Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding during challenging times, failures, or when you notice something about yourself that you don’t like. It’s no different than showing compassion to others. To practice self-compassion, you must acknowledge your pain. If you ignore it, you won’t be able to feel compassionate about how challenging the situation is. Compassion also means being moved by your own suffering and responding to it with warmth, caring, and a desire to do something about it. When you have self-compassion, you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection are part of the shared human experience.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher on the subject, defines self-compassion as the sense of kindness and understanding when confronted with personal feelings. Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, you should seek to understand when times are difficult. By caring for yourself, you can change in ways that make you happier and healthier. It’s essential to learn to accept your humanness, rise above pettiness, and realize that things won’t always go as planned. The more you open your heart to this reality, the more you’ll be able to feel compassion for yourself and others in the experience of life.
Dr. Neff’s research shows that self-compassion is a healthier way to relate to oneself than Western developmental psychology’s idea of the need for high self-esteem to be psychologically healthy. Parents are often instructed to nurture their children’s self-esteem, and teachers are encouraged to reward students with gold stars to build their self-esteem. Adolescence is viewed as a dangerous time when children transition into adulthood and may experience a dip in self-esteem, causing problems. Self-compassion is a better approach to these issues.
Harvard Medical School published an article on the power of self-compassion. Forgiving and nurturing oneself could set the stage for better health, relationships, and general well-being. Self-compassionate people experience lower levels of anxiety and depression because they understand when they’re in pain or suffering and show kindness to themselves during these times. Self-compassion is a learnable skill that involves practices such as comforting your body, writing a letter to yourself, giving yourself encouragement, and practicing mindfulness.
Self-compassion is a powerful tool that can change your perspective about yourself and the world. There are infinite possibilities of what being self-compassionate can do for your mind and body. Doctors recommend that people practice self-compassion because it’s a learnable skill that can improve their overall well-being.
Research: Studies on Self Compassion
- The benefits of being self-compassionate to one’s body by Breines, Thoma, Gianferante, and Almeida (2014) found that individuals who reported more self-compassion towards their bodies had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in their saliva. This suggests that self-compassion towards one’s body may help reduce stress.
- The role of self-compassion in buffering symptoms of depression in the general population by Allen and Leary (2010) found that individuals who reported higher levels of self-compassion were less likely to experience symptoms of depression, even when facing stressful life events. This study suggests that self-compassion may help protect against depression.
- Self-compassion and emotional intelligence in nurses by Neff, Kirkpatrick, and Rude (2007) found that self-compassion was positively associated with emotional intelligence in nurses. This study suggests that self-compassion may be an important component of emotional intelligence in healthcare professionals.
- Self-compassion and reactions to serious illness: the case of HIV by Sirois, Molnar, and Hirsch (2017) found that self-compassion was associated with less negative emotional reactions to receiving an HIV diagnosis. This study suggests that self-compassion may help individuals cope with the emotional challenges of serious illness.
- Self-compassion as a protective factor against the development of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders by Kelly and Carter (2015) found that self-compassion was negatively associated with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors in a sample of college women. This study suggests that self-compassion may be a protective factor against the development of body image and eating disorders.