The Science of Self-Compassion

Why is it sometimes harder to be nice to ourselves than being kind to others?   How is it that we can beat ourselves up about the unkind things we may have said or thought about others, and not think for a moment about the harsh words we’ve leveled at ourselves? If we don’t succeed immediately at something why are we apt to think that we’re a failure, instead of taking into consideration that we many need time to learn?  Why do mistakes tend to haunt us, becoming regrets instead of life lessons?

Though many have been onto this for years, if not decades, for myself, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve tried to start practicing self-compassion.  In the past, when people talked about loving themselves, it sounded hokey to me, like a cheeseball way to excuse egoism.  Maybe that sounds harsh, but it reflects the high level of self-criticism that tends to be my default.  It was only when I put it together that it was harder for me to have compassion for others if I didn’t have the same for myself that I started working on this.  As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love anybody else?”

Still, in the daily grind, it’s easy to forget to hold compassion for yourself.  It’s also easy to confuse what the true meaning of self-compassion is.  It doesn’t mean indulging yourself indiscriminatingly or being lax in the standards you hold for yourself.  The Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education published this helpful and comprehensive graphic as a resource for those wanting to better understand how to practice self-compassion:


For those interested in reading more about this topic, here are some additional resources:

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

The Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

Scientific American “The Self-Compassion Solution”