What is Self-Compassion?

'I learned a long time ago that the wisest thing I can do for myself is be on my own side' - Maya Angelou​


For thousands of years, various different contemplative traditions have believed that training our minds in compassion can transform our lives. Psychological research is also showing that learning and developing our ability to relate to ourselves with care and support during difficult times can help us to increase our levels of wellbeing, and give us the inner resources to keep moving forward in the face of disappointment and failure.

Many of us are conditioned to treat those closest to us better than we treat ourselves, especially at times of stress and difficulty. We also live in a highly competitive and individualised world where self-compassion, compassion turned inward, being tender with ourselves through tough times can be positioned as weakness and self-indulgence. Quite the opposite is true. Self-compassion requires the courage to turn towards our own distress and the wisdom to know the most skilful action to take next in terms of alleviating or preventing our distress.



The way we deal with our most painful thoughts and feelings has a significant effect on our mental health and wellbeing and so developing our innate capacity to show ourselves support and care when life gets difficult and stressful will not only benefit us, but also allows us the extra capacity to continue to support and care for those closest to us.

Research has continually shown that self-compassion and not self-esteem is a better predicator of success and wellbeing. Self-esteem can be a somewhat fragile quality especially as it is predicated on how we see ourselves in relation to other people. When failure and disappointment come along it can easily be knocked as we begin to compare ourselves unfavourably with the next person. Developing the internal resources to support ourselves through the inevitable knock-backs in life allows us to develop a safe base within ourselves so that we can keep moving forward even through adversity.

The good news is that self-compassion can be trained and developed. The practices will enable you relate to yourself more helpfully, with a greater sense of warmth and care than you may have previously experienced, which can help us to open up to life in its fullest, both the difficult and the more joyful elements.

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