The Elements of Self-Compassion

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The Elements of Self-Compassion | Expressions Counselling

So what is self-compassion? Let’s break it down.

Self-compassion is really no different than having compassion for others. Compassion involves feeling for others and being moved by their pain. Compassion actually means “to suffer with”. It involves wanting to help someone and offer them your understanding and kindness. So, self-compassion is giving compassion to… yourself! It is exactly that…offering yourself that same understanding and kindness you would offer someone else.

Let’s dive in deeper to the three components of self-compassion.

1) Self-Kindness 

Self-kindness is being gentle and understanding with ourselves, rather than self-critical and self-judgmental. It is the antidote to self-criticism.

Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism

Do you tend to be kinder to yourself or to others? For many of us, the answer is others. We are taught as children to treat others the way we want to be treated. Shouldn’t we also teach children to treat themselves the way we would treat others?

Try showing yourself some self-kindness the next time you are feeling down. Ask yourself: What would I say to a friend if they were going through this? How can I care and comfort myself right now?

2) Accepting Pain as Part of Life

A key part of self-compassion is recognizing that pain is a part of life and everyone experiences hardship at some point. You are not alone in your suffering. When you remind yourself that everyone suffers, you feel more connected and less isolated. Self-compassion helps normalize and bring awareness to the fact that humans are not perfect and other people experience the same thoughts and feelings.

“If we can compassionately remind ourselves in moments of falling down that failure is part of the shared human experience, then that moment becomes one of togetherness rather than isolation”

– Kristin Neff (Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself)

There is comfort in knowing that everyone is human. Take this pandemic, for example. It is easier going through this time knowing that millions of other people are experiencing and feeling the same way you do right now. Believing you are the only one feeling a certain way is more isolating.

3) Finding Balance through Mindfulness

A way to be self-compassionate is to be mindful of what you are experiencing. Mindfulness is the non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of our experience in the present moment. When we find balance through mindfulness and take a step back from the suffering, it allows us to put our experience in a larger picture and not get caught up in the thoughts and emotions.

Suffering = Pain X Resistance

Humans have evolved to turn away from and avoid pain. It is natural that many people shut themselves off from emotions. However, if we distract ourselves, the resistance builds and builds, leading to more suffering. In life, it is impossible to avoid pain, but we don’t necessarily have to suffer because of that pain. Mindfulness allows us to stop resisting the pain and start holding the experience in a nonjudgmental awareness.

Being more self-compassionate helps reduce depression and anxiety, and in turn helps you feel better. To sum it all up, self-compassion is treating yourself the way you would treat a good friend in a difficult time. Are you wondering how to put this into practice? Stay tuned for my next blog post on how to begin sprinkling more self-compassion into your life.

Jordana Saks

Jordana Saks is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Expressions Counselling. She is passionate about working with individuals to overcome anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, life transitions, and relationship issues. She sees clients in-person at our Burnaby and North Vancouver locations as well as online.

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