Self-compassion involves showing ourselves the same degree of kindness that we would show a friend. The self-compassion exercises recommended by Kristin Neff (2011) have been helpful within my personal and professional work. One such principle helps me to view personal challenges outside of isolation and instead recognize these setbacks as a shared aspect of the human experience and that all people fail and feel inadequate sometimes (Neff, 2011).
The Three Pillars of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion requires that we focus on the here-and-now and that we are able to allow our thoughts and feelings to exist without engaging with them with judgement. Indeed, mindfulness involves a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. It is impossible to avoid pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. This state of mind allows us to not become overwhelmed by our thoughts and feelings while engaging in compassion for ourselves (Germer & Neff, 2019).
People engaging in self-compassion recognize that we are all fallible human beings and show themselves compassion instead of criticism, stress and frustration in the face of failure. Showing oneself the kindness that you would a friend when you are experiencing suffering allows for better emotional well being overall (Germer & Neff, 2019).
3. Common Humanity
Often times when we experience suffering, failures or setbacks we feel alone and isolated in this feeling. It is useful to recognize that all humans suffer, and self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience (Germer & Neff, 2019). For example, instead of viewing personal failure in isolation it is better to recognize it as a shared aspect of the human experience and that all people fail and feel inadequate in some way.
What can I expect?
Typically, individuals that are suffering have very low self-compassion. There are many uses for self-compassion in therapy: from the empathy-based therapeutic relationship to the needs of clients in developing the resource of self-compassion to deal with emotional pain. The effective development of self-compassion within the therapeutic relationship, allows clients to recognize and validate their pain as it arises, learn to self-soothe and comfort as well as develop resiliency when life becomes overwhelming (Germer & Neff, 2019). Indeed, many interventions within psychotherapy can be reconfigured as compassion-based and doing so allows the symptom reduction to emerge as a side effect of compassion (Germer & Neff, 2019). A resource-building approach is taken to the healing and hope is sewed that clients may change their relationship to what is causing them pain (Germer & Neff, 2019). For clients who want to become more self-compassionate, getting perspective on their psychological patterns through psychotherapy can help. For any of us, when we step back and develop an understanding of the causes and conditions of our struggles, we are more likely to see our actions as innocent attempts to cope with difficult circumstances and have compassion for ourselves (Germer & Neff, 2019). Invoking the resource of self-compassion allows us to be vulnerable with our emotional pain. By staying in the here-and-now and showing ourselves kindness, it allows us to remain courageous in the face of our pain (Germer & Neff, 2019).
Check out the resources below and begin integrating these exercises into your daily life. However, remember, part of showing ourselves self-compassion requires that we recognize that this is a ‘one-step at a time’ process and learning these coping skills takes time.
If you want to learn more or want some help in integrating self-compassion skills into your daily life, feel free to reach out.
Germer, C., & Neff, K. (2019). Teaching the mindful self-compassion program: A guide for professionals. Guilford Publications.
Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00330.x