The Importance of Self-Compassion

Sometimes it is easy to criticize and get down on ourselves thinking it will be a motivator to succeed in whatever it may be we are struggling with. It’s harder to show ourselves kindness, perhaps because criticism is what we know or being kind to ourselves may be viewed as self-indulgent or weak.


Good news! Research has shown the complete opposite. According to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., an associate professor in human development at the University of Texas, self-compassion is linked to overall greater well-being. Self-compassion can result in lower levels of anxiety/depression, better emotional coping skills as well as a better ability to be compassionate towards others. Whereas self-criticism can lead to anxiety, depression and lowered self esteem.


According to Neff, self-compassion is comprised of 3 components. First is self-kindness. This is to be kind and gentle with yourself when you are afflicted. Second is common humanity. This is recognizing you are not alone in your suffering, the struggles individuals experience is what connects all of humanity. Lastly is mindfulness. This is to observe life without ignoring thoughts and feelings, rather acknowledging them in the moment.



Ways to be Self-compassionate


If you are unused to self-compassion it may seem different at first and may be difficult. Here are some tips to achieve self-compassion.


  • Think about how you would treat someone you cared about if they were going through your situation. What would you do or say to them?
  • Think about what you say. Be aware of the way you speak or think to yourself. The rule of thumb is if you would not say those things to someone you care about then you are being critical of yourself.
  • Physically comfort yourself. This may sound a bit strange but kind physical gestures have an immediate positive effect on our bodies. It could be holding/rubbing your arm, placing your hand on your heart, or any other physical gesture. It helps your brain direct the thought away from the criticism and focus on the physical body.
  • Pick a few compassionate phrases to memorize. When you find you are criticizing yourself, stop and say one or all of the compassionate phrases you memorized. Combining this with the physical gesture can have extremely effective results.
  • Lastly, try guided meditation. This will help to make self-compassion more natural and easy to you. Several different self-compassion meditation exercises can be found on Neff’s website so you can find what works best for you.



If you would like more information on self-compassion, you can visit Neff’s website:



-Jacquelyn Provenzola, MSW Intern

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