Self Compassion and the Island of Calm


How is it that we can hold others so much more gently than we hold ourselves?

When we make that big mistake at work, or forget something important for our kids, shame, disappointment, fear and even a little self loathing show up. “ How could you be so stupid?” “Maybe you’re not good enough for this job?” “You keep making the same mistake, when will you learn?!” Not quite the words we’d use with someone we love.

In a world of “not good enough”, needing to be more, have more and do more… self compassion can be our island of calm amidst the storm. Whether the storm rages outside or within, as we nurture compassion, we create space and with this space, comes the opportunity for greater choice and happiness.

Kristin Neff, one of the founding researchers in the discipline of self compassion defines it as:

  • Self kindness versus self judgement
  • Common humanity versus isolation
  • Mindfulness versus over identification

In nurturing self compassion, we shift our focus from harsh judgement to kind evaluations, from feeling like an outlier, alone in our inadequacy to acknowledging our shared fallibility and the potential of humanity, and from reacting to failure to choosing how we want to be.

~ Adapted from Kristin Neff's definition

So how have you been talking to yourself lately?

When was the last time you let yourself down? And how did you feel about it?

Start by exploring where you are. Self compassion is something we can learn and cultivate in ourselves. Here are 3 of my favourite, evidence based, self compassion practices from UC Berkley’s Greater Good Science Centre:

1) Self-Compassion Break

2) Common Humanity Meditation

3) Loving Kindness Meditation


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