Self-compassion is necessary

Compassion can be described as   concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Having self-compassion is no different from having compassion for others.

What the experience of compassion feels like.

  1. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you cannot feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is.
  2. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by  the suffering of others so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.
  3. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection are part of the shared human experience. You might have heard the expression “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you do not like about yourself. Do not just ignore your pain with a ‘mwanadamu ni kujikaza’ (it is human to withstand suffering)  mentality. Stop to tell yourself  “This is really difficult right now,  how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

Self-compassion can lead you to try and change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy. You do this  because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable. Most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honour and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur. You will also make mistakes, come up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us . Open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it. This will help you to feel compassion for yourself.

Research found that  that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health and resilience than those who lack self-compassion.

How does self-compassion differ from self-judgement?  

Self-compassion involves kindness rather than self-criticism,  common humanity, and mindfulness to oneself.       

Kindness vs self-criticism

Self-compassion involves being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  Self-compassionate people recognise that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When you deny or fight  against this reality  you increase stress, frustration and self-criticism.  When you accept it with sympathy and kindness, however,  greater you experience  emotional equanimity.

Common humanity vs. Isolation.

When we don’t have  things exactly as we want  we get frustrated and this is  often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.  But all humans suffer.   All humans make mistakes. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.  Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness vs. Over-identification

Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.  This balanced stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering. This puts our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is non-judgmental, and . It is receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. For example, acknowledging to ourselves that we are angry with someone, or that we feel betrayed.  We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.  Simultaneously,  mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings. Thus, we are not caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

How to  practice self-compassion

Yin and yang  is a concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy.  It describes  how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world.   Yin is the receptive,   and yang the proactive. Yin and yang are complementary  forces that interact to form a dynamic system. In this system, the whole is greater than the assembled parts. According to this philosophy, everything has both yin and yang aspects. For instance, shadow cannot exist without light, life cannot exist without death.

In terms of yin,  self-compassion involves soothing and comforting oneself when suffering.  You might be  experiencing resentfulness and anger because you  feel overwhelmed at work. At the end of the day, you  go home,  draw a hot bath, have  a glass of wine or a cup of tea and listen to relaxing music.

Yang self-compassion manifests as speaking up and protecting oneself. It could be standing with others who have experienced similar disharmony,  and clearly seeing the truth.  You might practice yang self-compassion by speaking the boss about  work conditions and how they affect you and others. You could request policy changes ,  some time off or cutting down on current workload.

Here are some suggestions to practice self-compassion

If you think about the serenity prayer, yin  requires being willingly open to what is – “accept what I cannot change”. Yang means stepping up and making a change  – “courage to change what I can”.

In fact,  self-compassion balance  includes both strong protective actions  and nurturing soothing actions towards the self. If you practice only yin, frequent pain or hurt could wear you out. If you practice only yang, the energy needed for proactivity could wear you out. Coaching can help you learn how to be more compassionate to yourself

compassion by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


Allen, A. B., & Leary, M. R. (2010). Self‐Compassion, stress, and coping. Social and personality psychology compass4(2), 107-118.

Neff, K. D. (2011). Self‐compassion, self‐esteem, and well‐being. Social and personality psychology compass5(1), 1-12.

Allen, A. B., & Leary, M. R. (2010). Self‐Compassion, stress, and coping. Social and personality psychology compass4(2), 107-118.