Dr. Kristin Neff's research on self-compassion is scientifically demonstrating how compassion towards our inescapable human imperfections can allow us to more effectively navigate our challenges. Start by taking her self-compassion quiz to see just how self compassionate you are.
The Power of Self-Compassion
By Kristin Neff
Compassionate Mindfulness of Body and Feelings
By John Makransky, drawing on teachings of Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Want to learn about the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem? One is much healthier than the other.
Psychologist Kristin Neff says, "It's important to distinguish self-compassion from self-esteem: Self-esteem refers to the degree to which we evaluate ourselves positively. It represents how much we like or value ourselves, and is often based on comparisons with others. In contrast, self-compassion is not based on positive judgments or evaluations; it is a way of relating to ourselves. People feel self-compassion because they are human, not because they are special or above average. It emphasizes interconnection rather than separateness. With self-compassion, you don't have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself. It also offers more emotional stability than self-esteem because it is always there for you—when you're on top of the world, and when you fall flat on your face."
People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When the reality of who we are or what we have is denied and resisted, suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration, and self-criticism. Conversely, when reality is accepted- with sympathy and kindness- greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
Compassionate Mindfulness of Feelings: Now bring to mind an unpleasant emotional feeling that is familiar to you, that you’ve been feeling recently. To help you bring it to mind, think of the situation that evokes the feeling: e.g. anxiety when you think of something you must do; an inner sense of urgency; feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities; feeling frustrated/irritable at someone or something; feeling sad, feeling fear. Notice how this feeling feels, not just in your thinking mind but within your being: e.g. the feeling of tightening up from a sense of urgency, a twinge of anxiety/fear, a queasy feeling of worry, a heavy feeling of sadness, a burning feeling of anger.
Bring awareness to the emotion as you feel it within, with a sense of deep acceptance and kindness, like a friend being quietly present to a friend, without being enmeshed in the feeling, without rejecting it, without trying to solve or change anything in it, without ruminating about why you have it. If there is a reaction of not wanting this feeling, of pushing it away, just be with this reaction in the same way, with a sense of deep acceptance and kindness toward it.
Be with any troubled feeling that arises like being with a troubled friend: without imposing any agenda on your friend, without trying to get him to change or go away, you are just quietly present to him, with warmth and kindness. Similarly here, don’t impose any agenda on the feeling, to make it go away, change it or figure it out. Just be aware of what it feels like within, with a sense of warmth and acceptance toward it.
By being with feelings in this friendly way, a safe space is made for feelings to trust, open, and reveal further underlying feelings. Let semi-conscious feelings become more conscious in this way. Just accept whatever feelings further arise in a gently welcoming way, without trying to solve or change anything in them.
Does Self-Compassion Mean Letting Yourself Off the Hook?
By Kristin Neff
Do you ever worry that being kind and compassionate to yourself will let you "off the hook" or reinforce behavior that you don't want to engage in?
Research shows just the opposite. Taking a compassionate stance towards oneself actually leads us to take more, not less responsibility for our actions. A recent study had 100 undergraduate students think about a recent moral transgression that they regretted and felt guilty about. One group of participants were then told to write something “kind and understanding” about what happened, another were told to “think about your positive qualities,” and another group were told simply to write about their favorite hobbies. It turns out that the group that was given instructions to be self-compassionate were significantly more motivated to repair any harm caused by the transgression and committed to not repeat the mistake again. Click here to learn more about this research.
We all want to avoid pain, but letting it in--and responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgment or self-blame--are essential steps on the path to healing. This book illuminates the power of self-compassion and offers creative, scientifically grounded strategies for putting it into action.
Developing a Healing Attention
"Allow the physical pains, tensions, diseases, or wounds to show themselves. Bring a careful and kind attention to these painful places. Slowly and carefully feel their physical energy. Notice what is deep inside them, the pulsations, throbbing, tension, needles, heat, contraction, aching, that make up what we call pain. Allow these all to be felt fully, to be held in a receptive and kind attention."
Ronnie Grandell offers an important and intriguing look at compassion. He asserts that it is something that most of us reserve for other people. This speaker asserts that self-compassion is something that each and every one of us need in order to thrive. Ronnie explains how great things might happen – if we work on being more compassionate towards ourselves. Click here to watch this TedX video.