Self-compassion involves acknowledging that suffering and failure are a part of the human condition, and that all people are worthy of compassion. The concept of self-compassion has its roots in Eastern Buddhist philosophy.
Kristin Neff (2003) emphasizes that:
“… Compassion is usually conceptualized in terms for compassion for others, but in Buddhist psychology, it is believed that it is as essential to feel compassion for oneself as it is for others.” (p. 224).
The idea of self-compassion is that we should show ourselves the same compassion as we show others:
“It involves offering others patience, kindness and non-judgmental understanding, recognizing that all humans are imperfect and make mistakes.” (p. 224).
Self-compassionate people know and acknowledge their own limitations. They are in touch with themselves, so to speak. Neff (2003) has identified three elements of self-compassion:
Self-kindness is about acknowledging that imperfection and failure are inevitable parts of life. It is about being kind to ourselves in the face of life difficulties.
Dreams or ideals do not always come true. Instead of being frustrated about this, we should accept this reality. Ideals are ideals for a reason, right? We should not spend all of our time thinking about the things we could have, instead, we should enjoy the things we already have.
2. Shared humanity
We tend to think that we experience more difficulties than others do, but all humans are inherently vulnerable and imperfect.
We should acknowledge that we are dependent of others, and that interactions with others form who we are. For example, our feelings, thoughts and behaviors are influenced by external factors such as our culture, history, and genes etc.
For this reason, we should be less judgmental about ourselves. We have little control over many aspects of our lives, and we should understand and acknowledge this as it is a shared human experience.
We should not identity ourselves with negative thoughts and emotions. Instead, we should try to be more self-aware, i.e. seing our own situation in a larger perspective.
Being mindful is about observing our mental states without trying to suppress or deny them. This means that we approach our emotions non-judgmentally and with acceptance.