What is self-compassion?

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is a word we don’t hear often enough. Dr. Kristin Neff is a leading

researcher on self-compassion. She explains self-compassion as being kind and

understanding towards yourself during difficult times. It allows us to rid ourselves of the

desire for perfection and acknowledges that being human includes struggle, mistakes and



To better understand self-compassion, we can remember the three components that Dr.

Neff has identified as crucial to self-compassion:


In times of hurting or suffering, she suggests being kind rather than judgmental towards

oneself. One easy way to do this is to consider if a friend were in a similar situation. How

would you respond to them? Odds are that you are treating yourself way more harshly than

you ever would a friend. Use the same support and kindness you would give to a friend and

extend it to yourself.


The second component of self-compassion is recognizing suffering as a shared experience.

Dr. Neff reiterates that self-compassion is not to be mistaken for self-pity. Pity is an

isolating experience whereas compassion allows us to connect with others through

relating to common experiences. Self-compassion allows us to admit that what we are

going through is hard, but it also reminds us that others have gone through the same thing

or are experiencing even greater suffering.


Lastly, self-compassion requires mindfulness. Mindfulness requires a non-judgmental

stance. This helps with balancing our negative emotions. It is part of being able to relate to

others’ experiences. This does not mean pushing negative emotions away, but rather helps

with perspective taking. Apps like Headspace and Calm are helpful resources for beginning your mindfulness practice.


Remember, you are human. You will make mistakes, endure hardships, and experience

suffering. It is okay to feel difficult emotions, but it is also necessary to show kindness to

yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you would want a friend to be to you. If you would like to read more about self-compassion, check out Dr. Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. If you’d like to work on increasing your self-compassion, book an appointment with one of our counselors below: 

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life


Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.