#Askingforafriend: What is self-compassion? (Part 2)

August 18, 2020 / by / 0 Comment

Second of a three-part series

By Caitlin Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care

Self-compassion, as we discussed in Part 1, is an important part of our personal growth and development. It involves our ability to extend to ourselves the compassion we so often give to others.

Instead of becoming perfectionistic, highly critical and self-flagellating when we make a mistake, learning to approach ourselves with gentleness and kindness can act as a more effective approach to help us learn a lesson and create change.

Understanding more about what self-compassion is and is not can be helpful steps in the journey of healing and learning to develop more self-compassion.

As discussed in Part 1 of “#askingforafriend: What is Self-Compassion?”, Dr. Kristin Neff, the founder of www.Self-Compassion.org, divides self-compassion’s definition into three distinct parts:

  • Noticing that others are suffering
  • Feeling moved and responding to the pain of others.
  • Arriving at the place of recognizing that imperfections, failure and suffering are a part of the shared human condition.

Even more importantly, Neff also highlights what self-compassion is not. These are important principles to understand because they often act as barriers that get in the way of learning to practice more self-compassion. Neff clarifies that self-compassion is not the same as:

  • Self-pity: This often emphasizes feelings of separation from those around us. Conversely, self-compassion helps us see the difficult experiences of both ourselves and others without feeling separated from those people.
  • Self-indulgence: Neff states on her website, “Many people say they are reluctant to be self-compassionate because they’re afraid they would let themselves get away with anything” and consequently proceed to partake in unhealthy behaviors (e.g., watching too much television, eating unhealthy food, not getting enough sleep). Self-compassion posits that being happy and finding joy for the long-term is key and challenges us to remember that “the care intrinsic to compassion provides a powerful motivating force for growth and change, while also providing the safety needed to see the self clearly without fear of self-condemnation.”
  • Self-esteem: This has defining factors that include perceived value or how much we like ourselves, often in comparison to others. Self-compassion is “not based on self-evaluations” and does not require us possessing a specific set of traits to see ourselves as valuable.

The truth of the matter is, we each possess intrinsic value. We deserve to approach ourselves with gentleness, kindness and grace, regardless of what any negative thoughts or influences tell us.

Take a moment to begin practicing a new way of thinking and form a new, nicer habit when it comes to how you talk to yourself. In the next and final post about self-compassion, we will discuss tips to keep in mind when beginning this new practice as well as explore some exercises to get the process started.



Neff, K. (2020). Self-Compassion, http://www.self-compassion.org/

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