Self Compassion - April 8, 2022

What is the difference between self compassion and self-esteem?

Dr. Kristin Neff explains that self-esteem is based in self evaluations - basically it is built on our perception of our value and how much we like ourselves. Research has shown that low self-esteem can lead to depression and lack of motivation, but according to Neff, how we develop our self-esteem can also be a problem. If we need to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves, that really isn’t a good model - it’s bullying. And if we try to improve our self-esteem by only recognizing our accomplishments, then we miss an opportunity for personal growth through self improvement.

Self compassion, on the other hand, is not based on self evaluations. Instead, it is compassion towards yourself because you are human and all humans deserve compassion. Your worth as a person has nothing to do with how you look or what you accomplish. In fact, self compassion is available to you all the time - it is not dependent on outside circumstances. And the benefits of self compassion include greater emotional resilience and less reactive anger. 

So, how do we practice self compassion?

Dr. Neff refers to the three core components of self compassion:

  1. Treating ourselves with kindness: We deserve to treat ourselves the way we would treat a good friend. Sometimes we chastise ourselves when we don’t accomplish a goal, however that kind of ‘motivation’ creates the opposite effect over time. Kindness to yourself provides the safety we need to acknowledge our discomfort and encourage ourselves to try again. 
  2. Common Humanity: When we remember that we are all human and we all struggle at times, it can help us to be kind to ourselves. When we see a good friend struggling, we have the ability to empathize with them - we can feel their pain and offer our help. Self compassion includes that same understanding for ourselves.  
  3. Mindfulness: being with what is at the present moment - to be aware of our own painful feelings or discomfort in a clear and balanced way. We can be aware of our feelings without ignoring or obsessing about things we want to change about ourselves.

Try This

If you find you are criticizing yourself harshly for something you have, or have not, done imagine you are speaking to your child self. Tell your child self that they are safe and you are here to help. Let them know you understand that the situation right now is difficult and painful, but you are here to listen and support them so that they feel better and can move on. 

On a piece of paper, using whatever materials you have, draw a symbol in the center to represent your child self. Then, create a boundary around yourself that will block out the harsh and critical words. Illustrate the kindness, understanding, and empathy surrounding you and feel the warmth and connection that is created in the process. 

Let this be a visual reminder of the self compassion you want to practice.

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