19 November 2021
To understand self-compassion, we must understand compassion. Compassion is the ability to show empathy, love and concern for other’s suffering. When we notice their distress, we want to show them understanding, kindness and empathy without judgement. Feeling this compassion and acceptance also means we recognise and understand that they're imperfect, that they suffer and make mistakes. In other words, they're human.
But think back to the last time you failed or made an important mistake. Did you feel shame, and scold yourself for being stupid or selfish? Did you feel alone, as if you were the only one to ever make a mistake? Or did you accept the error is a part of being human, and talk to yourself with care and tenderness? We often find it far more difficult to show ourselves compassion than others, instead mercilessly judging and criticising ourselves for any perceived inadequacies and shortcomings.
Self-compassion is the ability to direct the compassionate emotions we feel for others towards ourselves. To feel kindness and understanding for ourselves especially when we make mistakes or face failure. Directing feelings of kindness and care towards ourselves and focusing our attention and energy on how we might lessen pain or distress, are crucial components of self-compassion.
Self-compassion is composed of three interrelated components. Although different, these three components work together to produce a self-compassionate mindset.
Research has shown that self-compassion is strongly linked to good mental health and well-being. It has shown that self-compassionate people tend to have less mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and stress. They also have a better quality of life and have a greater sense of well-being. Self-compassion is thought to release the beneficial hormone oxytocin, which promotes feelings of connection, closeness and calm.
How can we become better at practicing Self-compassion?