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Our world needs more self-compassion

Our world needs more self-compassion

By Suzi Skinner

It is a joy to read about the research that Dr Kristen Neff has done in the area of self-compassion. Dr Neff has spent years defining (and measuring) what is meant by self-compassion.

Charmingly she describes self-compassion as being as kind and supportive of yourself as you would towards a good friend. Rather than applying compassion to the people around you, you actively choose to direct the compassion towards yourself.

A simple point she makes is about stopping and asking yourself: “This is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Dr Neff describes 3 key elements of self-compassion:

  1. Self kindness – giving self kindness as we would give to a friend;
  2. Mindfulness – seeing ourselves more clearly and recognising when we may have over-identified with an experience or an emotion;
  3. Common humanity – recognising that suffering, pain and failure is a part of the human experience.

And given this experience, everyone has times of self doubt: it's a common human response.

It is ok to be wrong, to make mistakes and to have pain. We all do.

Her evidence shows that people can be trained in self-compassion and that that this training leads to greater happiness, engagement in relationships and meaning. For some people self-compassion represents a radically new way of relating to themselves.

For others it represents a timely reminder to take stock and give themselves permission to go gentler on themselves. Wherever you may sit on the spectrum of self-compassion her advice is to go slow, learn the practice and find ways to nurture you.

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