What Is Self-Compassion & How It Can Be Practiced

By Julia Thomas|Updated April 5, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

Many people can be compassionate towards others but have a hard time showing that compassion towards themselves. Self-compassion is one of the most important self-care routines that anyone can develop. It is of the utmost importance that we accept ourselves and love ourselves no matter our faults, weaknesses, or imperfections. We have to realize that no one is perfect and we cannot and should not compare ourselves to others. We need to have a practical, impartial point of view.

What Is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is offering compassion to one’s self when having feelings of insufficiency, disappointment or wide-ranging anguish. Kristin Neff, an expert in the field of self-compassion, has described self-compassion as being made up of three main parts: “self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.”

*Self-Kindness: being kind to ourselves in moments when we feel insufficient, unsuccessful or anguished. This is a crucial part of the process.

*Common Humanity: everyone has moments of feeling insufficient, unsuccessful and anguished; no one has a perfect, stress-free life. Even though you may feel alone in certain situations, there is, more likely than not, someone going through something similar.

*Mindfulness: examine thoughts and feelings as they come and go and don’t ignore them, repress them or judge them. Acknowledge them and move on.

Practicing Self-Compassion

When practicing self-compassion, it is important to remember the three main parts: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. The following practices can be categorized in some or all of the parts of self-compassion.

*Change your State of Mind: Stop negatively thinking of yourself. When you have a negative thought about yourself, try to reframe the thought into something positive. The more you do that, the more you will rewire your brain and state of mind into positivity. This can be classified as self-kindness and mindfulness.

*Only Kind Words: Don’t label yourself with negatives, such as lazy, sloppy or unsuccessful. If you do this, stop yourself and think of a positive word that describes you. When you describe yourself, think about how you would describe a close friend. This can be classified as self-kindness and mindfulness.

*Absolve Yourself of Slip-Ups: EVERYONE makes mistakes. It is part of life and how we learn lessons and how to do things. Forgive yourself and move on. If an apology is in order, to yourself or others, make it and keep progressing forward. This can be classified as self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

*Follow Your Passion: Everyone deserves to experience joy, happiness, and excitement. Don’t feel that if things aren’t going well, you aren’t worthy of these favorable feelings. Make sure that you do things that you are passionate about and that truly spark joy in your life. This can be classified as self-kindness.

*No Judgments; No Assumptions: When you make judgments and assumptions, you are presupposing what is coming up. It limits all the possibilities and alternate paths you could take on a road to happiness and joy. Steer clear of judgments and assumptions and be open to all options. This can be classified as self-kindness and mindfulness.

*Connect with Others: When you find those things that you are passionate about, find others who also follow those passions. There is nothing like finding someone who enjoys something as much as you do. Share your passions and feelings with others who are close to you, so they learn something new about you. Insecurities may disappear because those around you will be there to support you and you won’t feel alone. This can be classified as self-kindness and common humanity.

*Nourish Your Mind and Body: Never stop being a learner. Load up your mind and body with positive substance: nutritious food, wise words, uplifting dialogue, etc. Make sure that you are expending your energy in the right places. If you are using your energy for something that doesn’t feel right, stop and use it for something else that brings you joy.

*Good-Bye External Validation: We often want to please others and yearn for their validation and praise. This is not good for your body, mind, and soul for several reasons. First, do we know what others are thinking? Second, the majority of the time, others have no thoughts about you. The comparison is one of the biggest life-sapping, energy-draining phenomenon that we can waste our energy on. As long as you are happy, functioning and moving forward, the only person you need validation from is yourself.

*Self-Approval: Just like the Serenity prayer says…Accept the things you cannot change. You may have qualities that you don’t love about yourself. Instead of trying to change these qualities, accept them and approve of them and LOVE that you are different, unique and special. It makes you the person that you are.

Ways To Nurture Self-Compassion

There are certain practices we can take part in that will support self-compassion and self-care. Anything that you do for yourself, not as a selfish act, but as an act of kindness toward yourself is done with self-compassion.

*Yoga: Yoga is one of the most self-compassionate practices that you can engage in. When you practice yoga, you are encouraged to stay present at the moment. Focus on your breath and your movements. You don’t think about anything that had happened before you got on your mat or what may happen when you get off your mat. This is the ultimate in self-compassion. Fill your cup up on your mat.

*Meditation: Meditation is another practice that keeps you present at the moment with no thoughts of the past or the future. If those thoughts pop up, you acknowledge them and then let them go. Meditation is not about controlling your thoughts. It’s about not letting your thoughts control you.

*Take a Class: Find something you are passionate about or something that you’ve always wanted to try and take a class. You can take online classes, adult education classes, college courses or classes offered at a local library. If there is something that has lit a fire under you and you want to pursue it, go for it. There is no time like the present, and your future self will thank you for it.

*Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a great way to work through them or see patterns of what triggers you. Sometimes getting those thoughts and feelings down on paper keeps you from ruminating on them and then you can move forward with your life. Or if you are writing about things you are grateful for, it puts you in a positive mindset.

*Volunteer: Helping others who aren’t as fortunate as you are a great way to foster self-compassion because it makes you grateful for what you have. Seeing how much the people or animals appreciate your help is also an uplifting, life-changing experience. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer so find something you are interested in and lend a hand.

*Books to Read:

-Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, authored by Dr. Kristin Neff

-The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions, authored by Christopher K. Germer

-The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook: A 14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship with Yourself, authored by Time Desmond

-Self-Compassion: I Don’t Have to Feel Better Than Others to Feel Good About Myself, authored by Simeon Lindstrom

-Mindful Compassion: How the Science of Compassion Can Help You Understand Your Emotions, Live in the Present, and Connect Deeply with Others, authored by Paul Gilbert PhD

-The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, authored by Brene Brown

Results Of Self-Compassion

When you get into a routine of self-compassion, you will see many positive results:

*Increased empathy for yourself and others

*Increased patience with yourself and others

*Overall contentment

*Deeping understanding of yourself and others

*Uncovering your passion

*Sense of belonging

When we delve into what is going on inside us, we become aware of things that are going on around us on the outside. If we can understand and accept our shortcomings, strengths, quirks, and feelings, it will be easier to do those things for others around us. It can be a very validating process to see that we aren’t the only ones in a certain situation or the only ones having different feelings.

If you feel that practicing self-compassion is something you cannot independently attempt with any of the above techniques, you should contact a trained professional to assist you. Going to BetterHelp (https://www.betterhelp.com/start/) can be your first step to getting the help you need. It is private, convenient and will be one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your wellness. Do the thing today that your future self will thank you for.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.