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The Difficulty of Practicing Self-Compassion

Although we may not be aware, many of us hold ourselves to high standards. We tend to give grace to others, yet demand more of ourselves. While this can lead to success (by some metrics) in different aspects of life, these inconsistent standards can also result in feelings of guilt, disappointment, and dissatisfaction.

Compassion for others is regularly reinforced by parents. We often encounter it in the work environment as well. We’re encouraged to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes to consider how they might be thinking/feeling. And this can help us behave in a more understanding, empathetic manner. Yet, we often struggle to apply this same skill to ourselves.

Per Dr. Krstin Neff, a psychologist and pioneer in the research of self-compassion (or self-love): self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, rather than good feelings. Such a response encourages us to mindfully accept that the moment we are in is painful. We can then embrace ourselves with care and reflect on the shared human experience of making mistakes (as these are natural and expected). If we allow ourselves self-compassion, we are then able to more effectively examine our own efforts that may have led to a mistake or unfulfilled goal. We can more adeptly label ourselves as having made a bad decision, rather than as being a bad person.

In practicing self-compassion, we are also building a healthier version of ourselves; self-compassion is linked to greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. To take the next step in practicing self-compassion, we must be deliberate. Some encourage adopting this mindset via treating ourselves in the same manner we would treat a small child or a beloved pet. When such individuals in our lives make mistakes, we tend to recognize they need support in these moments. We can also attempt to be more mindful of a potentially critical inner voice; these are the automatic thoughts which are often of an overgeneralizing nature (e.g., “You always mess this up!”). Then we can move into the realization that we are not alone in making mistakes and that we have permission to be imperfect!

If you have identified a critical tendency in your own inner voice, more self-compassion is needed! Therapy allows us the opportunity to explore our thinking patterns, in order to facilitate change. Roswell Psychology is here for support; please reach out today for a complimentary consultation.

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