Self-Compassion: Being a Friend to Yourself

Even if things in life feel messy or heavy, or even if you’re not where you want to be, what would it feel like to embrace yourself with tenderness and compassion where you are?

There is such a rich and lengthy history of defining compassion through philosophical, spiritual perspectives, and it’s important we don’t miss the notion of compassion toward oneself. Inspired by the work of Buddhist teachers, Kristin Neff describes the concept of self-compassion as compassion turned inward wherein the same kindness, care, and understanding one would extend to another may be offered to oneself. Self-compassion gives space to be touched by our own suffering, offer nonjudgmental understanding to our own pain, and acknowledge how our experiences are a part of what it looks like to be human.

Self-compassion can enhance our well-being and the way we relate to ourselves in several ways: 

  • Treating ourselves with kindness promotes a posture of warmth and understanding toward our own distress.
  • Practicing mindfulness in self-compassion can lead to improving awareness of our individual tendencies, honoring our own experiences, and moving toward seeing and treating oneself kindly.
  • Considering common humanity and seeing our own experiences as part of the larger human experience may help us find relief from feeling alone and isolated in our own experiences.

Research conducted by Kristin Neff and her colleagues indicates that practicing self-compassion is connected to increases in social connectedness as well as decreases in self-criticism, depression, rumination, thought suppression, and anxiety. 

How might you hold yourself with kindness and ease today? How might you relate to yourself in an accepting and loving way? There is an abundance of ways we can integrate self-compassion into our daily lives, and here are a few ideas to take with you:

  • Focus on softening your body and taking care of yourself physically. Perhaps this means releasing tension from your muscles or taking a few deep breaths.
  • Allow yourself to feel a multitude of feelings or notice an assortment of thoughts without judging them. 
  • Ask yourself, “how can I be a friend to myself?” or “what would it feel like to be a friend to myself?”
  • Give yourself permission to take a rest or take a break when you need it.
  • Practice self-forgiveness when something doesn’t go as you had hoped or planned. 
  • Let yourself ask for what you need in the moment. Maybe it’s help or maybe it’s connection.
  • Maybe you’re into journaling and it’d be helpful to reflect on a few questions. What might you say to someone you deeply care about who is wrestling with the same concern that you are? What are some kind words you could offer yourself when you need support? In what areas of your life would you benefit from more gentleness? 

“One of the most transformative parts of self-compassion is that it allows you to create a safe home within yourself, which then makes it safe to make mistakes and still be a worthy human being (Lisa Olivera).”


Content by Maria Jagodinski, MA
Photo by via Pexels