The Importance of Practicing Self-Compassion

We are all understand the importance of being kind to others, but how many of us are truly kind to ourselves? Often our inner critic takes over and we say things to ourselves that we would never say to those we love and care about. Practising self-compassion helps us to become aware of our negative self-talk and replace self-criticism with a kinder, gentler voice. There are hundreds of research studies that show how self-compassion at any age is strongly linked to enhanced well-being 


This week’s Wellness Wednesday post explores the evidence-based practice of self-compassion.  


So how do we even begin to practice self-compassion? Dr. Kristin Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, and she emphasizes 3 components of self-compassion: 

  1. Be kind to yourself

The best way to do this is to think about a friend who has had a set-back and ask yourself how you would speak to them about it. Try visualizing this. You probably would not say “it was because you didn’t work hard enough” or “you are not smart enough.” You would probably listen to their perspective, empathize, and do something nice for them with them. Treat yourself the same way 

  1. Embrace your common humanity

Well it starts by remembering that everyone, including ourselves, makes mistakes and experiences setbacks and this causes us suffering. Being harsh with ourselves just makes us feel isolated and lonely, as if we are the only person on the planet with this flaw. We are all imperfect, and we all suffer. This is one of many ways that we are connected to every person on this planet. Self-compassion gives us an enhanced sense of belonging and being in the human journey together.  

  1. Be Mindful.

It is hard to be aware of how we’re suffering when we distract ourselves with busyness and rationalizing what’s happening inside us to keep us from paying attention. Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness as paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose with kindness and compassion and no attachment to the outcome of our practice.  


Try this: 

As a class, group, or family:  

  • Watch the video, “How To Practice Self-Compassion”, (2:00) for some practical self-compassion tips by Dr. Kristin Neff.  
  • Now, think of a situation in your life that is difficult or causing you stress. Call the situation to mind and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body. 
  • Next, work through the following prompts to practise the three components of self-compassion.  
  1. Be mindfulSay to yourself: This is a moment of suffering.”   
  • Other options include: “This hurts” or “Ouch” or “This is stress” 
  1. Embrace your common humanityRemind yourself: Suffering is a part of life.”  
  • Other options include: Other people feel this way” or “I’m not alone” or “We all struggle in our lives. 
  1. Be kind to yourself. Put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you. Say: May I be kind to myself.”  
  • You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?”  
  • Maybe there is a phrase that speaks to you in this particular situation, such as: May I give myself the compassion that I need” or “May I learn to accept myself as I am” or :May I forgive myself” or “May I be strong” or “May I be patient 
  • This practice can be used any time of day or night and will help you remember to evoke the three components of self-compassion when you need it most. 


Ask yourself, there is no wrong answer 

In what ways and in what circumstances can I be more self-compassionate? 


Connecting to our faith: 

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) 


Further Learning: 

  • Website: Dr. Kristin Neff 
  • Teen Book: Bluth, K. (2017). The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger 


Employees of LDCSB check out WorkLifeHealth from EAP Provider Morneau Sheppell 




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