Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

What is Self-Compassion?

Put simply, self-compassion means the practice of having compassion for yourself. Self-compassion becomes particularly relevant when you are faced with experiences of failure, mistakes, or feelings of personal inadequacies, or when you are in the midst of difficult life situations that are out of your control. According to one of the leading researchers in this field, Kirsten Neff, self-compassion involves being mindfully open and present to your suffering, so that rather than avoiding or disconnecting from it, you desire to ease your suffering with an attitude of kindness and have an understanding that suffering is part of the larger experience of being a human being.

Although there is lots of research that links self-compassion with a wide array of psychological benefits, many people can find it very challenging to be self-compassionate. It may even come very easily for some people to offer compassion to others, and yet when faced with their own difficulties and struggles, they may find it very difficult to extend that same compassionate attitude towards themselves.   In fact, research suggests that people are often much more critical and unkind towards themselves than they would ever be towards others they cared about, or even towards strangers! This, almost normative level of self-criticism in our society nowadays, is something that we, as psychologists, want to challenge. We believe that compassion starts with your own self, and you, more than anyone else, are deserving of your own compassion and kindness.  So rather than pushing yourself forcefully and critically, by generating a kinder relationship towards yourself, you can fulfill your potential in a more compassionate way.

Yet, it may be that treating yourself with compassion and kindness is something that, like many people, you may never have learnt how to do. But the good news is, it is something we can all learn to cultivate in ourselves. Just as cultivating mindfulness can be done with regular practice, so too can self-compassion.

Benefits of Self-Compassion

So why is the practice of self-compassion important? There is a growing body of research that indicates that self-compassion is strongly associated with psychological health (See Neff 2009 for review). Higher levels of self-compassion have been associated with:

  • A more positive relationship with your own self
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Greater life satisfaction
  • Social connectedness
  • Wisdom
  • Personal initiative
  • Curiosity
  • Happiness & positive affect
  • Optimism

Higher levels of self-compassion have also been associated with:

  • Less self-criticism
  • Reduced feelings of failure
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced symptoms of depression
  • Reduced feelings of perfectionism

Many people fear that being self-compassionate is synonymous with being unproductive and will lead to a reduction in their level of motivation. But, importantly, research suggests that self-compassion actually has the opposite effect – self-compassion increases your motivation! Research also suggests that people who are self-compassionate are also less afraid of failure, are more likely to try again when faced with failure, they make greater efforts to learn, and tend to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Six Week Mindfulness Based Self Compassion Course

Given the positive benefits that self-compassion can have for well-being, it is an ever-growing area of interest in the field of psychology and an area that we, as psychologists, are passionate to spread the word about. The Gift of Mindfulness offer six-week Mindfulness Based Self-Compassion Courses which are focused on learning to cultivate a more compassionate relationship towards yourself built on the foundation of mindfulness. For more details on this course check out the Courses page on this website.