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Understanding Self-Compassion

The human experience is multifaceted: at times characterised by joy and love, while other times by hurt, sorrow or frustration. Along the range of human experiences and feelings, often one of the more challenging behaviours is in showing ourselves kindness & understanding; to show ourselves the same compassion that we do to those closest to us is often fraught with a mixture of feelings and often then dismissed.

When taking a moment to give compassion toward another person, there are a series of empathetic steps that we work through. Firstly, we notice that the other person may be suffering; secondly, we become emotionally moved by their suffering; thirdly, we offer understanding and kindness rather than judgement; and finally, a realization that suffering and mistakes are a part of being human.

Self-compassion means allowing yourself the same kindness and consideration when you are working through a challenging time. It means that you notice your feelings or perceived failures without harsh judgement. Rather than ignoring your emotional pain and “push on”, you stop and gently acknowledge that “this moment is really hard for me”, and gently asking yourself “what comfort can I offer myself right now?” Rather than engaging with a self-dialogue about faults, self-compassion means that you offer yourself kindness and understanding when faced with perceived flaws - who is the judge of perfection anyway?

When taking steps toward self-improvement from a position of compassion, this is done because you care about yourself and your wellbeing, not because you are seeing yourself through a lens of worthlessness. Having self-compassion means that you acknowledge and care for yourself for all aspects of you (this is when we accept ourselves “warts ‘n all”). When taking steps towards having greater self-compassion, an important realization may be that throughout life there will be times when we make mistakes, that you perceive another person to have performed better, that sometimes we may all act in ways that are outside of our ideals or values; this is part of life, a part of being human that is shared by us all. We will all make mistakes some-days, but when we open our heart to compassion towards both ourselves and others, we may be better positioned to experience all that life has to teach, and to manage difficult feelings of being overburdened, stressed or disappointed in a healthier way.


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