Self Compassion – What is it? and why you need it!
Self-compassion is a trending term in personal development and mental health literature these days – but what is it really? Is self-compassion more than simply indulging yourself?
In the last decade, the works of people like Kristin Neff, Brene Brown and Tara Brach (to name a few) have opened the doors to a new way of scientifically understanding the self. These researchers have focused on self-compassion, radical self-acceptance, courage and vulnerability as a way to lead happier, more authentic lives – and they are kicking ass while doing it. To keep things simple, today we will narrow our focus to self-compassion.
Self-compassion is made up of 3 main elements:
- Self Kindness, rather than self judgment
- A sense of Common Humanity, rather than isolation
So lets break this down, shall we?
Self Kindness points out that judging oneself when things go wrong tends to exacerbate suffering, while practicing compassion towards oneself will reduce suffering. In that light, we aim to show ourselves the same warmth and compassion we would extend to a good friend if they were going through a tough time. In this sense we use self-kindness to effectively self soothe.
A sense of shared common humanity, is developed by the understanding that pain and suffering is part of the human experience and we all share the gift of imperfection. When you come to realised that no ones life is perfect, and none of us make it to the finish line unscathed, we can develop a sense of acceptance and contentment with wherever we find ourselves in the moment.
Mindfulness involves paying attention to ones present moment experience as it is happening, as well as cultivating a non-judgmental, accepting attitude toward that experience. The ability to practice mindfulness allows one to ‘sit with’ difficult emotions and situations while embarking on the path of self-compassion.
Makes sense right!
However, somewhere along the line – most of us learn that the best way to motivate ourselves is to rely on our inner critic, that being nice to ourselves was a symbol of weakness, and that perfection is the goal we should be seeking. These ingrained beliefs can make it hard for some of us to understand the practice of self-compassion.
In my personal life, it is always easier for me to wrap my head around something (meditation, gratitude etc) if I know exactly how I am going to benefit from that activity. For that reason, and because I am so fully on the self-compassion-train, I wanted you to know some of the main benefits you get when you switch from self-judgment to self-kindness.
Benefits of self-compassion:
- Self-compassionate people are better equipped and more likely to take on new challenges because they do not judge themselves when things go wrong
- Self-compassion lowers ones fear of failure
- Self-compassionate people have more intrinsic motivation, and have been shown to have greater success in sticking with healthy habits like diet and exercise.
- Studies have shown that after training in Mindful Self-compassion, participants reported significantly higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction as well as significantly lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
(Neff & Germer, 2013)
The practice of self-compassion – learning to be kind and mindful with myself has dramatically increased the quality of my life. I am happier, I no longer hate my body, my relationships have improved, and I feel ok to take risks, both in my career and personal life. So, if self-compassion speaks to you, I highly encourage you to check out the work of Kristin Neff at www.selfcompassion.org