What Is Self-Compassion?

8 Life-Changing Techniques

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Self-compassion is the practice of being understanding and compassionate toward yourself. It originates from the concept of mindfulness, which involves living in the present moment with openness and curiosity and without judgment. Self-compassion is a way of being kind to ourselves, particularly when we are suffering, feeling inadequate, or feeling like a failure.

Read on to learn more about self-compassion, why it's important, and eight life-changing techniques to practice it.

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What Is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion comprises three components designed to tap into the different ways people emotionally respond to their experiences of pain, suffering, and failure.

  1. Self-kindness: Instead of harshly judging with negative, shaming self-talk, self-kindness is about shifting toward gentle warmth and acceptance for suffering, pain, or the sense of failure.
  2. Common humanity: When failure, suffering, or disappointment hits, being aware that all humans fail and make mistakes, and suffer disappointment and loss, offers self-compassion for the experience.
  3. Mindful approach: A mindful approach involves looking at what has happened in a curious and observant way without overidentifying with the experience (identifying with someone or something else more than is necessary).

When people experience low moments in life, they may meet themselves not with compassion, but with judgment, shame, guilt, and destructive language. Self-compassion aims to counter these negative thought patterns.

Why Is Self-Compassion Important?

Self-compassion is important because cultivating compassion instead of judgment makes it easier to forgive and take care of yourself. Studies indicate this leads to improved health, relationships, and well-being.

Learning to recognize suffering and increase levels of kindness and compassion toward yourself in those moments can reduce anxiety and depression. Research indicates it may reduce the intensity of the emotions you're experiencing.

Self-Compassion vs. Self-Esteem

Self-compassion and self-esteem share commonalities, but they are distinct concepts.

  • Self-esteem is a psychological term that refers to positive or negative perceptions of the self. Studies indicate that high self-esteem does not always connect to having adaptive (positive) behaviors.
  • Self-compassion is a state of mind or a practice of thinking where you approach how you view your emotional response to events with kindness, gentleness, and warmth instead of judgment, guilt, and shame. Research indicates that self-compassion may improve self-regulation and stress.

How to Practice Self-Compassion: 8 Life-Changing Techniques

Anyone can learn how to be more self-compassionate. Here are eight life-changing techniques to help practice self-compassion:

  1. Check your self-talk: Changing how you speak to yourself, especially during difficult moments, is part of self-compassion. How to do it: When something bad, painful, or shameful happens, before launching into degrading internal dialogue, stop and think for a moment, "How would I speak to a good friend if the same thing happened to them?" Turn the kind and encouraging responses toward yourself.
  2. Forgive yourself: When people feel they have wronged someone, regret, guilt, and shame make moving forward challenging. The self-forgiveness strategy has been shown in studies to significantly lower self-condemnation and psychological distress and significantly improve self-forgiveness. How to do it: First, accept responsibility for any harm you may have caused. Second, acknowledge the regret you feel without overwhelming shame. Third, strive to repair the damage along with recommitting to personal values.
  3. Practice loving-kindness: Loving-kindness is a meditation practice that turns a person's attention away from negative internal dialogue toward positive thoughts of others. Loving-kindness meditation may activate nurturing pathways in the brain and restructure thinking. How to do it: During a 15-minute meditation, spend half of it focusing on others and the world at large, wishing them health, happiness, and well-being.
  4. Celebrate your small accomplishments: Achievement is often connected to self-esteem. A person's feelings may fluctuate based on performance. Big accomplishments are comprised of smaller ones. It's important to acknowledge the small steps to achieve the goal. How to do it: If you've set a goal to work out five days per week, but only went once, acknowledge the goal was attempted and you worked toward consistency.
  5. Express gratitude: Studies show that gratitude, which is the awareness of one's benefits in life, may help foster higher levels of psychological well-being. How to do it: Keeping a daily gratitude journal is one way of focusing on gratitude.
  6. Practice acts of kindness for yourself: Practicing acts of kindness for yourself can include how you speak to yourself and practicing self-care. How to do it: Ask yourself, "What do I need right now, at this moment?"
  7. Be mindful: Mindfulness comes from Buddhist thought and is a core component of self-compassion. To be mindful means to focus intently on the present moment and observe any thoughts or feelings that arise without judgment. Instead of labeling or defining the moment, just observe with curiosity. How to do it: Take a deep breath and focus on your five senses.
  8. Reach out when you need help: Asking for help when you need it is one way of being self-compassionate. How to do it: If you reach out for help, you may deepen your connection with the people around you. Asking for help can include consulting a mental health professional or healthcare provider to meet health and medical needs.

Summary

Self-compassion is the practice of being kind and understanding toward ourselves, particularly when we are suffering or feeling inadequate. It is an important component of managing mental health and stress levels.

Self-compassion techniques can include self-forgiveness, mindfulness, gratitude, positive language, and celebrating small accomplishments.

A Word From Verywell 

Practicing self-compassion may take time and effort. One of the easiest ways to start is to think about how you would treat a good friend. Try to cultivate that same relationship with yourself; see yourself as an inner friend instead of an inner enemy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is self-compassion important?

    Self-compassion is important because how you emotionally respond to life makes it easier to both forgive and take care of yourself. Studies indicate self-compassion leads to better health, improved relationships, and improved well-being.

  • What are examples of self-compassion?

    Examples of self-compassion include changing how you talk to yourself, especially during more difficult moments, using loving-kindness meditation, which improves connections with others, and mindful meditation, which brings you into the present moment.

  • Why do I struggle with self-compassion?

    While self-compassion comes easier to some than others, anyone can learn how to do it. If changing your self-talk is uncomfortable, try journaling and speaking to yourself through the journal as you would a good friend.

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