Happiness Self-Compassion Makes Life More Manageable By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 30, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print iStockphoto Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Understanding Self-Compassion Components Benefits When it comes to personal development, our culture often celebrates those who are self-assured or self-confident. However, self-compassion might be a better way to approach success and personal development. For instance, self-confidence makes you feel better about your abilities, while self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations. And once you acknowledge and accept your flaws, you are more likely to view them objectively and realistically. This, in turn, can lead to positive changes in your life. Understanding Self-Compassion Drawn from Buddhist psychology, self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem or self-confidence. Instead of a way of thinking about yourself, it is a way of being or a way of treating yourself. In fact, according to Dr. Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, self-compassion involves treating yourself just like you would treat your friends or family members even when they fail or screw up. In general, self-compassion involves accepting that you are human and that you make mistakes. It also means you do not dwell on those mistakes or beat yourself up for making them. Dr. Neff was the first person to measure and define self-compassion and offers a number of meditations that can be used to improve your self-compassion skills. For instance, she also offers several self-compassion exercises you can engage in including affectionate breathing and loving-kindness meditation. Primary Components of Self-Compassion When it comes to practicing self-compassion, there are several primary components that are essential to its success. These include being kind to yourself, just like you would be to a friend; being mindful of who you really are, flaws and all; and, allowing yourself the freedom to be imperfect. Here is an overview of the primary components of self-compassion. Self-kindness When you practice self-kindness, you recognize that all people are imperfect and that all people have imperfect lives. And you are kind to yourself when things go wrong instead of being critical. For instance, when something goes wrong, Dr. Neff says your first reaction might be to think "this should not be happening." Or, you might think: "I shouldn't have this issue come up in my life. Everyone else is living perfectly happy, normal lives." With negative or unkind thinking, you are likely to experience additional suffering because it makes you feel isolated, alone and different from everyone else. But with self-kindness, instead of thinking "poor me," you think "well, everyone fails once in a while." You acknowledge that everyone has issues and struggles because this is what it means to be human. When you start to think like that, it changes the way you view life's challenges and difficulties. That opens the door for you to grow from the experience. But if you feel like it's abnormal or that it shouldn't be happening, then you start to engage in self-blame. Mindfulness Another component of self-compassion is mindfulness. When you are mindful, you have to be willing to face your pain and suffering and acknowledge it. Most people do not want to do that. In fact, they usually want to avoid it. They want to avoid the pain and go straight to problem-solving. But when life throws you a curveball, it is important that you take the time to be mindful of how those struggles or failures make you feel and why they might have happened. When you are able to do that, you are much more likely to grow and learn from the situation. Another thing you need to be mindful of is your inner critic. Self-criticism can be very defeating and often plays on repeat in our minds. But mindfulness allows you to be aware of your shortcomings without passing judgment on yourself. The result is that you will recognize where you need improvement without the pressure of being superhuman. Imperfection Once you can accept that it is unrealistic to expect perfection, it will feel like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. It also helps you to realize that what you are experiencing is normal and human, and you should not feel bad about it. Recognizing your imperfections can also help you feel more connected to others because you realize that everyone experiences hardships and difficulties. Remember, self-compassion is about being kind to yourself and realizing that humans are imperfect, including you. This also requires acknowledging that it is okay to not be perfect. Your flaws and setbacks should help you understand yourself better, not make you stressed out or feel bad about who you are. Benefits of Self-Compassion Overall, self-compassion involves recognizing the difference between making a bad choice and being a bad person. When you practice self-compassion, you understand that making bad decisions does not automatically make you a bad person. Instead, you recognize that your value and worth is unconditional. In fact, research has consistently shown a positive connection between self-compassion and overall well-being. Additionally, self-compassion provides a sense of self-worth. But not in a narcissistic way like self-confidence can at times. What's more, people who practice self-compassion also have more social connections, higher emotional intelligence, and greater overall satisfaction with life. They also are more caring, supportive, and empathetic. Meanwhile, research shows that people who are self-compassionate have less anxiety, depression, and fear of failure. Research also shows that self-compassion can be a motivator causing people to improve on their mistakes, failures, or shortcomings because they view them more objectively. Press Play for Advice on Building Self-Compassion Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for building self-compassion, featuring bestselling author Kristin Neff. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts A Word From Verywell When it comes to being self-compassionate, the first thing you need to address is that voice in your head that is constantly critiquing you. Many times, that voice is way too critical. For example, you may beat yourself up for every little mistake. To be more self-compassionate, you need to recognize that voice and correct it when it veers off course. That doesn't mean you tell yourself how great you are. Instead, you talk to yourself in a kind, nonjudgmental way—the same way you would encourage a loved one. And when you do, life will get a whole lot more manageable. How to Shift from a Scarcity Mindset to an Abundance Mindset 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Neff K. Definition of self-compassion. Ge J, Wu J, Li K, Zheng Y. Self-compassion and subjective well-being mediate the impact of mindfulness on balanced time perspective in Chinese college students. Front Psychol. 2019;10:367. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00367 Marsh IC, Chan SWY, MacBeth A. Self-compassion and psychological distress in adolescents-a meta-analysis. Mindfulness (N Y). 2018;9(4):1011-1027. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0850-7 By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Happiness Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.