Self-compassion put simply is how well you treat yourself with kindness. It differs from self-esteem which reflects how good or not so good you feel about yourself. This article will focus on how being self-compassionate can help an individual recover from a bad experience quicker than solely relying on self-esteem. Those with self-compassion for example do not beat themselves up because they get sick, lose a job or get lost traveling in a strange place. This does not mean they do not recognize that something negative has occurred and feel the pain. It means the self-compassionate person understands that negative events occur in life and that sometimes they cannot be avoided. In contrast, the person who relies solely on self-esteem may feel their value in life or self-esteem has diminished because somehow or someway the bad experience could have been avoided. Those relying on self-esteem will ignore personal flaws or weaknesses and define their strengths in comparison to others. This constant self-evaluation and judgment creates a circle of feeling good then feeling not so good and everything in between.
What is a better perspective to take? Being self-compassionate. Kristin Neff, PH.D., wrote an insightful book about self-compassion and how applying it instead of strictly depending on self-esteem is much kinder to a person’s psyche and well-being. In her book Neff discusses research indicating that maintaining a high degree of self-esteem has many downfalls such as narcissism, self-absorption, prejudice and even self-righteous anger. She continues suggesting that by applying self-compassion instead of solely self-esteem an individual can defend against bad events without the need to compare themselves to others.
Dr. Neff believes self-compassion consists of three core components:
1. Self-kindness meaning that we treat ourselves gently and kindly instead of being overtly self-critical and judgmental.
2. Common humanity as in we are all connected with others in life instead of feeling isolated or alienated by life’s sufferings.
3. Mindfulness in that we must acknowledge our pain and not ignore it or magnify it.
In summary, being self-compassionate means you do not have a need to feel special, feel superior or better than others as one depending on self-esteem. Self-compassion recognizes that being kind to self, mindful of life’s pain and understanding that we are all connected with others in life will lift us up when self-esteem fails. Neff added that self-esteem and self-compassion do tend to bind together. The self-compassionate person tends to feel good about self. The difference is that when life goes wrong self-compassion will win out over trying to recover from a blow to our self-esteem.