In my previous blog, I wrote about the power of starting over when you feel that things seem to be falling to pieces. This could be due to a series of shortcomings or disappointments that may have accumulated over time. In upsetting times, it is important to take note of how you react to your situation – specifically how you treat yourself in these instances. Understanding what self-compassion is could mean the difference between tearing yourself down and being supportive of yourself in times of disappointment.

What is Self-Compassion?

If you think back to a time where you made a major mistake or were not successful in something that was important to you, how do you regard yourself in that situation? Are you disappointed? Forgiving? Are you harsh towards yourself? Do you console yourself? According to Dr. Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, 

“Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves when life goes awry or we notice something about ourselves we don’t like, rather than being cold or harshly self-critical”.

The goal of self-compassion is to realize that you are not alone when it comes to the human condition and any errors you may have made. I’m sure that at some point you have heard someone say something along the lines of, ‘If you’re experiencing this, then someone else has experienced it before too’.  A sizable part of self-compassion is understanding that, although you may be upset about the outcome of an event, there is no need to beat yourself up over it! The issue could be a normal flaw in the human condition. If you are interested in finding out how self-compassionate you are, Dr. Neff has a free online test that you can take. She also has a video that further explains self-compassion.

Self-Compassion Vs Self-Esteem

It is likely that you are more familiar with self-esteem than self-compassion. An article from The Atlantic mentions that the popularization of promoting self-esteem comes from California state assemblyman John Vasconcellos. In 1986, he believed that encouraging Californians with the use of self-esteem would solve social woes such as teen pregnancy and drug abuse. Not long after, many people found that this practice had little to no effect. Now, with self-compassion in play, many regard it as the better choice in comparison with self-esteem. One of the main reasons highlighted for this preference has to do with how these feelings are carried out.

While both practices involve the way in which we view ourselves, the way this is done is quite different. With self-esteem, a person must typically place a value on themselves and their actions in comparison to others. While self-esteem is fragile and more or less about finding out how you rank amongst others, self-compassion is basically about being understanding and kind to yourself, specifically in your failures. Self-care plays a role in this practice. Self-compassion involves the perception that you are not alone in your failures, but inversely, you are connected to others in your similar shortcomings.

Be Kind to Yourself

If you have found that you compare yourself to others or talk down to yourself often when you are upset about a choice you’ve made, it may feel difficult to stop completely and show nothing but self-compassion to yourself. Doing so would take much effort and mindfulness on your part. recommends talking to yourself as if you were talking to a good friend going through the same situation. Just like with others, you should be empathetic to yourself. According to this article from BBC, Dr. Tobias Krieger and his colleagues at the University of Bern in Switzerland created an online course that teaches people how to be more self-compassionate, as well as educate them on the consequences of self-criticism. It was even noted that after only seven sessions of the course, results showed “significant increases in the participants’ self-compassion scores, along with reduced stress, anxiety and depressive feelings”.

Knowing how to handle your blunders in life can be a difficult feat for most. Being more considerate and warmhearted towards yourself when these issues arise is what keeps you happier, humble, and more confident. If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of this, contact me. I am always happy to assist you in your journey. I offer in-person appointments as well as HIPAA-compliant virtual options.