Author: Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
In this blog series, we will introduce you to the topic of self-compassion and provide you with ways to practice self-compassion on your own.
What is Self-Compassion?
Dr. Kristin Neff is one of the leading world experts in the field of self-compassion, having been the person to operationally define and begin to study self-compassion over ten years ago. Through her pioneering work, she has developed a solid understanding of what self-compassion is, how it can help you, and ways to utilize it in everyday life. On her website, she states that “self-compassion involves acting the same way [as you would toward another person] towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.” It involves noticing that you are suffering, responding to your own pain with a caring, warm approach, and acknowledging that suffering is a part of life and you are only human. It essentially means that you honor your human experience.
We often treat our loved ones kinder than we do ourselves. Tuning into how we respond to others sufferings can help us to identify ways that we can turn that compassion towards ourselves. Can you think back to the last time your loved one went through a difficult time or had a tough day (i.e. break-up, poor performance review etc.)? What did you say to them? Chances are it was something supportive, soothing, kind, and compassionate, something along the lines of “I notice you’re in pain, I am here for you, and it’s okay to feel this way” as opposed to “Get over it, you’re not allowed to feel that way, quit being a baby.” Notice the difference between those two responses? The first one is a compassionate stance, the second one is not.
The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion
Self-esteem and self-compassion are not the same thing. Self-esteem refers to our sense of worth and it is ingrained in our brains, it’s how we feel about ourselves. If you get an A on a test, you feel good. If you get an F on a test, you feel bad. Self-esteem is fragile and depends on how you’re doing in life and what you are accomplishing. Self-compassion is a stable sense of worthiness regardless of what is going on in your life. Whatever grade you get on a test, you are a worthy person. According to Dr. Kristin Neff, “research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.”
Three Components of Self-Compassion
If you’re interested in learning more about self-compassion and ways that it can be incorporated into your life, please contact us for a free phone consultation. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where you learn different ways to practice self-compassion.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.