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  • Writer's pictureOlive Von Topp

Self-Compassion Is These 3 Things

I get it. Building self-compassion can be difficult. I can’t even tell you the amount of times in my life I’ve heard, “You’re so hard on yourself”. I used to think that I didn’t deserve to be nice to myself. I thought that if I was kind to myself, I’d lose motivation. Sound familiar?

The thing is, many of us are self-critical because we think it will motivate us to achieve our goals.

The funny thing is, people who are highly self-critical, actually have lower self-esteem and higher levels of stress. You know when it’s hard to motivate yourself? When you don’t believe in yourself! Research shows that people who practice self-compassion have higher self-esteem and are more willing to take risks (necessary for achieving goals) because they don't make failure mean something about them and they practice self-compassion when they fail.

How you talk to yourself matters and is an integral part of achieving your goals and living the life you want.

Self-compassion is essentially just treating yourself with the kindness and care you would treat someone else you love. Kristen Neff defines self-compassion as having 3 essential parts: Self-kindness, Common Humanity, and Mindfulness.

1. Self-Kindness

Neff states, “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”.

Essentially, self-kindness is talking to yourself like you would speak to a loved one (cuz you are a loved one). Hopefully you wouldn’t:

a) talk to anyone else in that negative way you speak to yourself, and

b) permit anyone else to speak to you that way

So like, why are you allowing yourself to be spoken to that way?

2. Common Humanity

Common humanity is the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience; that you are not alone and that suffering is something we all go through rather than “being something that happens to “me” alone.”

3. Mindfulness

Neff describes mindfulness as “a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.”

I love this because it allows us to feel and honour our thoughts and feelings, without letting them define us. Developing self-compassion is a skill that takes some time and practice, so I wanted to share a framework I use, which I’ve adapted from The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism, Martin, 2019 & The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, Neff & Germer, 2018 that will help you get started.

Self-Compassion Talk:

Situation in which I was self-critical:

What was my initial thought?

What feeling did that thought create?

What is my underlying assumption or fear?

What do I need right now?

Am I the only one who has ever done this? How do I know? What is the common humanity of the situation?

What would I say to someone else experiencing the same thoughts and pain?


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