Compassion is a sympathetic response we give to others when they are experiencing difficult and misfortunate times in their lives.
Whether you show compassion for someone who has lost a loved one or forgive someone after they’ve made a mistake, compassion is all about noticing the suffering and outwardly showing kindness instead of contempt.
“When you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.”¹
Self-compassion, however, is often neglected by those who think they don’t deserve grace when faced with their own challenges and difficulties—no matter how big or small they are.
Whether you feel it physically, emotionally, or mentally—pain is pain—and self-compassion is a rewarding feeling that can help build resiliency and your overall well-being.
3 Elements of Self-Compassion
Dr. Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has been creating a scale to measure self-compassion for the last two decades.
The three components she has discovered are self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.²
Self-kindness is about being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we feel inadequate about setbacks that happen in our lives. Instead of getting angry and irritated by our actions, or actions that are out of our control, being gentle and kind to ourselves can create a state of composure that can help us focus and accept the emotions we’re feeling.
Recognizing that mistakes are going to occur and suffering is bound to happen is all a part of the human experience which is commonly shared by everyone. Although everyone’s situation looks a little different, it’s an inevitable part of life that should be not ignored or internalized as a ‘why me‘ situation. Knowing you’re not alone in dire times is the purest form of human compassion.
Having a non-judgmental and receptive state to negative feelings can benefit you from altogether suppressing or denying your emotions. Being swept up in your thoughts can make you feel like you’re spinning, however, being self-aware and open can engage your mindfulness keeping you grounded and re-centered.
As Dr. Kristin Neff says, “Self-compassion is often a radically new way of relating to ourselves.”
Find your self-compassion and incorporate it into your work and personal life.
Normalize Self-Kindness: Feeling burnout? Taking the time to replenish yourself from your work or home life is not a selfish act. Recharging your wellness in whatever way you see fit is a part of being human. Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup, and the people around you will appreciate your time away to replenish.
Forgiveness: For those who are very hard and critical about themselves, forgiving yourself can seem like an impossible task, but it is possible. By acknowledging the mistake out loud, or writing it into a letter and burning it—let yourself know that every mistake is a lesson learned, you don’t have to feel remorseful forever, and moving on is an acceptable next step.
Find Your Inner Voice: If you’re finding it difficult to guide your thoughts and feelings into a compassionate state, discover resiliency-based podcasts and online courses that can help train your brain to become more resilient.
Dr. Kristin Neff is featured on an episode of Road To Resilience; a podcast that focuses on stories and insights to help guide and thrive individuals in a challenging world.
Listen to the podcast here: Road To Resilience: The Fierce Side of Self-Compassion
Our Recovery College facilitators will show you how to connect with others, manage your emotions and find that sense of belonging in the Practicing Compassion course. In this course, you will learn how to focus your energy on becoming a part of a community where your efforts are appreciated and valued by your peers.
Sign up for the Practicing Compassion Recovery College course here.
Self-Care: While self-compassion is showing yourself the same care you would show someone else, self-care is the practice of taking care of your body, mind and soul. It’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself by giving it what it needs whether that’s extra sleep, going for a walk, practicing positive self-talk, or watching your favourite movie.
Ignore Outside Influences: Other people’s perceptions can often trigger lower self-esteem leading to an even lower and more negative self-image. Although easier said than done, it’s extremely beneficial to not let the words, especially the words of those not in your inner circle, get to you. Societal pressures about appearance, occupation, salary, etc., are all factors that some people like to idolize even though they don’t determine your self-worth. By brushing off the negative criticism, you can hone in your self-compassion.
For more information about online workshops, exercises on improving your self-compassion, or discovering other resources focused on self-compassion, please visit Dr. Kristin Neff’s self-compassion website.
¹”Definition of Self-Compassion,” Dr. Kristin Neff. Accessed August 20, 2021. https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/
²”Three Elements of Self-Compassion,” Dr. Kristin Neff. Accessed August 20, 2021. https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/