Self-compassion is not the same as simply being easy on yourself. Often confused with self-pity or self-indulgence, it is, in fact, a strength that can lead to reaching your full potential.

The scientific research reveals that self-compassionate people have high standards, are more likely to set new goals for themselves and have more intrinsic motivation in life. Equally, they manage better when they encounter a failure or set back by taking responsibility for their mistakes. They do not wallow in the situation; they recognise they feel hurt, sad, or disappointed and pick themselves up again.

“Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “, This is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself at this moment?”

– Dr Kristin Neff –

The Three Components of Self-compassion

Self-kindness versus self-judgement: Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or punishing ourselves with self-criticism or judgement.

Common humanity versus isolation: Recognise that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness versus over-identification: Taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions and being mindful not to suppress or exaggerate them. We can observe and process our thoughts and feeling without over-identifying with them.

The Yin and The Yang

When faced with a challenge – consciously choosing self-compassion means you are more likely to succeed at home, work and make a significant impact in the world. There are two types of self-compassion, and when we recognise the difference, we start to become aware of how to practice them. Dr Kristin Neff explains that the quintessential question of self-compassion is “What do I need right now?”

Most people think of self-compassion as soft and gentle, but self-compassion can be both fierce and tender. It’s essential that, like yin and yang, these two faces of self-compassion are balanced and integrated.

Tender self-compassion involves “being with” ourselves in an accepting way: comforting ourselves, reassuring ourselves that we aren’t alone, and being present with our pain.

Fierce self-compassion involves “acting in the world” to alleviate suffering. It tends to involve protecting, providing for, and motivating ourselves. Sometimes we need to stand tall and say no, draw boundaries, or fight injustice.

The power of self-compassion

Research shows that when we give ourselves too much self-compassion, we can become apathetic and complacent and potentially get stuck in situations that no longer serve us. Yet when we balance nurturing self-compassion with fierce self-compassion, we can become a caring force to be reckoned with.

Brené Brown, renowned for her work on vulnerability, describes self-compassion as “learning to understand and calm our inner critic” and describes it as “central to living a brave life as a partner, friend, parent, and leader.”

Self-compassion requires internal boundary setting, allowing yourself to be inwardly tender and soothing when needed and knowing when to take action and be fierce in your own best interest. It acknowledges areas of personal weakness by recognising that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. We can improve ourselves and at the same time accept ourselves as we are. We can consider ourselves a work in progress and a masterpiece simultaneously. Self-compassion is essential to living a flourishing life – a key element behind all we do at the Langley Group.

Self-Compassion by Dr Kristin Neff

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Read our Blog Post; Deep Diving on Self-Compassion with Dr. Denise Quinlan.

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