Many people mistake self-compassion with self-pity; however, true compassion involves feeling empathy for one’s own suffering and taking steps to alleviate it. But is self-compassion selfish?
Therapists frequently encourage clients to develop more self-compassion. Cognitive-behavioral therapists might employ techniques like reframing unkind thoughts or psychoanalytical therapy may examine early childhood experiences which contribute to an insufficient level of empathy towards oneself.
What is Compassion?
Compassion is a generous attitude that seeks to alleviate suffering. Its principles resemble empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s shoes) and sympathy (feeling sorry or sorry for someone). Compassion forms the cornerstone of selflessness and kindness because it involves taking an active approach towards aiding those in need; furthermore, it may contribute to healthy behaviors, such as lower cardiovascular disease risks and depression risks.
Kristin Neff, who first introduced the term “self-compassion,” emphasizes its importance. Self-compassion starts by acknowledging one’s pain and treating oneself as though you were comforting a friend who is in distress. Although this may be difficult to do initially, Kristin’s Self-Compassion Journal exercise helps participants do just this by asking participants to recall an error they made in writing while encouraging themselves as though comforting someone close.
John may write, for instance: “I apologize for cheating on an exam, but it was only temporary and I’m not an awful person.
Writing to relieve worries and reduce negative tendencies to brood can help alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety or depression, while also encouraging mindfulness – the practice of being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment – which research shows helps foster self-compassion as a form of mindfulness practice, leading to healthier behaviors and habits overall.
Is Self-Compassion a Luxury?
Is self-compassion selfish? Merriam-Webster defines compassion as the conscious awareness and desire to alleviate others’ distress, along with an urge to provide relief. Compassion for both self and others is considered to be a core human value and most moral codes view self-compassion as a virtue. Some might see self-compassion as selfish; to understand if this statement holds, let’s first examine what self-compassion actually is.
Kristen Neff, an expert researcher on self-compassion, describes it as having three components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to treating yourself with the same kindness that you would show another friend; common humanity recognizes your suffering is part of human experience; mindfulness allows for experiencing situations nonjudgmentally.
When we make mistakes or experience failure, it can be tempting to engage in self-criticism and self-deprecation – a practice that can be detrimental to both self-esteem and mental well-being. Neff provides a compelling example from her mother’s response when she received a failing grade in math class: her mother recognized her disappointment while providing empathy without making her feel like something had gone wrong; thus enabling Neff to continue working hard toward overcoming what was likely an insurmountable task.
Is Self-Compassion a Sign of Failure or Frailty?
Self-compassion is a widely discussed concept, yet often misinterpreted. Many may interpret self-compassion as an excuse for mistakes or behavior they find unpleasant when in reality self-compassion helps us work through painful feelings more easily and move forward more freely – it takes courage to acknowledge difficult emotions without pushing them away or feeling guilty for having them!
Kristen Neff of the University of Texas was one of the pioneering researchers who first defined and measured self-compassion almost 20 years ago. Her definition includes three key components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to treating yourself with love and kindness while common humanity acknowledges suffering as part of life while mindfulness provides a space in which all feelings can be processed without judgment or bias.
Neff’s Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) measures self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness with positively worded items; conversely, it includes negatively worded items for self-judgment, isolation and overidentification. She and clinical psychologist Christopher Germer collaborated in creating the eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion program which now is taught globally.
Is Self-Compassion Selfish, Immature, or Childish?
Many people can be wary of self-compassion because they mistake it for selfishness. Take Rachel for instance: She’s a kind, generous person who spends her days caring for students, evenings preparing classes and for family obligations, and weekends volunteering for charities she supports. Due to being raised with service in mind, Rachel assumes that any kindness she shows towards herself must mean neglecting other people for personal gain.
Kristen Neff, who pioneered research on self-compassion over 15 years ago, describes it as being comprised of three main elements – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness means treating yourself kindly when feeling overwhelmed or inadequate; common humanity refers to recognizing suffering and inadequacy are part of the human experience; mindfulness simply refers to accepting your emotions without judgment or prejudice.
If you want to explore self-compassion further, there are numerous resources available. The Government of Western Australia’s Centre for Clinical Interventions has put together an in-depth and comprehensive PDF workbook on self-compassion with seven modules such as Understanding and Barriers to Self-Compassion as introductory reading; Compassionate Imagery and Mindful Self-Compassion provide hands-on exercises. In addition, an experienced therapist may teach strategies to cultivate self-compassion while becoming more aware of any harsh, critical thoughts that might emerge during life events.