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The Practice of Self-Compassion

by Evelyn on July 12, 2011

Having self-compassion is not something that you are used to. After all, you have been in the habit of beating yourself up all your life. In your experience, you have found harsh criticisms extremely useful as a motivator for actions. It is how you have made yourself get out of bed every morning.

Water Lily

You may perceive self-compassion as being indulgent. You would not dream of giving excuses for your wretched state. You see self-compassion as disempowering. Hence, taking a tough stance towards the self is important.

Then again, you may not be aware that recent studies show that those who are self-compassionate are more productive, have lower stress levels and produce 100% more anti-aging hormones. Apparently, feeling compassionate controls inflammatory responses in the body, postulated by most scientists to be connected with many serious diseases, especially cardiovascular.

In addition, contrary to belief, those who are self-compassionate are more motivated to persevere. Those with self-compassion may even open access to higher levels of creative thinking, suggests one 2010 study in the Creativity Research Journal.

What is Compassion

Words sometimes fail me. Tuning in to describe emotions and thoughts can take a long time. It’s perhaps why I can take many hours to write a blog post. Nonetheless, I hope to attempt to define self-compassion, based on my inner experiences.

To describe what self-compassion is, I find it easier to start by explaining what it is like extending compassion to others.

I liken compassion to be a generous outpouring of the soul’s unconditional love for healing in the face of suffering. In a state of empathy, you have the ability to see and feel the pain of others, as if it is your own. When you are compassionate, you are filled with rawness, connection and tenderness. You also have the awareness of contrast and a sense of shared human connection.

Extending love and kindness does not necessarily mean bestowing another person with gifts but it is the show of gentleness and the generosity of the spirit. An easy way to bring up the feeling of compassion is to recall the time when you first heard the news of a tsunami, earthquake or some other natural disaster. Thousands have perished, with remaining survivors in desperation. Upon hearing the news, you experience an emotional tear in your heart. And you want to do what you can to help instantly.

You experience compassion when you realize that someone else is in worse trouble than you. You become aware of the contrast in both your circumstances. The moment of awareness puts you in touch with the realities of life: ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and also, dreams and crushed hopes.

You become aware of how limited you can be in the face of adversity. You recognize that there sometimes can be unexplainable factors that are beyond anyone’s control. Your heart becomes open to the raw feelings of vulnerability, an experience available by virtue of being human. You feel for the person in suffering, no matter how near or far he or she is.

With compassion, you become in touch with what is real. You can see the suffering that goes on behind the scenes. You are able to touch the core inside yourself that hopes for the best for others. You are able to connect with the desires in others, the same things that you want for yourself too. You unite in the feeling of oneness.

What Is Self-Compassion

So now, what about self-compassion? Self-compassion allows you to be nourished quietly from the inside, without a word of judgment, criticism and comparison. You accept and care deeply for the self – even with all your imperfections, flaws and mistakes. Self-compassion allows you to see that like every one else, you make mistakes too.

You access a center where you can rest in comfort. Self-compassion is your warm chicken soup, soft pink blanket, cuddly teddy bear, and hot chocolate on a cold rainy day. It is the knowing that you have done what you could based on the limited resources you have. You are now at at your service in the embrace of support, encouragement and love.

Being human, you tend to find that there will be always be something that you are not completely satisfied with. Unless you are enlightened, you will find it hard to release your attachments. Desires do not cause suffering, but the attachment to your desires do.

Through self-compassion, you become present to your suffering. You see your dreams and disappointments, hopes and failures and successes and failures. Instead of suppressing your negative emotions like you have always done, you now feel the full extent of your sorrow, inadequacy and vulnerability.

Practicing self-compassion allows you to loosen your tight grip on craving for things in a certain way or wanting perfection. Self-compassion is the antidote that you apply when you have been too harsh in your expectations. You relax in wanting control or striving for perfection – goals that are unattainable. You give yourself some space to breathe.

The compassion that you extend to yourself comes from the same well of unconditional love that you extend to others. Through tapping into your inner reservoir of love, you begin to feel more alive. You learn to make peace.

Finding compassion for others seems natural. When someone else is in trouble, you find yourself moved into action immediately because you are feeling compassionate. Self-compassion, on the other hand, appears to be more of a choice. Being kind to yourself is not something that you are in the habit of doing. As an important aspect towards greater self-love, it’s perhaps time to make a start.

Share with Me

I need your input. I have been writing my book on Self-Love and would like to know if there is anything I have missed out on in the description above on self-compassion.

What does it mean for you when you practice self-compassion?
What are the steps you take?
What are your thoughts on being compassionate with the self?

Shine in Authentic Self-Love Always,

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Author. Adventurer. Life Artist. More About Me.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica July 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm

as a christian, for me understanding that my body is a temple of God, i’ve learned to reconcile that taking care of my health is of utmost importance to the one who created me. it is not selfish, actually selfishness breeds disease. this has helped in times when i’ve been tempted to ‘beat myself up’ for not having it all together.

if i would not physically harm my own body, why would i mentally and emotionally continue to choose to harm my soul knowing that it not only is ravaging to my life, but does not honor the one who created life.

in the end living carelessly and without self-compassion we will then not be able to love others. christ called us to love him first, then others AS oursleves. if we don’t have compassion for ourselves we will inevitably be incapable of having compassion for others. instead resentment will ensue.

thank you for sharing this and i appreciate this!

Vishnu July 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Evelyn – great post thanks. I think I’ve come to master self compassion – it’s just everyone else that pisses me off. :) No, at the root of self-compassion is acceptance.

Allison Crow July 12, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Self compassion is the soft gift I’m easing into giving myself this year. After being a striver and fighter for so long, my heart is whispering that it would like some of the tenderness I often extend to others. Self compassion for me is releasing resistance and embracing the flow. Leaving worry or self judgement behind…stopping the “shoulding” all of my self and others…an breathing in the now. And, in this hot hot summer…it also means taking more naps.

Justin | Spiritual Development July 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Hi Evelyn,
Could you imagine the world that we could live in if we all practiced self-compassion. Having self-compassion to me means that I allow love and kindness to be received by me especially during challenging times.

Many of us are hard and critical of ourselves and it is a bad habit that can leave us feeling worse. I would also like to suggest to ask that we could surround ourselves with other compassionate people as well. Ask God, the Universe, The creator to send loving and compassionate people our way. :)

Maya @ Ms Buddha July 13, 2011 at 12:36 am

I think you said it all! I’d sum it up… that compassion is the absence of judgment and comparison, with the understanding that pain and “wrong doing” come from fear. The judgmental and comparing mind is a pain in itself!

Andrew Olson July 13, 2011 at 3:47 am

Hi Evelyn, great insight into compassion.

I would say the most powerful thing about self-compassion is that you can never truly express compassion for others until you can express it to yourself. A lot of people at lower levels of consciousness would think of it as selfish, as you mentioned. But the really is, there’s nothing more valuable you can do for the world than show complete, unashamed love and care for yourself.

Galen Pearl July 13, 2011 at 5:01 am

So interesting that you and I are often on the same topic. I just posted something about awakening compassion towards ourselves by taking someone on a guided tour of your life. I’m leading my monthly discussion group tonight and that is what we are going to do. This is such an important post. You addressed the topic so thoroughly and compassionately!

Jenn Brigole July 14, 2011 at 3:14 am

Thank you for this post, Evelyn. Reading it gives me the feeling that what I’ve been going through, still going through, makes sense that I have to allow myself some breathing space. I particularly love the line that says, “Practicing self-compassion allows you to loosen your tight grip on craving for things in a certain way or wanting perfection. Self-compassion is the antidote that you apply when you have been too harsh in your expectations.” I’m in a constant battle of losing weight and maintaining it and sometimes, I just can’t help but cry whenever I commit slip ups. I know that I need to give myself breaks every now and then, but practicing it is not that easy for me. I just really wish to learn more about how to have a healthy well-being mentally, physically, and emotionally. That’s what I want.

J.D. Meier July 14, 2011 at 11:04 am

> You give yourself some space to breathe
Well put.

Compassion helps us contract in safety, so when we’re ready, we can expand.

rob white July 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Hi Evelyn,
To me it sounds like Self-Compassion begins with Fore-Giving. We must learn to GIVE up our harsh opinions of ourselves FOR something fresh and new. Whenever we truly For-Give – we Give up any begrudging opinion gripping us, FOR “I am sufficient as I am.” This calms the emotional mind and revitalizes the spirit. We all carry harsh opinions of ourselves, it is vital that we learn to let them lie still.

Daniel Taylor July 15, 2011 at 3:08 am

I very seldom comment on the web but I have recently experienced a period of time when I felt truly in tune with where I am in life and who I find myself to be and I am at ease with my lot. In comparison, I work in a children’s home as a handyperson where I see young teenagers struggling to understand themselves and the world around them. I see their pain of separation from security, family, future aspiration and all that I can offer is the occasional friendly comment. The young people seem to like me possibly because I try not to judge them and I always have a cheerful welcome when I meet them each day.

David Stevens July 16, 2011 at 7:36 am

Hi Evelyn,
Lovely post. You have to “live” with yourself so why not be “kind & loving” to yourself? It doesn’t make sense otherwise.
be good to yourself

The Vizier July 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Hi Evelyn,

It is so easy to be critical and judgmental of ourselves when we make mistakes. This is especially so when the stakes are high. Yeah I too take many hours to write a blog post especially when I try to get my point on complex topics across. Self-compassion is certainly not an easy thing to write about if we want to cover the finer aspects of it in a compassionate way. But you certainly have done a great job in explaining what self-compassion is.

I think when it comes to self-compassion, it is important to look at the reason behind actions, to look at the bigger picture. Everything that happens in life has a reason whether we are aware of it or not. While it is easy to pass judgment when we only know a small fraction of the story, it is harder to be critical if we can see the full picture.

All of us are at different stages of our evolution. As such, we will have to go through different life lessons to gain the wisdom and experience that life has in store for us. To do so, we have to make mistakes and learn from them. Since this is the case, it helps to accept this fact and to learn from our mistakes well. Such is the nature of self-compassion.

Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

Irving the Vizier

HaitianPhoenix July 18, 2011 at 2:52 am

I definitely have to work on my self-compassion. I tend to have more compassion for others than I have for myself. I expect more, I’m harder on myself. But I have realized that the longer I beat myself up, the less time I am working towards my goal, so there is no time like the present to break this cycle!!

Jonas July 20, 2011 at 7:01 am

Hi Evelyn,

thank you for your post, it reminded me so much of how harsh I can be with myself.
Somehow, we learn as children to treat ourselves quite draconically and then as we grow up, we never learn to be gentle with our inner child.
I recently wrote a post with a very similar theme ( – How to become whole through self-forgiveness and self-love), maybe you’d enjoy the read.


Adele July 22, 2011 at 5:37 am

I’ve been stalking your blog for a little while now but had to leave a comment after reading this post. I must say Evelyn that you have a beautiful, gentle way with words that is quite comforting. This blog entry was something I really needed to be reminded of in terms of where my life is right now.

Self-compassion to me is accepting that you are your own best friend. It is loving and being grateful for every cell in your body that makes you the person that you are.

It is accepting that you are a flawed being, knowing that it is your weaknesses, along with your strengths, that define your beauty inside and out. Self-compassion is knowing that the Universe made absolutely NO mistakes in designing you for life on Mother Earth and rejoicing in that fact.

Thank you for your wonderful, joyous posts, Evelyn, you’re a sweetheart!

Sue August 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Dear Evelyn,

Thank you for posting such an interesting article on self-compassion.

I find that self-compassion is more difficult to practice than compassion for others. As an imperfect individual, I have an underlying fear that too much self-compassion will result in self-sympathy, laziness and ultimately, the loss of motivation to improve oneself. Where do we draw the line between an excessive self-compassion and a healthy level of self-compassion? Perhaps it is here then that we need to apply wisdom?

But I agree that without self-love and forgiveness for oneself, life can become unbearable. In my journey to seek deeper self-love, I stumbled upon your website and found that your articles were very helpful and informative. As a Buddhist who still has a lot to learn, I am trying to reconcile the concept of “no-self” in Buddhism and self-love/self-esteem…

Jackie August 5, 2011 at 1:39 am

Hello Evelyn, In your reply to the first comment, you said you were wondering what the Bible said about self compassion. In Matthew 22 verses 37 -39 it says: “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
We have a clear assignment to love ourselves, just as we love our neighbors. I believe this encompasses self compassion. It is, however, often times easier said than done.
I truly appreciated your writing. Thanks

Monk Warrior August 23, 2011 at 5:44 am

Self Compassion is half the story, compassion for others completes the story. I think it is important for us to have compassion for self first, then other. Self compassion can end up full-circle with obsession with self. If we can have compassion for self than other to the same degree as self then perhaps we are onto something.
Since we dont exist the way we think we exist, too much self compassion is like falling in love with a cartoon character. In other words, there is no permanent, existent self from its own side. May all beings benefit.

Meghan August 22, 2012 at 2:26 am

Hey Evelyn, I just blogged about this too… I’m reading Dr. Kirstin Neff’s book on this subject and got inspired. I put a link to your blog in my post (but I’m just getting started so I don’t expect a lot of traffic). Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen on your blog and I want to thank you for writing so eloquently about such an important topic!


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