A beginners guide to self-compassion

Why all the hype about self-compassion?  In this beginners guide I share what self-compassion is, the benefits, how to activate self-compassion, and some examples of what it looks like.  I am a huge cheerleader for self-compassion because it has been completely transformative in my life, and also for friends and clients.

Self-compassion introduction:


what is self-compassion?

Self-Compassion is treating yourself with non-judgemental warmth and kindness during times of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.  It involves recognising that as humans we are all imperfect.


The Benefits of Self-Compassion

The evidence shows us that self-compassion is correlated with emotional well being, optimism, life satisfaction, autonomy, and wisdom.  Practicing self-compassion is also correlated with reduced levels of anxiety, depression, stress, body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and shame.


The Three Elements of Self-Compassion

According to Dr. Kristin Neff


Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement

Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we mess up, feel inadequate, or we are suffering, rather than criticising or judging ourselves harshly.  Being gentle with ourselves when we (or life) is less than ideal.


Common Humanity Vs Isolation

Recognising that to be human is to be imperfect and vulnerable.  This way rather than feel isolated when we mess up, we can recognise personal inadequacy and suffering is part of the shared human experience.  We are not alone in our mistakes and vulnerability.


Mindfulness vs Overidentification

Being aware of and open to our feelings without trying to suppress or deny them.  Non-judgemental receptiveness to what we are experiencing right now, without over-identifying and being completely caught up in drama and reactivity.

How to activate self-Compassion

  1.    Acknowledge what you’re feeling in this difficult moment  (Mindfulness)
  2.    Acknowledge that others are likely to have similar feelings in this situation  (Common humanity)
  3.    Express kindness towards yourself like you would to someone you love dearly  (Self-kindness)


Some examples of what self-compassion might look like...

  • Reminding yourself that everyone makes mistakes, you’re not alone in this experience.
  • Recognising that things are really tough for you right now.

  • Allowing yourself a little extra time for self-care during times of distress and suffering.

  • Speaking warmly and kindly to yourself, rather than berating or criticising yourself when messing up (You can still recognise the mistake and vow to learn from the experience without self-criticism!).

  • Treating yourself like you would treat someone you love dearly.  This might be a beloved pet, best friend, grandparent, niece/nephew, child… How do you speak to them when they make a big mistake?

  • Spending some time paying attention to exactly how you feel.  Recognising it is painful right now, but it will pass.


I encourage you to check out the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, or reach out for counselling if you are interested in experiencing the benefits of self-compassion.


by Jodie Arnot

Jodie is a registered counsellor with a Masters in Counselling from Monash University.  She provides counselling via telephone, Skype, and in person, and is passionate about helping women to experience the transformative effects of self-compassion.