What is self-compassion?

Compassion Cloud Tree

Simply put, self-compassion is treating ourselves in the same way we treat a good friend.

Maintaining a good quality friendship requires us to do a few things… to pay attention to our friend, to be kind to our friend and to see ourselves as equally important.

Would you enjoy the friendship of someone who never called you, was always critical of you and saw themselves as better than you? What about someone who avoided you, was scared of you and felt inferior to you? In either case, very difficult to maintain a genuine friendship.

Now imagine the friend who is always there for you, who always supports you; someone with whom you have a lot in common. Easy to be their friend, right? Not just rewarding and fun, but genuine friendship often brings out the best in both people.

Imagine if we could befriend ourselves in the same way? This is self-compassion, and like having a good friendship with someone else, relating well to ourselves also brings out the best in us.

“By practising self-compassion regularly, we can
turn a harsh inner critic into a supportive inner coach.”

Sometimes, when we need help, having someone on your own side can be incredibly supportive. But what happens when we find that our friends are busy or not available to us? The one person we can count on being there for us 24/7 is ourself.

So cultivating self-compassion, the ability to be on our own side with kindness and understanding, is one of the most important tools we can learn in life, and is a major factor in our wellbeing, confidence and resilience. And when we feel well and happy, we can be more available to be better friends to others, too.

The good news is, our current level of self-compassion is not a done deal. It can be cultivated.

The reflection exercise Being a friend to myself is a great way to gain some insight into our habits around self-compassion.


Content gratefully adapted from the Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training Course. Lyndi is a graduate of this course, based on the work of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. Find out more or register for an MSC course in Brisbane.

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