Self-compassion is key to my work for a number of reasons, one of them being the acknowledgment that positive psychology seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the whole breadth of the human experience.

Emotions not electricity

I also rarely use positive or negative when referring to emotions or feelings, because that does infer a judgement of them.  For me, emotions are a sort of barometer of what is going on, and they can be helpful, appropriate, proportionate and a whole host of other things… but not negative or positive.

Self-Compassion as core foundation

I love self-compassion… for me self-compassion forms the very foundation of positive psychology.  Self-Compassion acknowledges the full plethora of emotional experiences, the suffering, the joy and the value of kindness.

Have you thought about the role of self-compassion?

I am not sure what you think and feel about self-compassion.  You may think it sounds like something you would like to have and at the same time think you wouldn’t even know where to begin. Equally you may already be clear about what it is and how you practice it in your life.

Self-Compassion allows for authenticity

You may also wonder what it’s got to do with how we nourish ourselves, the decisions and choices we make, and how we become more curious, creative and authentic when planning and achieving our goals.

Why are we so critical?

Developing the practice of self-compassion allows us to nourish ourselves from the inside out and let go of old stories that have the themes of self-criticism and unkindness threaded all the way through them.  Professor Paul Gilbert’s work on self-compassion affords us an  understanding  of why, we are wired to  first notice criticism and threat, and how self-compassion allows us to respond differently.

The evidence is there to see

Researchers in the field of positive psychology and self-compassion  such as Kate Heffron and Kristin Neff have evidenced that self-compassion is highly connected to you having increased life satisfaction, high levels of emotional intelligence, optimism, curiosity and initiative as well as having less over-thinking, less perfectionism and a decreased fear of failure.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-Compassion is compassion which is directed towards you.  Originating from Buddhist psychology, Kristin Neff who is a leading researcher of Self-Compassion offers us this definition

“being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness towards oneself, taking an understanding, non-judgemental attitude towards one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognising that one’s own experience is part of the common human experience.”

Self-Compassion can be understood as having 3 inter-connected parts:

  • Self-Kindness which is to be caring towards yourself, offering support and unconditional acceptance instead of being critical.
  • Common Humanity means you know that all humans struggle with their imperfections, failures and mistakes, knowing its not just you.
  • Mindfulness is necessary to develop the awareness of your suffering, allowing the present experience without ignoring or exaggerating the experience.


I need to say here, that I prefer to think of self-worth and self-compassion and not self-esteem.  Self-esteem tends to be performance related and as such quite fragile, it comes with conditions and also often with comparison with others.  Self-Compassion is unconditional.

Will it let you off the hook?

Often clients are concerned that by being kind to yourself you are letting yourself off the hook when you make a mistake and yet  the evidence would suggest the very opposite. It results in you taking more personal responsibility and being more motivated to learn from your mistakes and move forward.

This may be because we tend to feel safer and more connected to others when we practice self-compassion which can result in less shame responses and stress reduction.

Do you treat others with more kindness than yourself?

In a nut shell, we need to learn to be with ourselves as if with a good friend or someone we love.  My aim in life is to make things as simple as possible, the field of psychology has been great in overcomplicating just about everything… and to what end? If we are to be truly curious about living our good life, surely we need to begin with being kind.

Be Kind, Helen


About the author: Helen has run her own coaching practice for over 20 years, which includes specialising in self-compassion diet programmes, incorporating shame resilience and hope. She holds an MSc Applied Positive Psychology, BSc. Health &Education, Cert. Education, Happiness and is a Well-Being Specialist, Self-Compassion Coach & Master NLP Practitioner & Trainer


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