Self-Compassion Improves Resilience, Coping, Happiness, and More

The dictionary defines compassion as, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Compassion is further understood as a feeling that emerges when encountering the suffering of another and can be accompanied by an action response that seeks to relieve that suffering. Self-compassion is a subcategory of compassion that is predicated on self-kindness, a common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to the ability to be merciful, patient, and accepting of ourselves regardless of outcomes achieved or even failures endured. In fact, self-kindness can be conceptualized as treatment that we might offer our dearest friend or loved one—only it is directed at ourselves. Common humanity suggests that all humans are essentially flawed with the perspective that we, as a collective, walk this path stumbling and getting up, with each person not fundamentally any different than any other. The final component, mindfulness, implies an ability to be present and aware of our feelings and experiences without judgement or reaction.

The literature tells us that those who regularly practice self-compassion experience reduced levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear of failure. Self-compassionate people are reportedly more happy, resilient, socially engaged, and hopeful, experiencing vast improvements in mental and physical well-being. It appears that a first step involves bringing our attention to the negative narratives or self-talk that we replay or respond with in and around our daily life. This is highly dependent on our ability to pause and observe what it is we are thinking, saying, or doing; to just become aware. From there we can begin to accept the commonality of our experience, and begin to treat ourselves mercifully with acceptance and understanding as we evolve and grow.  

Psychologist Dr. Kristen Neff is the seminal researcher on self-compassion; she offers an informative, dynamic website based on her extensive research. Dr. Neff provides valuable material including free information and practices to help us learn more about, and move towards, an increasingly self-compassionate life with all its benefits. You can find Dr. Neff’s website at