Out of Balance? Try Self-Compassion

Posted in Balanced Mind and Soul | July 24, 2012 |

What is self compassion?

Researcher Chris Germer said, “Whereas acceptance usually refers to what’s happening to us —accepting a feeling or a thought—self-compassion is acceptance of the person to whom it’s happening. It’s acceptance of ourselves while we’re in pain.”

The topic of self-compassion is rapidly becoming a burgeoning field in psychological research, led by Germer and University of Texas, Austin researcher Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion.

While it is fairly easy for most of us to feel compassion toward others, it can be difficult to apply the same to ourselves. Which is too bad, because being self-compassionate can improve health in the following ways:

    • Decreased depression and anxiety: one of the mechanisms here seems to be that self-compassion reduces self-criticism, a key component of depression.
    • Greater wisdom and emotional intelligence: people who are self-compassionate are better able to handle difficult emotions. Rather than ruminating or suppressing negative thoughts, self-compassionate people gently allow their own experience rather than avoid it.

  • Increased meaning in life: self-compassionate people report greater life satisfaction and social connectedness as well as higher levels of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
  • Enhanced motivation: people who are self-compassionate tend to have less motivational anxiety and also want to achieve for themselves, not to please others or achieve social status.
  • Improved physical health: Neff and colleagues have found that people high in self-compassion are better at maintaining diets, do better in reducing smoking, and find intrinsic reasons for exercising rather than extrinsic ones such as body image.
    Developing self-compassion.

So, given these benefits, how does one increase self-compassion?

Neff has found that self-compassion can be broken into three key components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.


Rather than being self-critical or beating yourself up for making mistakes or feeling inadequate, self-compassion allows you to be warm and accepting.

One essential question that Neff suggests you ask yourself is, “Would I treat my best friend that way?”

Care for yourself as you would your own best friend when s/he goes through suffering and difficult times.

It’s not that you’re not claiming responsibility for yourself, it’s more that you are acknowledging exactly who you are but doing so with benevolence so that you can then be more open to helping yourself.

Common Humanity

Somehow, we tend to get very narrowly focused when we become self-critical. When you feel down about yourself, you might tend to think you’re the only one with your particular flaws and foibles. This isolates you from the rest of the community and adds to your self-criticism.

Remember that all people are flawed, all have inadequacies, and so we all are in the same experience together. Self-compassion recognizes the shared experience of humanity and helps us to feel less isolated and alone.


Neff says, “To give ourselves compassion, we first have to recognize that we are suffering. We can’t heal what we can’t feel.”

Mindfulness is the act of being in the present moment without judgment. Noticing that you are suffering or hurting in some way is the first, vital step. Then you must accept your hurting self without judgment, even if you are the one who cause your own pain.

The concept of self-compassion is a growing field and one that has already proved influential to improved overall health. It is certainly worth exploring yourself. For more information, extensive research, and guided self-compassion meditations, please visit Kristin Neff’s website at http://www.self-compassion.org.


Smart Thoughts (13)

  1. Neff says, “To give ourselves compassion, we first have to recognize that we are suffering. We can’t heal what we can’t feel.”

    oh excellent, totally agree! big lessons to learn, I love the reminder

  2. Priska says:

    Being brought up to look on the bright side of life, positive thinking, having high self esteem, many of us are totally unaware that we are suffering, therefore unable to heal what we don’t feel.

  3. Edwin Rutsch says:

    hi Bobbi,
    May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

    I added a link to your article in our
    Self-Empathy Magazine
    “The latest news, articles, videos, books, posts about Self-Empathy and Self-Compassion”

  4. Larry says:

    Hello Anastasiya.

    I’m from Mexico, and i don’t speak english. I just know some words that i learned in the school (a long time ago jaja).So,I’m sorry But i just want to say that your blog is wonderful. I loved everything of that you post (and the pictures).

    Thanks for your texts. Maybe some day i can read all of your blog, but by the moment i’m slow.

    Congrats!! and thank you again!! =)

    • Anastasiya says:

      You are welcome, Larry!
      Reading blogs is a great way to improve your English skills. English is my second language as well and following other blogs was a great way to master the language. Feel free to leave comments any time to practice your writing skills too :-)

  5. Lovely post, Bobbi!
    I particularly like your advice: “Care for yourself as you would your own best friend when s/he goes through suffering and difficult times.”

    Wonderful to revisit your blog, Anastasiya, and find it in such good heart. Congratulations!

  6. Claire says:

    Really enjoyed this post. It is wonderful that self compassion apart from just feeling good can enrich our lives in so many other ways such as improved physical health, emotional intelligence and meaning in life!

    Thanks Bobbi & Anastasiya