Self-compassion is about how kind, caring and supportive we are to ourselves. It is simply compassion turned inwards. However, for many of us this is often a challenge and while we may be kind, understanding and encouraging to others, we find ourselves being critical, cold and judgmental towards ourselves.
Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful inner resources we have available to us to help us cope and develop resilience. Becoming a self-compassionate person can have a direct positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Are you harshly self-critical when you make a mistake ?
Do you feel inadequate or not good enough?
Do you give yourself the same kindness and understanding you give to a friend?
How might things change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when they are suffering?
The seeds of self-compassion lie within us all. Sowing those seeds is a process of reflection and practice. The growth of self-compassion within us can lead to a more fulfilled life where we can reach our full potential. It enables us to relate to ourselves in ways that help us to thrive and experience emotional equanimity.
Kristin Neff Ph.D. is a pioneer in the study of self-compassion and has been recognised as one of the world’s most influential research psychologists in her field. She has written numerous academic articles and books on the topic. She conducted the first empirical studies on self-compassion nearly twenty years ago and created The Self-Compassion Scale which was the first tool of its kind to assess individual differences in self-compassion. Her research has been greatly influential in my own therapeutic practice and I regularly use her Self Compassion Scale in my work with clients.
I highly recommend visiting her website to learn more about self-compassion and how it can help you. Here you can also listen to her videos and TED Talks, test your level of self-compassion and access Guided Practices & Exercises. (www.self-compassion.org)
“A Native American wisdom story tells of an old Cherokee who is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
I am a strong advocate for self-compassion and regularly use this in my counselling practice. I work alongside clients to challenge harsh self-criticism and replace it with patience, understanding, care and love for themselves. Reframing inner dialogue and exploring the power of language and words enables clients to become supportive and encouraging towards themselves.
For many people self-compassion is a new way of relating to themselves. Being human means that we are vulnerable and imperfect. Whilst we may allow others to be human, we can struggle to allow that within ourselves. I work with clients to find ways to accept the reality of the human condition, that it is normal and natural to struggle at times, that we can’t be perfect, and we don’t need to be. Mindfulness is an intrinsic element of self-compassion because it is a non-judgmental state of mind whereby we observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity. I work with clients to find ways to bring mindfulness into their lives through specific mindful practices and adopting a mindful approach to day-to-day living.