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Self-compassion refers to the ability to treat yourself kindly, gently and with compassion even when you’ve experienced setbacks or failures. It’s not about allowing and justifying everything but treating yourself like a wise parent – by understanding and comforting while at the same time setting boundaries. Self-compassion means looking for a conscious connection with yourself, respecting yourself and taking responsibility for your own well-being.

You may have noticed that while it’s easy to be compassionate about the mistakes and inadequacies of your friends, you can often be demanding and critical towards yourself. If your friend can’t cope or can’t do something, you’d probably say “It doesn’t matter” or “You did well enough”. Self-compassion is about adopting the same sort of attitude towards yourself. Self-compassion is easier for some people than others, who may have to make a conscious mental effort and modify their inner dialogue. Perhaps you’re afraid that self-compassion will make you do worse, become selfish or show indifference to other people. In reality, it works the opposite way. By taking care of yourself and treating yourself with compassion, you can be more understanding towards others and can learn and develop instead of dwelling on self-criticism.

Self-compassion is very much connected with accepting yourself. Try examining yourself in a neutral way from a short distance and just tell yourself what you are like, what you need and how you cope in different situations. Can you accept all of this with compassion? Acceptance doesn’t mean being passive or submissive, it means observing your current state without criticism or judgement. Acceptance is the key to understanding yourself, listening to your own needs and making any changes necessary.

Developing your self-compassion

  • Take an interest in how you feel. Self-compassion is about being compassionate about your feelings.
  • Respond to your feelings with caring and kindness. Tell yourself that your needs have been heard and taken seriously.
  • Be kind to yourself during difficult times. We often tend to reward ourselves for successes, but what if one way of doing good to yourself could be comforting yourself after failures?
  • Try to be your own best friend. You can strive for a self-compassionate attitude by treating yourself like you would treat a good friend. Don’t get upset when things go badly, and remember to feel happy when things go well.
  • Go through the things during the day that you can thank yourself for. These may include thinking about yourself, letting go of excessive expectations, concentrating on matters important to you, and recognising good efforts regardless of the outcome.
  • Try to see your value other than through your actions. You’re good and acceptable just as you are.