Self compassion demystified

“Simply put, self-esteem is an overall evaluation of yourself, in any given moment. If I believe that I am a good person and am performing well, I will experience high self-esteem. If I feel I’ve fallen short compared to what I could do or what others around me are doing, I will experience low self-esteem. We move through our days, vacillating in response to how we are judging ourselves and how we are stacking up against others.

Conversely, self-compassion is the capacity to be kind to yourself, especially when you are struggling. Self compassion allows for mental well-being, better metabolising of stress, lower anxiety and decreased depression.” 

Leah Weiss PhD [BeWell Stanford]

What is self compassion

Self compassion is the practice of kindness and generosity towards our core self. For most of us it is something that takes effort and practice. Indeed, it is more usual for our inner narrative to be one of self judgement, criticism, insult, unforgiveness and shame. 

Self compassion
Sometimes it’s really hard to love yourself

The good news is that with practice, it is possible to change this narrative for a kinder one, and there are many techniques and habits that can help us. 

These include practices like journaling in the imagined company of a supportive and loving friend, who will hold our thoughts and words with kindness and compassion. Meditation, mindfulness (or as Brené Brown calls it, courageous presence – so much better), gratitude diary, mirror work, gentle supportive touch and soothing self talk are all habits that cultivate self compassion. 

If you are looking for somewhere to begin, start with awareness. Notice your self talk as you go about your day. Don’t criticise or judge yourself for the content of your internal narrative, just take note. The next step it to attend to yourself in that moment, when your inner critic stands up to berate you. Offer yourself kindness, or if that feels impossible, offer the intention of kindness. 

Then you might want to choose one of the practices listed above, find out a little more about it, and begin to work it as a habit into your daily life. Whatever your narrative – the story you believe about yourself – it is just one story. Try creating a kinder story.

A great question to consider is:

What would you say to a very close friend, who was feeling fear/shame/self loathing and came to you for help?

Speak to yourself is the same way that you would speak to her.

Self compassion strongly correlates with feelings of well-being, physical and mental health, happiness and kindness towards others, so it is very much in our interests to pursue it. It’s a journey of small steps and without a finish line, but the further you travel, the greater the benefit will be you you and those around you. 

Good journeying. 

Ali x

“Our greatest suffering is in the place of ‘not enough’, and self judgement contracts everything. It’s hard to be intimate, spontaneous, relaxed or even present, if we are constantly noticing how we are falling short.”

Notes from a teaching by Tara Brach

“When you feel unworthy to sit at the human table, remember the truth is: you are not capable of generating an emotion that is not common to the entire human family. Everything you feel is the measure
of your belonging.”

Notes from a teaching by Elizabeth Gilbert



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Alison Campbell
Poet, author and fellow traveller, living the life I choose.