What Is Self-Compassion

“Be gentle with yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  You may not be perfect, but you are all you’ve got to work with.  The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.”

-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (from Flowers and Stahl, 2011; p. 89)

What happens when you read these words?  Do you even notice? I mean in your own body…in your own heart?  What is your mind busy saying to you right now? Does it tell you this can only be something that other people can do, but not you?

Most of us commonly believe that compassion is only something we extend to others. Most often it arises within us when we notice that someone we care about is suffering and we want to help or support them in some way.  

We don’t tend to turn toward ourselves this way when we are suffering. Even more than that, though we may long for someone to notice and show us compassion, care, comfort; we may also feel ashamed, unworthy, deficient or unlovable.

Those of us lucky enough to have had people show us compassion and lucky enough to have accepted their kindness and care…know how much this means. It is not uncommon to hear things like: ‘that meant the world to me’ or…‘you don’t know how much that means’. Sometimes we show it with our tears, our eyes, or just a softening in our body. 

Imagine what it might be like if we could do this for ourselves? Imagine if we could care about our-selves and our own precious life in a moment or period of suffering?

The good news is…we can do this and it can make a difference.

This is more than a trick or strategy toward self- improvement…more than just a way to ‘get over’ or ‘get through’ a moment.  This is not self-indulgence. (as our mind might try to convince us) Compassion is a way of living our lives accepting that we suffer just like everyone else; we are deserving of kindness and care just like those we offer it to. 

Self-Compassion is also a way of accepting our pain and facing it with tenderness and a gentle attitude.  When we do this, an interesting thing happens…when we relax, our pain often does too.  It may not disappear, which is what we usually focus on…but really and truly…if you are being truthful with your-self…how often does that really work? Being with our pain in this way is often called Mindfulness or Mindful awareness of our pain.

Because this may be a very new way of relating to your-self, it can help to start intentionally practicing Compassion toward others, while also extending it toward our-selves.  

Sometimes we refer to these practices as tip toeing, just dipping our toes into the water of Compassion to see how it feels. 

Here are some ways you can begin today!

See what happens…try out our  Self-Compassion Practices and be open to what you experience without judging your-self. If you notice judgment, harshness or self-criticism…see if you can just hold it with Self-Compassion and Acceptance…using Mindful Awareness to just be with it as it is.

There is a lot of good news about Self-Compassion.  Kristin Neff, a psychologist and researcher along with her colleague Christopher Germer, a clinical psychologist, have been studying how Self-Compassion can make a difference in our lives.  Read more here.

Please check out the wonderful work they have been doing and sharing all around the world, and how the practice of Self-Compassion has made a difference in their lives.

Dawn Blessing and Trudy Kergon have also been practicing Self-Compassion in their own lives.  They have both trained directly with Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer. Their work is informed by their personal experience and training.


The Scientific Benefits of Self-Compassion INFOGRAPHIC - An Infographic from Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

Embedded from Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.