What Is It?

Self-compassion is defined as the practice of quieting our inner critic, replacing it with a voice of support, understanding, and care for oneself.

Pioneering self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as entailing three main components:

  • Self-kindness—we are gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.
  • Recognition of our common humanity—we feel connected with others in the experience of life rather than isolated and alienated by our suffering.
  • Mindfulness—we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.

Even for many people who value compassion for others, the idea of self-compassion may not immediately make sense. Neff explains that people often confuse self-compassion with self-pity or self-indulgence, fearing that if they’re “too soft” on themselves, they’ll never improve or achieve. But that’s not the case at all; in fact, as Neff writes, “self-compassion provides the same benefits as high self-esteem without its drawbacks,” such as narcissism and prejudice.

A teacher loses his cool with a disruptive student. After class, instead of beating himself up about it, he reminds himself that all educators make mistakes sometimes (common humanity). He doesn’t deny how upset he is (mindfulness), but thinks about how he would comfort and advise a colleague who experienced something like this, and tries to do the same for himself (self-kindness).

Why Is It Important?

Far from encouraging people to lower their standards for themselves, self-compassion has been shown to enhance well-being, motivation, and more.


Self-compassion promotes well-being.


Self-compassion helps us relate better with others.


Self-compassion makes us more resilient.

  • When people are more self-compassionate, they are better able to cope with difficult life experiences.
  • Self-compassion is associated with higher self-efficacy, or confidence in one’s ability to succeed, and lower fear of failure.
  • When self-compassionate people do fail, they use healthier coping strategies and are better able to bounce back.


Self-compassion motivates self-improvement.


Self-compassion helps us stay healthy.


“Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance.”
–Tara Brach
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