What is Self-Compassion?
The technical definition.
Self-compassion is the extension of kindness, care, warmth, and understanding (instead of beratement and criticism) toward oneself when faced with shortcomings, inadequacies, or failures.
Huh? What does that mean?
Self-compassion is the care and nurturing we offer ourselves when we make mistakes, embarrass ourselves, or come short of a goal we were hoping to achieve. It is the acknowledgment of our pain, and the rejection of the notion that we should just “tough it out.”
Having self-compassion means to honor and accept your own humanness and accept that in life, you will encounter a number of unfortunate circumstances, sometimes where you’re the one at fault. Self-compassion is having grace for oneself.
When witnessing someone else’s suffering or hardship, you may be moved by their pain. You may be moved enough to offer comfort, concern, and well wishes. Take for example, a homeless man on the street; when encountering him, you may notice his pain and wonder if under different circumstances your life could have turned out the same way. Fueled by compassion, you offer assistance of some kind in the form of a couple of dollars or maybe even by buying him a sandwich at a nearby deli. Or imagine your best friend is going through a terrible time in her marriage-she’s on the brink of divorce. Compassion for her and her situation leads you to offer a listening ear, a comforting hug, or maybe some kind words of encouragement.
Now, consider for a moment: how you respond to yourself when you’ve messed up or haven’t done something quite right? Do you offer yourself the same level of care?
How can I use this in my life?
It’s common for many to reject the idea of self-compassion, believing that having compassion for oneself just leads to a pattern of masking excuses for poor behavior or engagement in unnecessary indulgences; however, research on self-compassion has produced a wealth of evidence refuting that claim, reporting that the contrary is actually true: there are many benefits to practicing self-compassion.
People with self-compassion:
- Procrastinate less. Compared to those who try to use guilt, shame, or fear as motivators to complete a project or goal, the ones who practice self-compassion are the ones who spend less time dragging their feet when it comes time to perform a task.
- Re-engage after failure. Those who are accepting and caring towards themselves after a perceived or real failure will be much more likely to “get back on the horse” and keep going.
- Take on more accountability. Contrary to what some might assume, self-compassion does not relieve someone of their ownership of a problem; rather, self-compassion actually serves to assist someone in being able to make a more realistic assessment of the role they played in problem process.
- Are open to feedback. Those who are more compassionate with themselves will not crumble if they receive feedback from others. This is because those who practice self-compassion know they have inherent value and abilities to recover— even if the feedback is not positive.
Some tips to practicing self-compassion:
1) Acknowledge your pain. Notice when you’re hurting and allow yourself to mourn the fact that you are not perfect. Resist the temptation to pretend like nothing’s wrong or that your feelings don’t matter.
2) Adopt a new perspective. View the world through the lens of a best friend or caring individual. When you’re tempted to be self-critical or judgmental, try to speak to yourself as someone who cares about you would; consider what they might say to encourage you.
3) Practice . Being self-compassionate is not an innate quality, and it’s often learned in our family of origin. Depending on our childhood circumstances, this may or may not have been a skill that we learned from our parents. As adults, we can chose to practice this skill until one day it feels like second nature.
One way to practice is by taking five minutes at the end of the day and writing about the worst thing that happened to you during the day. Pretend like you’re writing about it from the stance of someone who cares about you. In one study, participants who did this every day for one week reported experiencing a greater sense of happiness toward their lives. In just a few caring moments a day, you can increase your own well-being – try it!
Armstrong, K. (20112010). Twelve steps to a compassionate life . New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind . New York: William Morrow.
2 thoughts on “What is Self-Compassion?”
This was some great support. Will practice it for personal strength.
I had to write what my goals would look like if I didn’t achieve perfection or failure but something in between. That is where most of us are. I took weeks writing the simple exercise because the minute I tried to write anything less than perfection, I got upset. I started berating myself and demanded the best like a drill sergeant. Finally I sat down and started and it was not so bad. I was calmer and more optimistic. I was more compassionate with achieving the in between. I recommend it.
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Want to change your life try self-compassion, change can be hard. but if we practice self-compassion, it’s much more likely we’ll succeed..
So often we feel stuck in our lives. Maybe we’re in a dead-end job, or we can’t seem to find a healthy romantic relationship, or we keep procrastinating on starting to exercise. As we struggle to improve our lives, we may become dispirited, feeling as if we’ve missed our chance and it’s just too late.
Why do so many of us fail to change? It’s not because change is impossible: All of us have the ability to transform our life at any age, thanks to neuroplasticity—the capacity of our brain to change throughout our lives. Instead, it’s often because of the critical, judgmental voices in our heads—the ones that tell us we are not good enough and berate us for any mistakes or shortcomings.
Science suggests that constant self-judgment and shame shut down the learning centers of the brain, robbing us of the resources we need to learn and grow. Shame locks us into repeating vicious cycles, instead of helping us form new healthy behaviors. Further, shame undermines our belief in ourselves, marooning us on an island of helplessness and self-loathing. As Brené Brown aptly puts it, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
What’s the alternative? Self-compassion—bringing kindness and care to our own suffering. It might seem surprising that self-compassion can bring about great change, but modern science is backing this up. Research suggests that an attitude of kindness strengthens our ability to learn from our mistakes, which can expand our perspective and make us more creative and resourceful.
Self-compassion and change
Research bears out the different ways that self-compassion helps us make changes in our lives. For example, people who are kinder toward themselves are better equipped to make progress toward health-related goals, such as losing weight , exercising , quitting smoking , or recovering from substance abuse . When we’re self-compassionate, instead of shaming ourselves, we are able to face our struggles head-on with all of our resources available to us.
Self-compassion is also associated with the release of oxytocin (the love hormone that facilitates safety and connection), which reduces our distress and increases our feelings of care and support. As psychologist Paul Gilbert proposes, when we practice self-compassion, we are deactivating the threat-defense system and activating the care system in our bodies.
This soothing effect can help us when we are going through difficult times that require us to make changes in our lives, serving as a powerful source of strength and resilience. For example, David Sbarra and his colleagues found that participants who were going through a divorce and displayed more self-compassion when talking about their breakup were healthier, happier, and more resilient. Similarly, soldiers returning from Afghanistan who were taught self-compassion had lower levels of post-traumatic stress disorder .
This research bodes well for those of us who want to make changes in our own lives. Whatever we struggle with, practicing self-compassion can help us make headway on our goals and aspirations. Science is showing that the path to a happier and more fulfilled life starts with growing an attitude of kindness.
The keys to self-compassion
If you’re wondering how to start being kinder toward yourself, the simplest way is to try treating yourself as you would treat a dear friend who is struggling.
Of course, sometimes this isn’t so easy, especially after a lifetime of self-judgment and shame. It requires practice to carve out these new pathways of kindness toward ourselves. How to do this? First, we must understand the key elements of self-compassion and then practice them a little every day. Below are the three elements as articulated by self-compassion pioneer Dr. Kristin Neff.
An Evening with Shauna Shapiro (February 6, 2020)
Good Morning, I Love You: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire Your Brain for Calm, Clarity, and Joy
1. Mindfulness: The first step is mindfulness —learning to pay attention to our moment-to-moment experiences without judging them. We can’t be kind to ourselves unless we first acknowledge we are in pain. In tough times, mindfulness helps us pause, breathe, and see our suffering clearly.
2. Kindness: Second is kindness . Self-compassion adds the gentle touch of care when we are in pain. When things go wrong, we often try to suppress the pain, berate ourselves, or leap into problem-solving mode. But once again: Imagine how you might support a friend who is suffering. Would you tell your friend to forget about it? Would you call your friend an “idiot”? Would you instantly try to fix the problem? Or would you offer your friend kindness, and let them know you care—that no matter what happened, you love them?
3. Common humanity: The final step is to recognize our common humanity , which reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering. Common humanity helps us remember that other people also get divorced or have sick children or get a flat tire. Our belief that this is “my” personal problem and that we are the “only one” suffering isolates and separates us. Self-compassion helps us reframe our situation in light of our shared human experience.
By practicing these three elements of self-compassion, we discover untapped reserves of strength, resilience, and wisdom that help us survive the storm. What’s more, self-compassion strengthens our resources to better navigate future storms. This is one of the alchemical powers of self-compassion: It simultaneously soothes the negative and grows the positive.
A self-compassion practice
No matter where you are in life, no matter what pain you’ve experienced or mistakes you’ve made, your future is spotless, and you can begin again. One small step at a time, you can practice self-compassion and move in the direction of greater health, happiness, and joy. Below I offer a practice from my new book, Good Morning, I Love You , to help you develop the three elements of self-compassion.
Begin by sitting quietly and allowing your attention to rest on the natural flow of your breath, rising and falling in your body. We all have something we are struggling with. Gently ask yourself: What pain or difficulty needs my attention? Listen to whatever arises. Stay with your direct experience in the body. Gently label any emotions that arise: “sadness… fear…frustration.” Stay open, nonjudgmental, and curious. (Mindfulness) Imagine what you might say to a dear friend facing a similar challenge as you. How might you care for your friend? What might you say? How might you support and encourage her? (Kindness) Finally, remind yourself how natural it is for hard times to arise for all of us. Reflect on all the other people in the world who might be in a similar situation right now. Offer compassion to yourself and all the people who are struggling right now. (Common humanity) When you are finished, take a moment to thank yourself for dedicating this time to cultivating pathways of self-compassion. Feel the wholesomeness of this practice, and trust that the seeds you have planted will continue to grow and blossom. Self-compassion is not a quick fix—it takes strength, courage, and faith. The key is to rest in the comfort of this universal truth: You can be your own inner ally.
About the Author
Shauna Shapiro, Ph.D. , is a professor, author, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness and compassion. Dr. Shapiro has published over 150 journal articles and coauthored three critically acclaimed books translated into 14 languages, including her most recent book: Good Morning, I Love You: Mindfulness & Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire the Brain for Calm, Clarity, and Joy .
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‘You never stop grieving…’ Laurent Fignon lost the 1989 Tour de France by eight seconds after more than 3000 km of racing. Photo by Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Don’t beat yourself up
Learning to be kind to yourself when you (inevitably) make mistakes could have a remarkable effect on your happiness.
by Mark Leary + BIO
Human beings are the only creatures who can make themselves miserable. Other animals certainly suffer when they experience negative events, but only humans can induce negative emotions through self-views, judgments, expectations, regrets and comparisons with others. Because self-thought plays such a central role in human happiness and wellbeing, psychologists have devoted a good deal of attention to understanding how people think about themselves.
For many years, the experts have focused on self-esteem. Research has consistently shown that self-esteem is related to psychological wellbeing, suggesting that a positive self-image is an important ingredient in the recipe for a happy and successful life. Seeing this link between self-esteem and an array of desirable life outcomes, many parents bent over backwards to ensure that their children had positive views of themselves, teachers tried to provide feedback in ways that protected students’ self-esteem, and many people became convinced that self-esteem should be widely promoted as a remedy for personal problems and social ills. The high-water mark of the self-esteem movement occurred in the 1980s when the California State Assembly authorised funds to raise the self-esteem of its citizens, with the lofty goal of solving problems such as child abuse, crime, addiction, unwanted pregnancy and welfare dependence. Some legislators even hoped that, as a side benefit, boosting self-esteem would enhance the state’s economy.
On one level, this emphasis on self-esteem seemed well-founded. Psychological research shows that success and wellbeing are associated with high self-esteem, and that people with lower self-esteem suffer a disproportionate share of emotional and behavioural problems. Yet, self-esteem has not lived up to its billing. Not only are the relationships between self-esteem and positive outcomes weaker than many suppose, but a closer look at the evidence shows that self-esteem appears to be the result of success and wellbeing rather than their cause. Although thousands of studies demonstrate that high self-esteem is associated with many good things, virtually no evidence shows that self-esteem actually causes success, happiness or other desired outcomes.
Despite the failure of the self-esteem movement, no one would doubt that certain ways of thinking about oneself are more beneficial than others. We all know people who create a great deal of unhappiness for themselves simply by how they think about and react to the events in their lives. Many people push themselves to meet their own unreasonable expectations, berate themselves for their flubs and failures, and blow their difficulties out of proportion. In an odd sort of way, these people are rather mean to themselves, treating themselves far more harshly than they treat other people. However, we all also know people who take a kinder and gentler approach to themselves. They might not always be happy with themselves, but they accept the fact that everyone has shortcomings and problems, and don’t criticise and condemn themselves unnecessarily for the normal problems of everyday life.
These two reactions to shortcomings, failures and problems might appear to reflect a difference in self-esteem but, in fact, the key difference involves not self-esteem but rather self-compassion. That is, the difference lies not so much in how people evaluate themselves (their self-esteem) but rather in how they treat themselves (their self-compassion). And, as it turns out, the latter appears to be far more important for wellbeing than the former. Of course, people prefer to evaluate themselves favourably rather than unfavourably, but self-compassion has the power to influence people’s emotions and behaviours in ways that self-esteem does not.
T o understand what it means to be self-compassionate, think about what it means to treat another person compassionately, and then turn that same orientation toward oneself. Just as compassion involves a desire to minimise the suffering of others, self-compassion reflects a desire to minimise one’s own suffering and, just as importantly, to avoid creating unnecessary unhappiness and distress for oneself. Self-compassionate people treat themselves in much the same caring, kind and supportive ways that compassionate people treat their friends and family when they are struggling. When they confront life’s problems, self-compassionate people respond with warmth and concern rather than judgment and self-criticism. Whether their problems are the result of their own incompetence, stupidity or lack of self-control, or occur through no fault of their own, self-compassionate people recognise that difficulties are a normal part of life. As a result, they approach their problems with equanimity, neither downplaying the seriousness of their challenges nor being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings.
Kristin Neff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, first brought the construct of self-compassion to the attention of psychological scientists and practitioners in 2003 . Since then, research has shown that self-compassion is robustly associated with every indicator of psychological wellbeing that has been investigated. People who are higher in self-compassion show greater emotional stability, are more resilient, have a more optimistic perspective, and report greater life satisfaction. They are also less likely to display signs of psychological problems such as depression and chronic anxiety.
People who are high in self-compassion deal more successfully with negative events – such as failure, rejection and loss – than people who are low in self-compassion. Whether the problem is a minor daily hassle, a major traumatic event or a chronic problem, people who treat themselves with compassion respond more adaptively than people who don’t. Just as receiving compassion from another person helps us to cope with the slings and arrows of life, being compassionate to ourselves has much the same effect.
In one study , we asked people to answer questions about the worst thing that had happened to them in the past four days. Although self-compassion was not related to how ‘bad’ participants rated the events they reported, people who were high in self-compassion had less negative, pessimistic and self-critical thoughts about the events, and experienced fewer negative emotions. Self-compassionate people also indicated that they tried to be kind to themselves in the face of whatever difficulties they experienced, much as they would respond to a friend with similar problems.
Self-compassion was particularly helpful for older people who were in poor physical health
Self-compassion might be particularly useful when people confront serious, life-changing experiences. For example, a recent study showed that those who had recently separated from their long-term romantic partners showed less distress about the breakup if they were high in self-compassion.
Getting older brings undesired changes, many of which involve lapses or failures, as when people can’t remember things or have trouble performing everyday tasks. Even though they would treat their friends’ struggles with kindness and compassion, many older people become intolerant and angry, criticising themselves and bemoaning their inability to function as they once did. Others, meanwhile, seem to take ageing more in their stride, accepting their lapses, and treating themselves especially nicely when they have particularly bad days.
Our research shows that people who are higher in self-compassion cope better with the challenges of ageing than those who are less self-compassionate: they had higher wellbeing, fewer emotional problems, greater satisfaction with life, and felt that they were ageing more successfully. Self-compassion was particularly helpful for older people who were in poor physical health. In fact, as long as they were high in self-compassion, people with health problems reported wellbeing and life satisfaction that was as high as those without such problems.
Likewise, we found that self-compassion was related to lower stress, anxiety and shame among people who were living with HIV. Because they were less self-critical and ashamed, those who were higher in self-compassion were also more likely to disclose their HIV status to others. Something about being self-compassionate led individuals confronting a serious, life-changing illness to adapt more successfully.
T o understand how self-compassion works, consider how people respond to negative events. When we are upset about something, our reactions stem from three distinct sources. First is the instigating problem and our analysis of the threat that it poses to our wellbeing – what psychologists call the primary appraisal. Whether we are dealing with a failure, rejection, a health problem, losing a job, a speeding ticket or simply a misplaced set of car keys, a portion of our emotional distress is a reaction to the negative implications of the event.
Second, people analyse their ability to cope with the consequences of the problem. Those who think that they cannot handle the problem emotionally will be more upset than those who think that they’ll make it through.
Third comes blame and guilt. When problems arise, we often think about the role that we played – the extent to which we were responsible and what, if anything, this says about us. People often experience additional distress when they believe that the problem arose through their own incompetence, stupidity or lack of self-control. Of course, assessing one’s responsibility is sometimes useful, but people often go beyond an objective assessment of their responsibility to blaming, criticising and even punishing themselves. This self-inflicted cruelty increases whatever distress the original problem is already causing.
Treating oneself compassionately helps to ameliorate all three of these sources of distress. One can reduce some of the initial angst by soothing oneself, just as one might soothe another person’s upset through concern and kindness.
In The Compassionate Mind (2009), Paul Gilbert, a British psychologist who has explored the therapeutic benefits of self-compassion, suggests that self-directed compassion triggers the same physiological systems as receiving care from other people. Treating ourselves in a kind and caring way has many of the same effects as being supported by others.
When people do not add to their distress through self-recrimination, they can look life more squarely in the eye and see it for how it really is
Just as importantly, self-compassion eliminates the additional distress that people often heap on themselves through criticism and self-blame. Again, the parallel with other-directed compassion is informative. I might not be able to make my friend who lost his job feel better, but I certainly won’t make him feel worse by telling him what a failure he is. Yet, people who are low in self-compassion talk to themselves in precisely such discourteous ways.
One central feature of self-compassion that helps to lower distress is what Neff calls common humanity . People high in self-compassion recognise that everyone has problems and suffers. Millions of other people have experienced similar events, and many are dealing with similar problems right now. Although recognising one’s connections with the shared human experience might not reduce our reactions to the original problem, it does remind us not to personalise what has happened or to conclude that our problems are somehow worse than everyone else’s. Viewing one’s problems through the lens of common humanity also lowers the sense of isolation people sometimes experience when they are suffering. It helps to remember that we’re all in this together.
Importantly, self-compassion is not just positive thinking. In fact, self-compassion is associated with a more realistic appraisal of one’s situation and one’s responsibility for it. When people do not add to their distress through self-recrimination and catastrophising, they can look life more squarely in the eye and see it for how it really is. Self-compassionate people have a more accurate, balanced and non-defensive reaction to the events they experience.
Most research on self-compassion has examined its relationship to emotion, but it also has implications for people’s motivation and behaviour. Strong emotions can undermine effective behaviour by leading people to focus on reducing their distress rather than managing the original problem. If unchecked because a person lacks self-compassion, negative reactions foster denial, avoidance and a difficulty or unwillingness to face the problem, leading to dysfunctional coping behaviours. To the extent that self-compassionate people respond with greater equanimity, they respond more effectively to the challenges they confront.
For example, in one study, university students who fared worse than desired on an exam subsequently performed better on the next test if they were high rather than low in self-compassion. Presumably, students low in self-compassion beat themselves up and overreacted, which led them to avoid the issue. Students high in self-compassion surveyed the situation and their role in it, and took steps to improve in the future. Similarly, in our study of people living with HIV, participants who were low in self-compassion indicated that shame about being HIV-positive interfered with their willingness to seek medical and psychological care, whereas those high in self-compassion took better care of themselves. Self-compassion was related both to better psychological adjustment and more adaptive behaviours.
S ome people resist the idea that they should be more self-compassionate. Many people assume that self-compassion reflects Pollyanna-ish thinking, denying reality or, worse, self-indulgence. In this view, self-compassion means ignoring one’s problems, shirking responsibility, having low standards, and going easy on oneself. People who believe that being tough on oneself motivates hard work, appropriate behaviour and success worry that self-compassion will undermine their performance.
These concerns reflect a lack of understanding of what self-compassion actually involves. It is not indifference to what happens or how one behaves. Nor is it a blindly positive outlook or an excuse to be lazy or shirk responsibility. Instead, self-compassion is based on wanting the best for oneself. Just as compassion for other people arises from a concern for their wellbeing and a desire to relieve their suffering, self-compassion involves desiring the best for oneself and responding in ways that promote one’s wellbeing. Self-compassionate people want to reduce their current problems, but they also want to respond in ways that promote their wellbeing down the road, and being lazy and unmotivated is not likely to help. Self-compassionate people realise when they have behaved badly, made poor decisions or failed, and they are sometimes unhappy with themselves or with events that occur. But, paradoxically, taking an accepting and compassionate approach to oneself at such times can help to maintain motivation and improve performance.
In one study , inviting people to think about a negative behaviour in a self-compassionate manner led participants to accept more personal responsibility for that behaviour. Viewing one’s problems with a gentle, caring perspective allows people to confront their difficulties head-on without minimising them. They know that a certain amount of self-judgment is needed to maintain desired behaviour, but they are no more critical toward themselves than needed. People who seek what’s best for themselves recognise that they don’t need to punish themselves to know that good behaviour and hard work are important.
Self-compassion is a teachable skill: people can learn to become more self-compassionate. Studies have demonstrated that even brief exercises instructing people to think about a problem in a self-compassionate manner can have positive effects. Other studies show that when psychologists help their clients to master the techniques, their level of anguish abates.
The first step in cultivating self-compassion is to start noticing instances in which you are not being nice to yourself. Are you telling yourself harsh and unkind things in your mind? Do you punish yourself by pushing yourself too hard or depriving yourself of pleasure when things go wrong? Would you treat a loved one this way under similar circumstances?
A self-compassionate person recognises the problem, fixes it if possible, and moves on without making a dramatic production out of it
If you catch yourself treating yourself badly and increasing your distress, ask yourself why. Is it because you think that being hard on yourself helps to motivate you, makes you behave appropriately, or increases your success? To some extent, you might be correct: negative thoughts and feelings do help us to manage our behaviour. The question, though, is how badly you need to feel in order to motivate yourself. People who are low in self-compassion often make themselves feel far worse than needed to stay on track. A little bit of self-criticism can go a long way.
When bad things happen or you behave in a less-than-desirable way, remind yourself that everyone fails, misbehaves, is rejected, experiences loss, is humiliated, and experiences myriad negative events. That doesn’t mean that these events are OK, but it does mean that there’s nothing unusual or personal in what happened. A self-compassionate person recognises the problem, fixes it if possible, deals with it emotionally, and moves on without making a dramatic production out of it.
Finally, learn to cultivate self-kindness. Treat yourself nicely, both in your own mind and in how you behave toward yourself. Many people are surprised to see that they are often much nicer to other people than to themselves.
Fortunately, people can respond self-compassionately no matter how they feel about themselves at the time. Unlike self-esteem, which is based on favourable judgments of one’s personal characteristics, self-compassion does not depend on viewing oneself positively or liking oneself. In fact, self-compassion is often most beneficial when events undermine one’s sense of competence, desirability, control or value. It is much easier to treat oneself nicely than to evaluate oneself positively.
Self-compassion is hardly a panacea for the struggles of life, but it can be an antidote to the cruelty we sometimes inflict on ourselves. Most of us want to be nice people, so why not be as nice to ourselves as we are to others?
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Sadly, however, most people don’t focus on what they have in common with others, especially when they feel ashamed or inadequate. Rather than framing their imperfection in light of the shared human experience, they’re more likely to feel isolated and disconnected from the world around them when they fail. When we focus on our shortcomings without taking the bigger human picture into account, our perspective tends to narrow. We become absorbed by our own feelings of insufficiency and insecurity. When we’re in the confined space of self-loathing, it’s as if the rest of humanity doesn’t even exist. This isn’t a logical thought process, but a type of emotional tunnel vision. Somehow it feels like I am the only one who is being dumped, proven wrong, or humiliated.
And even when we’re having a painful experience that is not our fault — perhaps we’ve been laid off from our job because of the economic downturn, for instance — we often irrationally feel that the rest of the world is happily employed while it’s only me sitting at home watching re-runs all day. Or when we become seriously ill, we may feel like sickness is an abnormal state that “shouldn’t” be happening. (Like the dying 84-year-old man whose final words were “Why me?”) Once we fall into the trap of believing that things are “supposed” to go well, we tend to think something has gone terribly amiss when they suddenly don’t. Again, this isn’t a conscious thought process, but a hidden assumption that colors our emotional reactions. If we were to take a completely logical approach to the issue, we’d consider the fact that there are thousands of things that can go wrong in life at any one time, so it’s highly likely — in fact inevitable — that we’ll experience hardships on a regular basis. But we don’t tend to be rational about these matters. Instead, we suffer, and we feel all alone in our suffering.
The recognition of common humanity entailed by self-compassion also allows us to be more understanding and less judgmental about our inadequacies. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are largely impacted by factors outside of our control: parenting history, culture, genetic and environmental conditions, as well as the demands and expectations of others. After all, if we had full control over our behavior, how many people would consciously choose to have anger problems, addiction issues, debilitating social anxiety, an eating disorder? Many aspects of ourselves and the circumstances of our lives are not of our intentional choosing, but instead stem from innumerable factors that our outside our sphere of influence. When we acknowledge this reality, failings and life difficulties do not have to be taken so personally.
As Einstein once said:
A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
1. Quote taken from Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children , Alice Calaprice (Ed.), Princeton University Press, 2002.
Mindful Self-Compassion and Self-Awareness
The webinar “Mindful self-compassion: Heart skills for our families and ourselves in challenging times” explores important strategies for finding solace after making mistakes in life. The session addresses the need for self-compassion, which is integral in establishing kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-Compassion is treating oneself with empathy and understanding as one would treat another person when they have made the wrong decision in life (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). This concept faults self-judgment, considering that it promotes forgiveness and rediscovery. Self-judgment is disregarded since it results in withdrawal and self-criticism, enhancing spite and fear (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). The lessons learned, establishing resilience through compassion, and educators’ roles in supporting families are addressed.
Key Points Learned
Self-compassion is being able to block people from breaking the boundary in one’s life by using the hand gesture rule of saying no. This ability enables one to filter out the things and people they allow in their lives, increasing well-being. Some aspects that enhance well-being include being in an environment of joy, self-satisfaction, emotional resilience, and intelligence (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). In addition, self-compassion decreases mental health problems such as anxiety and depression since it reduces shame, regret, guilt, and condemnation that come after a setback.
Additionally, self-compassion also initiates healing which is associated with improved physical health. Through self-forgiveness, an individual can adopt a healthy lifestyle and more satisfying relationships considering that they will be able to reciprocate compassion (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). This concept aligns with the principle of meditation since this also prescribes mindfulness to initiate emotional calmness and stability. Meditation encompasses compassion and taking time to redo what brings regrets in life.
The role of Mindful Self-compassion in Building Resilience in Families
Activities such as self-compassion help establish coping mechanisms since it steers mindful thoughts. Some mindful thinking about suffering is that it is a phase that will pass, and suffering is part of greatness (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). Families practicing mindfulness and compassion help one realize that suffering is a phase that will end someday (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). This reassurance helps a person persevere during adversity, which helps build resilience. Another important role of compassion is that it strengthens the hope for a better tomorrow, considering that family members learn adversities are part of future greatness. Therefore, these strategies can build toughness within families going through different situations in life.
How Educators can support Families
Educators act as advocates to help families deal with the adversities of life. Some of the mechanisms proposed include encouraging family unity during a crisis so that the family works as a unit to endure the process (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). Finding the right balance for everyone is integral to dealing with a crisis since it ensures that every member takes responsibility for others’ emotional status. For instance, educators should encourage families to value relations, minimize external toxins that may affect relationships, and spend time together and sometimes alone when the need arises (Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 2020). They should also encourage individual members to be entitled to some moments of peace in their lives. Therefore, anything affecting this peace should not be tolerated since it defies the concept of Mindful self-compassion.
Mindful self-compassion is an integral life skill that helps individuals focus on their feelings through Self-awareness. Some of the interventions promoted by this principle include letting go of toxic relationships, learning to forgive, and appreciating the life process. This copying mechanism also establishes a positive outlook on suffering, strengthening how people view life’s adversities. Through this concept, educators support families by encouraging principles such as the value of relations, cutting toxic ties, and choosing peace over guilt.
Brazelton Touchpoints Center (2020). Mindful self-compassion: Heart skills for our families and ourselves in challenging times (Video). YouTube. Web.
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StudyCorgi. (2023, May 8). Mindful Self-Compassion and Self-Awareness. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/mindful-self-compassion-and-self-awareness/
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1. StudyCorgi . "Mindful Self-Compassion and Self-Awareness." May 8, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/mindful-self-compassion-and-self-awareness/.
StudyCorgi . "Mindful Self-Compassion and Self-Awareness." May 8, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/mindful-self-compassion-and-self-awareness/.
StudyCorgi . 2023. "Mindful Self-Compassion and Self-Awareness." May 8, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/mindful-self-compassion-and-self-awareness/.
StudyCorgi . (2023) 'Mindful Self-Compassion and Self-Awareness'. 8 May.
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