyway, and keep moving toward growth and change.

 

Sometimes we just need to do the best we can!