Self-Compassion – a healthier way of relating to yourself

This website provides information about self-compassion, and is intended for students, researchers, and the general public

Linked on our blogs with The Charter for Compassion.

  • Self-kindness. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism.  When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
  • Common humanity: … (full text).

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Definition of Self-Compassion: Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others.  Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. 

If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is.  Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”).  When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way.  Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.  Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.  “There but for fortune go I.”

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment? Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are … (full text).

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