#Askingforafriend: What is self-compassion? (Part 1)
By Caitlin Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care
Let’s talk about being nice to ourselves. It’s a hard thing to do.
As a therapist, something I encounter often in session is that clients are often incredibly compassionate and giving toward other people in their lives.
But when it comes to them? They believe they deserve the short end of the stick, that the compassion and care they give to others might be nice to have but they do not know how to cultivate it in themselves.
Enter self-compassion. It’s essentially the ability to give ourselves the same compassion we give to other people. According to Dr. Kristin Neff, the researcher who studies self-compassion, it can be defined by the following three elements:
- Self-kindness vs. self-judgment: Self-compassion includes the ability to be understanding and kind toward ourselves when we fall short and don’t feel adequate. We should feel as if we’re suffering rather than become critical with ourselves.
- Common humanity vs. isolation: “Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation,” Neff says. Basically, we think we’re the only people going through something hard or who are making mistakes. However, we are all fallible, imperfect humans, and we all suffer. Self-compassion incorporates recognizing that.
- Mindfulness vs. over-identification: Self-compassion involves learning to find a balanced approach with our emotions so that they are “neither suppressed nor exaggerated.” This helps us share our personal experiences with others who also are suffering, which helps us see our problems from a larger perspective. It also gives us the ability to notice our negative emotions and thoughts without judgment and to simply practice observing them as they are. This mindful awareness helps us to notice and pay attention to our thoughts and feelings instead of suppressing them or becoming consumed with them.
By learning more about what self-compassion is, we can begin to develop this new way of operating in the world. The three components of the definition of self-compassion help provide a framework that begins the process of developing this perspective of ourselves.
In Part 2, we will discuss what self-compassion is not. Hint: You’ll find these things might be some of the barriers that get in the way of practicing self-compassion.
Neff, K. (2020). Self-Compassion, from http://www.self-compassion.org/