Self-Compassion Is Good for Mental Health
Self-compassion simply means treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you offer to a beloved family member, a friend or a colleague at work. Many people tend to be much harder on themselves than on others.
Some people mistakenly equate self-compassion with self-pity or weakness. That’s a misconception.
“Self-compassion recognizes that life is hard for everyone,” said Kristin Neff, in an article, “The Transformative Effect of Mindful Self-Compassion,” in Mindful magazine.
“Research shows that self-compassionate people are more likely to engage in perspective taking, rather than focusing on their own distress,” said Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneer in the study of self-compassion. “They are also less likely to ruminate on how bad things are, which is one of the reasons self-compassionate people have better mental health.”
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Mindfulness is focusing on the moment, without judgement of the past or fear about what might happen in the future. It can improve control of emotions and help a person increase peace of mind.
Mindfulness is a core component of self-compassion, and they are intertwined, although not exactly the same, said Neff.
- Mindfulness focuses primarily on acceptance of the experience itself. Self-compassion focuses more on caring for the person having the experience.
- Mindfulness asks, “What am I experiencing right now?” Self-compassion asks, “What do I need right now?”
- Mindfulness says, “Feel your suffering apart from thoughts, conditions and emotions.” Self-compassion says, “Be kind to yourself when you suffer.”
Mindfulness and self-compassion both allow us to live with less resistance toward ourselves and our lives. If we can fully accept that things are painful, and be kind to ourselves because they’re painful, we can be with the pain with greater ease, said Neff.
3 Elements of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion has three core elements that begin with the self, focus on the moment and expand to the larger truths of human nature.
- Self-kindness: Being kind to yourself in difficult time, rather than being critical and expecting more of yourself than is reasonable.
- Mindfulness: Mindfully observe our pain and acknowledging suffering without exaggerating it. This allows a wiser and more objective perspective on ourselves and our lives.
- Common humanity: The recognition that everyone makes mistakes and feels pain and suffering is part of the human condition.
Self-Compassion Complements Other Therapies
Psychotherapists see self-compassion as a natural component of well-studied therapies that focus on accepting and gradually changing unhelpful thoughts or behavior patterns, said Marina Krakovsky, in an article, “The Self-Compassion Solution,” in Scientific American.
As people learn new ways to find a healthy balance in their perspective, developing self-compassion allow them to recognize and accept their own feelings rather than constantly challenging themselves to “do better,” said Krakovsky.
Self-compassion is a perspective that can have valuable results that money can’t buy. Extensive research on self-compassion over the past decade has shown that self-compassion benefits well-being in ways that can improve physical and mental health and give us perspective to meet the large and small challenges of daily life.
Neff, Kristin and Germer, Christopher, "The Transformative Effects of Mindful Self-Compassion," Mindful Magazine, Jan. 29, 2019
Krakovsky, Marina, “The Self-Compassion Solution,” Scientific American,
Vol. 28, Issue 3, May 2017