Intro to Self Compassion

self compassion Sep 03, 2023

Today’s blog post focuses on exploring the concept of Self Compassion, and why it is such a crucial skill for us to cultivate. Life can be hard, stressful, difficult and unrelenting.

Far too often, we can reach for Self Criticism in the face of these circumstances. We expect more from ourselves. We should be better. We should be more. What does Self Criticism look like in real life? 

  • It’s scolding yourself for sitting on the couch reading a book for a bit on a weekend. “But there’s laundry!” “But I should be working out!” “But there’s so much work to do!”
  • It’s berating yourself for scrolling on your phone instead of actively playing with your kids at the end of a stressful day. “I was at work all day, I didn’t see my kids, and look at me not even engaging, I’m a terrible parent for not being more present”. 
  • It’s adding a narrative to a mistake you made “I can’t believe I froze during my presentation. I suck!! I’m terrible! I’m a failure!”. 
  • It’s turning a setback into a personal identity that you beat yourself up about. “I really messed up. I’ll never succeed.”

We can be particularly prone to self criticism when we are tired, stressed and overwhelmed. It’s the dark side of what can be a really helpful quality: a drive to continuously grow, improve and be our best self. Is it healthy to want to be the best version of yourself? Sure. But being our own worst critic when we fail to live up to our own expectations does not support our mental health or our well being

Criticism and negative self talk don’t support growth. 

What does? Self Compassion. 

Self Compassion is treating yourself with the care and consideration you would offer a friend or loved one.

Dr. Kristin Neff is one of the most prominent researchers on the impact and importance of Self Compassion, with many publications summarizing her work.  

“Research indicates that self-compassion is strongly associated with psychological well-being [Neff, 2009]. Higher levels of self-compassion are linked to increased feelings of happiness, optimism, curiosity and connectedness, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, rumination and fear of failure.” (Dr. Kristin Neff). 

Her 2011 Book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself dives deep into limiting self criticism, and building more contentment. She’s also summarized her work in a variety of talks, including this one

How to become Self Compassionate

If you’re looking to get started with Self Compassion, use this framework to change your mindset from critic to compassionate supporter. 


1. Bring to mind a trusted friend or loved one

Think of someone you know has your best interest at heart. Do you have someone in mind? Good, now let’s go to the next step…


2. Pretend that they are the one experiencing what you’re going through

Visualize them telling you what’s been going on, the conclusions they are drawing and how they’ve been speaking to themselves. For example:

  • “I really screwed up my presentation. I forgot everything I meant to say. I can’t believe I’m such a failure. How could I do this? I bet I lost total credibility”.
  • “I feel like such a terrible parent. I was gone all week, and now I’m sitting here reading instead of engaging with the kids.


3. Think of the what you'd tell them

What support would you give them? How would you respond to what they are saying? Here’s an example…. 

  • “I’m sorry your presentation did not go like you'd hoped. Everyone has an off day. It probably felt a lot worse than it was, and one setback does not make you a failure in any way. And even if everything was awful, I’d still love you and be your biggest fan” 
  • “You’ve had a really long week. It’s wildly reasonable to take time for yourself, and it’s good for your kids to see you prioritizing your well being! They are probably having fun playing by themselves anyway. Maybe talk to them about something small and chill you can do together when you’re feeling up to it, and enjoy your downtime GUILT FREE.”

If it's difficult for you to switch, doing the above exercise in writing could be really helpful. 


4. Phone a Friend

If that doesn't work, actually phone a friend. Share how you've been feeling, and let them help you see a different perspective.

Self Criticism is steeped in SHOULDS and an unrelenting expectation that we live up to every exacting standard we have for ourselves. Self Compassion is seeing ourselves as complete humans who have ups and downs, and whose mistakes do not define us. Self Compassion supports growth.


Further reading and resources

If you’d like explore more resources related to this topic, here are a few of our favorites:


Join us! Mindfulness Incubator Resilience Immersion Retreat

Self Compassion is one of the many topics that we delve into during the intimate, transformational workshops of our Resilience Immersion Retreat. We have extremely limited availability for this incredible experience, September 21-24, 2023, in Santa Fe New Mexico. 

This ultra-exclusive 4 day, 3 night getaway was developed with overworked, overwhelmed women in mind. Through curated workshops, resilience boosting experiences, incredible food & beverage and a wonderful community, you’ll be absolutely transformed. Learn more about the retreat here, and if you’re thinking about it, don’t wait! 


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