The Truth About Self-Compassion That You Need To Know

August 17, 2016 Kerry Sutton

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~ Brené Brown

Do you feel the pressure to always be seen at your best? Like a resume you need to shine a spot light on what you do well, and shuffle your imperfections into the background. The fear is that “other people have it all together,” and “I am not enough”.

But when you keep parts of yourself hidden you invite shame and fear into your life. And instead of cultivating the beautiful spirit that you are, you feed the fear that others will one day discover that you are ‘unlovable’.


Self-Criticism – This is not the constructive or useful type, we’re talking about mean-spirited self-criticism. It judges harshly, it’s destructive, disapproving, and relentless in its demands for perfection. What’s even sadder is the demanding nature of self-criticism doesn’t motivate you, it generates depression, eating away at your self-esteem and courage.

Self-CompassionDr Kristen Neff has pioneered research into self-compassion. She explains that self-compassion is the same as the compassion you have for a friend. You first recognise that your friend is suffering, you then feel moved to respond to their suffering with understanding, and kindness when they fail or make mistakes. Lastly, you are aware of the shared human experience of imperfection. 

Having compassion towards yourself when life feels difficult is no different. Instead of berating yourself or ignoring your pain when you experience failure or see something you don’t like about yourself, you ask "how can I provide comfort and care for myself."

Accepting yourself is about having your own back, and never abandoning yourself. ~ Kris Carr  


Myth 1: Self-Compassion is Self-Pity 

Self-pity is:

♦  Getting so immersed in your problems you forget others have similar problems

♦  Ignoring your interconnections with others, believing you are the only one suffering

♦  Exaggerating your sense of suffering

♦  Getting caught-up in your own emotional drama

♦  Being unable to step back and gain a more objective perspective of your situation

Whereas, self-compassion assists you to:

   Have a broader perspective of your experience

   Recognise that all humanity faces struggles and many are experiencing more suffering than you

   Step back and be objective about the difficulty you face

Myth 2: Self-Compassion is Self-indulgence 

Self-indulgence keeps you afraid to look at difficult truths about yourself. Instead you numb the stresses of life with rewards. E.g. eating a tub of ice-cream, or endless hours of TV and social media. And these rewards reduce your motivation to change.

Whereas, when you are compassionate towards yourself you can:

   View yourself more clearly, without judging yourself harshly

   And your motivation for change and growth is reignited

Myth 3: Self-Compassion is Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is related to how you value yourself, e.g. “am I pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough?” This means your self-esteem rises and falls, depending on your latest success or failure. In addition:

♦  Low self-esteem can lead to depression.

♦  Higher self-esteem in western culture is about standing out, being different / special. Being average is not okay. This can result in self-absorbed behavior or narcissism.

♦  The quest to have high self-esteem can cause you to hide or distort personal inadequacies. 

Whereas, you can be compassionate towards yourself no matter what!! It isn't dependent on how well you are doing, what you are wearing, mistakes you have made or what others think. What's really exciting is research comparing self-compassion with self-esteem found that compassion towards yourself promotes:

  Greater emotional resilience

  More accurate self-concepts

  More caring relationship behavior

  Less narcissistic behavior

  Less reactive anger


Dr Kristen Neff says to treat yourself kindly; recognise your struggles are part of the shared human experience; and hold your painful thoughts and emotions in mindful awareness. You can do this by applying two of the core principles of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.

Lets look at these briefly:

Acceptance - Acceptance is about opening-up to your thoughts, feelings and sensations – even those very painful ones! You have probably already tried to avoid or suppress painful thoughts, feelings and sensations. If you have then you know it doesn't' work!

MindfulnessMindfulness is being fully present in the moment. It's about observing your emotions, thoughts and sensations without judgement. And not over identifying with them, so you don’t get hooked by them.

Here are 6 simple steps for 'mindful acceptance':

You can do this when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed with a life challenge:

1.  Breathe –  Take a couple of slow, deep breaths...

2.  Observe – Bring your awareness to what is happening in your body. Observe any feelings, thoughts or sensations you are experiencing. Just notice them.

3.  Breathe –  Bring your attention to your breath. Take a few deep breaths and breathe into and around the feelings.

4.  Expand – Begin to loosen your struggle with them and create some space for them.

5.  Allow – Allow them to be there. Don’t try to alter them or make them go away. You don’t have to like or want them. Just simply let them be.

You might say:

“I don’t like these sensations, but I can accept them."

"Suffering is a normal part of life."

"I'm going to be kind to myself right now." 

Now try comforting yourself the way you would a friend. You could say:

"It's going to be okay, I'm here for you."

6.  Re-engage – When you are ready, bring your attention back to your breath, take a couple of deep breaths and re-engage with whatever you were doing.

This is the essence of self-compassion, it invites the light in. It’s being kind-hearted, forgiving, supportive, generous, loving, and gentle towards yourself. So you can cultivate the beautiful spirit you are. 

Lets Talk

If you want to discover the benefits of mindfulness and self-compassion please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.

0403 064 874

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