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Benefits of Self Compassion

Jonathan Riley

“Compassion is not complete unless it includes yourself.” – Jack Kornfield

The old saying goes, “You are your own worst critic”. Most of us are very hard on ourselves, especially if we get even the slightest hint that we don’t “match up” in some way – in our accomplishments, career or study, social standing, relationships, appearance, body image, financial status, and so on.

The content of self-critical thoughts can be very cruel and the tone very cold, harsh, and attacking. It is like we are reprimanding ourselves in a most unkind or punishing way. This thinking style occurs within us all to varying degrees and is very common in our society. This particularly happens if we live in a society that is highly competitive and gives us the message that we always need to do more and be better, and if we don’t achieve this then there is something wrong with us. You will tend to hear most people refer to themselves as “stupid” or “idiot” when they make a small mistake. Others may speak harshly to themselves on a regular basis, while others may regularly hurl abuse at themselves.

Self-criticism has a number of negative consequences, including anxiety, grief, depression, guilt, shame, and rage, to name a few. Self-criticism is prevalent in a number of mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, body image issues, and low self-esteem), and it can help people remain trapped in these issues. As a result, addressing self-criticism by developing the ability to be self-compassionate can help to alleviate some of these issues.

Self-compassion means being warm and understanding when we suffer, struggle, or feel inadequate rather than denying our suffering or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people understand that being imperfect and having problems in life is unavoidable, so they are gentle with themselves when faced with painful experiences rather than being frustrated when life falls short of expectations.

Research shows that self-compassion has many benefits, ranging from fewer depressive and more optimistic thoughts, overall greater happiness and life satisfaction, and greater social and emotional skills and improvements in physical health. Some of the positive effects that studies have discovered are:

  • It increases motivation.
  • It increases happiness and self-esteem.
  • It increases positive body image.
  • It enhances self-worth.
  • It helps build resilience against depression and anxiety.
  • It increases the ability to bounce back from adversity.

Building greater self-compassion may be beneficial in addition to resolving other problems like depression, anxiety, frustration, eating disorders, body image issues, perfectionism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and self-harm (Hampton, 2019).

Finally, many people may show compassion to others but find it difficult to show compassion to themselves. Self-compassion can be enhanced by fostering a more compassionate inner dialogue as an alternative to a harshly critical voice. This involves the gradual cultivation of a vocabulary that reflects forgiveness and self-acceptance, even when we are not always feeling it. Identify what words of compassion you would have wanted to hear as a child and what you need now. Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy.


Centre for Clinical Interventions. (n.d). Looking after yourself. Retrieved from

Gjergji, T. (2021, January 06). Mental wellness blog. Retrieved March 27, 2021, from

Pawula, S., Hampton, D., & Bard, E. (2019, July 07). The benefits of self-compassion and how to get more. Retrieved March 27, 2021, from