#Askingforafriend: What is self-compassion? (Part 3)

August 26, 2020 / by / 2 Comments

By Caitlin Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care

We’ve learned what self-compassion is and what it isn’t. So now what? Now the fun begins. Now we learn how to apply this new way of operating in the world, and we give ourselves permission to do so in an imperfect way.

I promise you will not get this right on the first try, and that is exactly the point of self-compassion. This new way of relating to our self is akin to forming a new habit, and that takes time and consistency to become effective.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when beginning to practice self-compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff, the researcher behind www.self-compassion.org, reminds us that the first thing to remember is that self-compassion is mindfulness-based and will not always bring about good feelings.

What that means is that self-compassion requires us – particularly when we notice pain or other negative feelings – to “mindfully accept that the moment is painful and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfect is part of the shared human experience,” Neff wrote.

An additional tip to remember is that sometimes when we begin practicing self-compassion, the pain that we experience may increase at first. This is a common experience when we are learning to love ourselves – the old pain must get out as kindness and compassion is finding its new home.

If that pain is experienced, we have to remember to be patient and consistent with practicing self-compassion. Sometimes, if the difficult emotions feel too overwhelming, we also might need to remember to take a step back and ground ourselves by feeling our feet on the ground, focusing on our breathing and engaging in self-care activities.

Challenge yourself to try the following exercises with consistency; again, remember that it is OK if it’s not easy or comfortable. Additional exercises, as well as guided meditations, can be found at www.self-compassion.org.

  • Compare and contrast how you treat a friend when they are struggling vs. how you treat yourself when you are struggling. What factors are in play that cause you to treat yourself differently? What would change if you took the same approach with yourself as you did with a friend?
  • Notice how self-criticism is used as a way to motivate yourself to change an aspect that you don’t like about yourself (e.g., I’m overweight, I’m lazy, I’m a failure, etc.). Noticing the emotional pain that self-criticism causes can help you move to giving yourself compassion for the experience of being judged. Then, challenge yourself to think of a kinder and gentler way to motivate yourself to change. As Neff asks, “What is the most supportive message you can think of that’s in line with your underlying wish to be healthy and happy?” Lastly, when you are able to identify self-criticism, notice the pain that comes with it, then give yourself compassion. Work to reframe and correct the narrative so it is more nurturing.



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

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2 Responses
  1. David Doyle

    Dear Caitlin, as a former perfectionist over-achiever and workaholic, I encourage you to go to the Scriptures for answers. If we could help ourselves we wouldn’t need self-help books and web sites. In fact the whole point of the Bible is man’s inability to help himself and rather to trust God in all things, then through Him you will find peace. We are to love God first, and also love our neighbor, and yes love ourselves. We also know that God is the healer and we are to cast our anxieties on Him. One of the most comforting verses in the Bible is Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus urges us to come to Him, not to rely on ourselves:
    “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
    God cares for us and gives grace to the humble. Let that sink in for a moment…
    “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
    David Doyle

    Aug.26.2020 at 1:10 pm
  2. Mike Wallace

    David ,
    Can we not have both instead of being mutually exclusive ? Can I pray, do personal devotions and yoga mindfulness exercises concurrently?-does one negate the other? Could we not visualize Christ if convicted in our mindfulness picture Caitlin is talking about?
    Just curious as to where you are coming from?
    -Mike Wallace

    Aug.26.2020 at 4:06 pm
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