What is Self-Compassion


Self-compassion is a term that has been gaining popularity lately. People tell us to be kind to ourselves, to be a friend to ourselves, and treat ourselves with respect. But what does it really mean to be self-compassionate and why is it important? Dr. Kristen Neff, a leader in the field of self-compassion work, identifies three primary components of self-compassion; kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Kindness means that you recognize your own pain and respond to it kindly. By accepting that there is something in your life causing you stress, pain, or discomfort, you become more open to your internal experience. By acknowledging your pain with kindness, you may find it easier to offer yourself the encouragement and nurturance required to confront the cause of pain, which is ultimately a step towards reducing your pain. Paradoxically, by kindly accepting and acknowledging what is painful in your life, you can become more willing to face your life stressors in an effective way, decreasing the stressors’ negative impact on your life.

The second step to self-compassion is to develop a sense of common humanity. This means that you realize everyone faces stressors in their lives and you are not alone in having to struggle from time-to-time. Recognizing that you can’t always get what you want, act how you want, or be who you want to be is simply a part of life. Life can be challenging and all people stumble and fail from time to time. Accepting our imperfections as a fundamental part of being a human being, we can recognize that our struggles are a normal part of life.

The last aspect of self-compassion is mindfulness. To be mindful means to accept the moment as it is, seeking to understand the present moment with a curious attitude as if you are examining what you are experiencing for the very first time. When you attempt to ignore your pain or push it away, believing yourself unable to handle your challenges, it can become more difficult to take action to face your challenge. Some people believe that being kind to themselves will sap their motivation, that if they are not critical of themselves that they will not feel motivated to take action. When practicing self-compassion, the reverse is more often the case, where offering yourself support helps you feel more capable of facing your challenges.

The benefits of self-compassion are numerous and you may find that by practicing self-compassion you…

  • Respond less intensely to stressors
  • Take actions to resolve stressors more effectively
  • Connect more easily with others on an emotional level
  • Act more supportively towards others

To be compassionate with oneself can be difficult. To ignore our pain, our struggles, our challenges, seems simpler and more comfortable than accepting our pain and responding to it kindly. However, just as a physical wound can fester and spread when not addressed, so too can our emotional pains transform and become problematic in ways we do not anticipate. If you are interested in developing your ability to be more compassionate with yourself, please reach out to our intake department to schedule an appointment with one of our talented therapists who can help guide you through the process.

Submitted by Dr. Kevin Meehan

Kevin Meehan, Psy.D.
Dr. Meehan, a Postdoctoral Fellow, received his Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from Midwestern University. In the process of earning his doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Meehan intentionally sought diverse training experiences and has worked with children, adolescents, adults, and families. He completed a year-long internship with a community mental health center where he provided therapy to youth and families, provided in-school therapy services to elementary students, and completed psychological assessments with a focus on assessing for autism spectrum disorder.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Meehan or any of our clinicians, please get in touch with our intake department at 630.355.9002 x1 or intake@myketandassociates.com to schedule an appointment.