Self-compassion: what it is and how to practice it

updated on 04 October 2021

Post by Thais Bogarin, Content Writer at Deep Breath

Practicing self-compassion works in improving your quality of life
Practicing self-compassion works in improving your quality of life

Self-compassion is one of the pillars that make up self-esteem. It is all about how we evaluate our own feelings, experiences, and failures. If another person is in pain, a compassionate person connects with their suffering, understands that they need help and may even offer that assistance. So basically, self-compassion applies that very same concept to ourselves. 

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? And yet, many of us forget to show compassion to ourselves, either because we don’t realize how important it is or because we can confuse it with self-pity, weakness or selfishness. But it’s not about getting stuck in feeling bad for our misfortunes and mistakes. Self-compassion enables us to mindfully take a step back and see our problems in a more objective view. It frees us from “tough” façades that only bury our emotions and even from falling into the trap of thinking the world revolves around us.

There’s a lot of power in being compassionate to ourselves. It can stop us from being too harsh or self-critical, help us recognize that feeling pain is just another part of life, and embrace the idea that human beings are not supposed to be perfect. In other words, it’s an act of self-love. Not only that, but having compassion for ourselves has proved to increase motivation [1] and significantly reduce the chances of anxiety and depression [2].

Being aware of how we treat ourselves can be tricky. If you’re unsure whether you are compassionate towards yourself, you can always try testing it out.

Is there self-compassion therapy?

Many therapists specialize in particular areas linked to self-esteem, and self-compassion is not the exception. In fact, clinical psychologist Paul Raymond Gilbert founded compassion-focused therapy (CFT), which mixes up several psychology and science techniques and theories to train your mind for self-compassion.

So if you feel that this is an interesting option for you, take the time to do some research to find the right professional. But if the flexible schedule and wallet required by therapy put you off, there are still other paths you can take.

There are many ways you can practice self-compassion

Everybody is different, so we all have our preferred ways to cultivate self-compassion.

For some, it may be helpful to start with taking a deeper dive into the theory and research behind this topic. The “mother of self-compassion” herself, Dr. Kristin Neff, has dedicated her career to creating resources to help people get in touch with this feeling. Her work goes from books and workshops, to a dedicated program co-created with her colleague Dr. Chris Germer. Additionally, you may find it be interesting to look into the works and talks of experts such as Tara Brach and Brene Brown.

There are also every day actions that help develop self-compassion. Taking some “me time” to feel your emotions and get to know yourself is an important step towards accepting who you are, not comparing yourself to others, and forgiving yourself. You can also try saying nice things about yourself in front of the mirror, or even keep a self compassion journal. Some people also find that meditation helps. 

Think of self-compassion as a sort of muscle, the more you work on it, the more it strengthens. So just try and stick with what feels right for you! And remember, taking good care of yourself is never selfish, it’s an important part of ensuring your health and happiness.

In many cases, treating self-compassion is just one piece of the puzzle of our self-esteem. While being kind to ourselves when we are down is key, taking on a more comprehensive approach can help to figure out which other areas we need to work on and how to become more confident in ourselves. So why not try a program tailored to your needs? Another way to go about it, is to check out our group sessions

[1] Breines, J. & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. 

[2] Körner, A. et al. (2015). The Role of Self-Compassion in Buffering Symptoms of Depression in the General Population. 

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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