Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Barring superficial semantic distinction, it is similar to self-acceptance notion in CBT or Morita therapy.
Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.
Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one’s negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. Conversely, mindfulness requires that one not be “over-identified” with mental or emotional phenomena, so that one suffers aversive reactions. This latter type of response involves narrowly focusing and ruminating on one’s negative emotions.
Self-compassion has been considered to resemble Carl Rogers’ notion of “unconditional positive regard” applied both towards clients and oneself; Albert Ellis’ “unconditional self-acceptance”; Maryhelen Snyder’s notion of an “internal empathizer” that explored one’s own experience with “curiosity and compassion”; Ann Weiser Cornell’s notion of a gentle, allowing relationship with all parts of one’s being; and Judith Jordan’s concept of self-empathy, which implies acceptance, care and empathy towards the self.
Self-compassion is different from self-pity, a state of mind or emotional response of a person believing to be a victim and lacking the confidence and competence to cope with an adverse situation.
Research indicates that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health than those who lack self-compassion. For example, self-compassion is positively associated with life satisfaction, wisdom, happiness, optimism, curiosity, learning goals, social connectedness, personal responsibility, and emotional resilience. At the same time, it is associated with a lower tendency for self-criticism, depression, anxiety, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism, and disordered eating attitudes.
Self-compassion has different effects than self-esteem, a subjective emotional evaluation of the self. Although psychologists extolled the benefits of self-esteem for many years, recent research has exposed costs associated with the pursuit of high self-esteem,including narcissism,distorted self-perceptions, contingent and/or unstable self-worth,as well as anger and violence toward those who threaten the ego. It appears that self-compassion offers the same mental health benefits as self-esteem, but with fewer of its drawbacks such as narcissism, ego-defensive anger, inaccurate self-perceptions, self-worth contingency, or social comparison.