Seeing the Power of Self-Compassion in Action

“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.” ~ Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind

I have written about self-compassion in prior posts and have tried to implement it into my own life. The scientific evidence around it is undeniable and it is becoming an essential teaching among many demographics including leadership, healthcare and even during challenging developmental stages such as adolescence. At this point, you are probably thinking – okay, we get it, but what does it actually look like in real life?

To start, we need to take a look at both the definition and the 3 components of self-compassion as defined by Kristin Neff, the expert in this burgeoning field.


Self-compassion is a way of acting towards yourself as you would others when you are going through a challenging time, adversity, failure or self-criticism.


1) Self-kindness – we are human and we will make mistakes and be hard on ourselves sometimes, but what if we were to approach ourselves with the same kindness we would a dear friend?

2) Common humanity – the human experience is shared by everyone and we must realize we all suffer at times.

3) Mindfulness – I heard Kristin Neff speak about the importance of mindfulness in self-compassion and it made so much sense. Sometimes we don’t even recognize that we are suffering, so an important step toward being compassionate to ourselves when we need comfort and care involves recognizing our emotions and accepting them for what they are right here and now.

Practicing self-compassion in real life

We are all faced with many opportunities to practice self-compassion in our day-to-day life, and we often don’t even realize it. An example of where I was able to illustrate this to my 18 year old son happened just the other day. He is very passionate about PCs, the components, and finding ways to improve his on his own. He wasn’t happy with the sound a fan was making, so he researched both the potential causes and solutions, and then set out to fix it. Fortunately for him, he is very much like my husband Colin and has a lot of patience and problem-solving abilities.

He is also aware of how temperamental computers can be and was fearful that something would go wrong from the beginning. Long story short, he tried various solutions and felt they were leading him into deeper water he didn’t want to swim in. So, he was explaining this to me and said, “I just keep screwing up each time I attempt to fix it.” My reply to him, “Are you being hard on yourself? What would you say to Dad if he went down the same path (or hole)?”

It became instantly obvious to him that he was being unduly harsh on himself, and that in fact, nothing obviously untoward had happened to this point and he was learning a lot in the process. This is a simple example but illustrates how often we are probably faced with the opportunity to practice self-compassion. It is so accessible to us and can be such a powerful tool in our lives.

In an interview I heard with Kristin Neff, she said that among other benefits it is good for our mental health, relationships, self-care and coping. For example, having a sad day today? “I am allowed to have a sad day.” Planned to go to the gym and it just didn’t happen? “I am disappointed, but I will do my best to fit it in either tomorrow or the next day.”

Next time you are heading toward being self-critical or self-judgmental, I urge you to try to be kind to yourself instead. After all, we are all human, and for the most part, we are trying to live our lives the best we can.


Additional Resource

TED Ed Lesson – Kristin Neff: The Three Components of Self-Compassion

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