The Importance of Self-Compassion

By Charlotte Burt (Harmless Clinical Support Worker)

I often receive some eye-rolls when I mention self-compassion, in both a professional and personal capacity. I completely understand why it is uncomfortable to think of ourselves in a positive light. Sometimes people might think self-compassion is a dressed-up word for self-pity or self-indulgence. I think this is a common misconception and that it is okay to be compassionate towards yourself. It isn’t saying that your problems are more important than other people’s, just that they are important too and also worthy of being attended to. 

Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with kindness, understanding and acceptance, especially in difficult times. It is also fine to have self-compassion even when we have made a mistake. Making mistakes is a part of life — it’s what makes us human and it’s how we learn.

Self-compassion is different to self-esteem, which is often based on external factors such as achievements. Self-compassion is an internal process that involves being kind and supportive to yourself, regardless of external circumstances. It is about recognising that we are all worthy of love and respect, simply because we exist.

There are three main components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Self-kindness involves treating oneself with warmth and understanding, rather than harsh criticism or judgement. Common humanity involves recognising that we are not alone in our struggles, and that everyone experiences pain and difficulty at some point in their lives. Mindfulness involves being present and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them or judging ourselves for having them.

Practising self-compassion can have a lot of benefits for our mental and emotional well-being. It can help us to feel more connected to ourselves and others, reduce feelings of anxiety and low mood, and increase our resilience in the face of challenges. It can also help us to be more compassionate and understanding towards others as we learn to extend the same kindness and acceptance to ourselves.

So how can we cultivate self-compassion in our lives? Here are a few tips:

1. Practice self-kindness
Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend who is going through a difficult time.

2. Remember common humanity
Recognise that everyone experiences pain and difficulty at some point in their lives, and that you are not alone in your struggles.

3. Practice mindfulness
Be present and aware of your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them or judging yourself for having them.

4. Practice self-care
Take care of your physical, emotional and mental health by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising and engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment.

5. Seek support
Reach out to friends, family or a mental health professional for support and guidance when you need it.

Self-compassion is a powerful tool for cultivating greater well-being and resilience in our lives. By treating ourselves with kindness, understanding and acceptance, we can learn to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and grace. So why not give it a try? You deserve it.