Self-Compassion: Embracing Kindness and Empathy Towards Yourself

Self-Compassion: Embracing Kindness and Empathy Towards Yourself

How often do we give ourselves the same kindness and understanding we extend to our friends and loved ones? With the daily pressures and challenges we face, practicing self-compassion becomes a critical skill for maintaining our mental and emotional health.

Understanding Self-Compassion

Self-compassion, as defined by pioneering researcher Kristin Neff, involves three key elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

  • Self-kindness is being gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than being harshly critical and judgmental. It's about acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and that it's okay not to be perfect. Instead of chastising ourselves for our errors, self-kindness encourages us to treat our missteps with the same warmth, empathy, and understanding we'd show a dear friend.

  • Common humanity involves understanding that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience - they're not unique to us. It's easy to feel isolated in our struggles and to think that we're the only ones facing such challenges. However, recognizing our common humanity helps us realize that all humans experience hardships and self-doubt. This can help us feel more connected with others during difficult times, rather than feeling separate or isolated.

  • Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state where one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. It requires us to balance our emotions, not ignoring our pain but also not exaggerating it. By practicing mindfulness, we can maintain a balanced awareness of our negative emotions without over-identifying with them. It allows us to acknowledge our suffering without letting it control our lives.

These three interrelated components form the crux of self-compassion, together acting as a powerful tool to enhance our emotional resilience and overall mental health.

The Science Behind Self-Compassion

Recent research has underscored the numerous benefits that come with cultivating a compassionate relationship with oneself.

A study by Trompetter, de Kleine, and Bohlmeijer (2017) found that self-compassion was closely associated with less anxiety and depression. Their study suggested that self-compassion might bolster emotional resilience, helping individuals better navigate life's challenges and stresses.

Echoing this, a 2020 study conducted by Bluth and Eisenlohr-Moul found that self-compassion could moderate depressive symptoms in adults, further emphasizing the protective quality of self-compassion in mental health.

In a physiological context, Raes (2011) found that individuals with higher self-compassion levels had lower cortisol levels, the body's primary stress hormone. Lower cortisol levels often indicate better stress management and emotional regulation capabilities.

Meanwhile, a 2018 study by Sirois et al. highlighted the role of self-compassion in promoting healthier behaviors, such as quality sleep, regular physical activity, and a balanced diet.

Finally, self-compassion appears to enhance interpersonal relationships as well. According to Yarnell et al. (2019), self-compassionate individuals were perceived as more caring, supportive, and understanding in their relationships. This is likely due to their increased capacity to extend empathy and patience towards others.

In conclusion, the practice of self-compassion has been found to foster psychological wellbeing, improve stress management, encourage healthier lifestyle choices, and promote satisfying relationships. It's an exciting field of research with ever-growing implications for enhancing individual and societal wellbeing.

Strategies for Cultivating Self-Compassion

Cultivating self-compassion is akin to flexing a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Here are some effective strategies that you can incorporate into your daily life:

  1. Mindfulness Meditation:

Mindfulness is the bedrock of self-compassion. It involves bringing your attention to the present moment non-judgmentally. Mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to develop self-compassion (Kabat-Zinn, 2019). By sitting quietly and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment, you learn to extend the same kind of patience and understanding to yourself that you would to a loved one.

  1. Self-Compassion Break:

Developed by Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in the field, the Self-Compassion Break is a technique that you can use anytime you're dealing with a stressful situation (Neff & Germer, 2018). It involves acknowledging the stress or pain (mindfulness), remembering that suffering is a part of the shared human experience (common humanity), and speaking kindly to yourself (self-kindness).

  1. Loving-Kindness Meditation:

Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) has its roots in Buddhist tradition but has been adapted to be accessible to everyone, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs. It involves mentally sending goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others by silently repeating a series of mantras, starting with oneself and gradually extending to others (Salzberg, 2011).

  1. Journaling:

Writing about your thoughts and feelings can be a cathartic exercise. A self-compassion-focused journal can involve writing about difficult experiences and extending compassion to oneself. Writing can help to process emotions, understand them better, and, most importantly, respond to them with self-compassion (Neff & Dahm, 2015).

  1. Practicing Self-Care:

Taking care of your physical wellbeing can also be an act of self-compassion. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and engaging in activities you enjoy all contribute to your overall well-being, reinforcing a positive and caring attitude towards yourself.

  1. Therapy and Counseling:

If self-compassion feels particularly challenging, seeking professional help can be a beneficial step. Therapies like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) can offer structured support and guidance in cultivating self-compassion (Gilbert & Procter, 2006).

The beauty of self-compassion is that it is not a destination but a journey. It's a lifelong practice, and each step you take towards treating yourself with more kindness is a victory in itself.


In a world that often demands perfection, practicing self-compassion allows us to embrace our imperfect selves. It doesn't eliminate negative feelings but provides a kinder way to handle them. As you embark on this journey of self-compassion, remember to be patient with yourself. Change takes time, but each step you take is a step towards a more compassionate and fulfilling relationship with yourself.

We hope this blog post has inspired you to start or deepen your journey towards self-compassion. We invite you to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below. If you'd like a constant reminder to be kind to yourself, check out our Kindness Crewnecks in our store. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more insights and tips on mental health and well-being.

Further Reading?

Bluth, K., & Eisenlohr-Moul, T. A. (2020). Response to a mindful self-compassion intervention in teens: A within-person association of mindfulness, self-compassion, and emotional well-being outcomes. Journal of Adolescence, 80, 67-77.
Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: Overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy, 13(6), 353-379.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2019). Full catastrophe living, revised edition: how to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. Hachette UK.
Neff, K., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-Compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. In B. D. Ostafin, M. D. Robinson, & B. P. Meier (Eds.), Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation (p. 121–137). Springer.
Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2018). The mindful self-compassion workbook: A proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive. Guilford Publications.
Raes, F. (2011). The effect of self-compassion on the development of depression symptoms in a non-clinical sample. Mindfulness, 2(1), 33-36.
Salzberg, S. (2011). Loving-kindness: The revolutionary art of happiness. Shambhala Publications.
Sirois, F. M., Molnar, D. S., & Hirsch, J. K. (2015). Self-compassion, stress, and coping in the context of chronic illness. Self and Identity, 14(3), 334-347.
Trompetter, H. R., de Kleine, E., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2017). Why does positive mental health buffer against psychopathology? An exploratory study on self-compassion as a resilience mechanism and adaptive emotion regulation strategy. Cognitive therapy and research, 41(3), 459-468.
Yarnell, L. M., Stafford, R. E., Neff, K. D., Reilly, E. D., Knox, M. C., & Mullarkey, M. (2015). Meta-analysis of gender differences in self-compassion. Self and Identity, 14(5), 499-520.
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