Self-Compassion: Surprisingly Hard, But Well Worth It

Did you know that 80-85% of people are harder on themselves than they are other people? It’s easy to treat others with kindness and respect, but when it comes to ourselves the shame spiral is endless. Many of my clients have no trouble describing how amazing their kids, spouses or friends are. Then when they start talking about themselves, it’s nothing but self-criticism, self-blame, harsh judgmental thoughts, mistakes they’ve made, regrets… the negative list goes on and on.

What is self-compassion?

Kristen Neff, a leading expert in this field, describes self-compassion as the ability to be kind and understanding towards oneself when feeling failure, suffering or inadequacy. Life will not always go our way and we won’t always make the best choices. We all make mistakes, but it is how we view ourselves when making mistakes that makes a difference. We can perceive ourselves as failures, leading to the shame/anger/fear rabbit hole. Or we can learn from our mistakes, understanding we all make mistakes and be kind to ourselves.

Practicing self-compassion has many benefits as well. People who are self-compassionate:

•    Have lower rates of depression, anxiety and eating disorders

•    Have higher rates of overall happiness

•    Are more likely to recover from PTSD

•    Have less chronic pain (including improved lower back pain)

•    Closer relationships and better romantic relationships

•    Are more altruistic

•    Are more successful at school and work

•    Have lower levels of physiological stress

3 Steps to Becoming More Self-Compassionate

1. observe your thoughts

Take a moment to step back and observe your thoughts. In a non-judgmental way, notice how you think about yourself. When you make a mistake, is your first thought negative (like “I am such a failure!”)?  Recognize how distorted this thought is. Are you really a failure or did you just make a mistake (like all humans do?). Think about the successes you’ve had. Think about your achievements. Catch these thoughts in action. Being aware of your thought patterns is the first step in changing the way you think and feel about yourself.

2. Redirect your thoughts to the positive

If it’s hard for you to think positively about yourself, think about how you might talk to a friend or child who made a mistake. Would you call them a failure or would you say something warm and supportive? Apply these same words to yourself. After all, research shows that berating yourself or indulging in negative self-thoughts don’t actually do any good, they in fact hinder you. Practicing self-compassion is the key to success and happiness.

3. give yourself a break

Breathe for a moment, go for a walk, or stretch and remember that suffering is a part of life. We all have negative experiences, we all have pain, so be kind to yourself. Think about what you can do to care for yourself in the moment. Feel your emotions, let the pain, anger or sadness be there and then give yourself a hug (physical or mental).

Remember, we have somewhere between 50,000 to 75,000 thoughts per day! You don’t need to believe everything you think. Many of our thoughts are not anchored in the reality of a situation. We tend to view things through a distorted self-negative lens. With awareness and practice you can bring more self-compassion (and happiness!) into your life and feel better while doing it.

Interested in learning more about how to become more self-compassionate? Call or email now for your free consultation: 415-407-6369,


Neff, K. (2011). Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. William Marrow.

Paquette, J. (2015). Real Happiness: Proven Paths for Contentment, Peace & Well-Being. PESI Publishing & Media.

Roth, G. (2018). This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide. New York: Scribner.