Applied Psychology

How to Practise Self-Compassion

Jun 20, 2024 | By Jenna van Schoor
Young woman being mindful of her mental health and wellbeing by practicing self-compassion

Self-compassion is a crucial attitude to develop, even if it feels difficult. Although many people might value toughness over tenderness, being kind and patient with yourself is incredibly valuable, personally and professionally.

It’s easy to beat ourselves up for our mistakes. However, it’s better to take a moment to acknowledge our feelings. We might think we don’t have the time or that self-care is unimportant, but research shows it’s linked to better success and physical health.

This post will discuss self-compassion, its value, and how it can contribute to your professional life. 

What is self-compassion?

Being compassionate might seem straightforward, but do we know how to practise self-compassion? Learning to be kind to ourselves in a world of constant pressure and social comparisons is tough. Being kind and accepting of our situation is often easier said than done!

If we analyse the Latin roots of the word, “compassion” means how we engage with suffering. With regards to ourselves, do you beat yourself up or treat yourself the same way you would a friend or loved one? 

When we dive into what it means, it’s more than taking moments to acknowledge our feelings. It’s about building a better relationship with yourself and accepting yourself as you are. 

Why is self-compassion important?

Self-acceptance is crucial because it’s not just about feeling better in the moment. It is about being gentle and kind to yourself rather than harsh and critical. Building a better relationship with yourself is essential to live a fulfilling and happy life (and not just to get ahead on a journey of self-improvement).

Our cultural and social influences affect how we relate to ourselves, perhaps causing us to judge our appearance, performance, social standing, or whether we have or are “enough.” 

Taking small moments to be with ourselves can be powerful. Developing this skill means building resilience in the long term, which can help us self-regulate in even the most challenging circumstances.

Of course, we all need help sometimes, especially if we have experienced trauma and challenging events in our lives. When we’re feeling unsafe, triggered and afraid, taking time out can feel scary and inaccessible. For these reasons, self-care forms part of a greater whole of self-compassion when caring for our psychological well-being.

Self-compassion in the workplace

We often think of self-care as something that happens outside of our daily routines. However, incorporating it into our daily lives, including in the workplace, is essential. Imagine how different the workplace would be if we were genuinely compassionate with ourselves and each other.

Doctor Kristin Neff has done extensive research into self-compassion, and her findings put into perspective the value of self-care in our personal lives and careers. While some might dismiss self-care as frivolous, it’s more than getting our nails done or a massage. There’s a genuine neuroscientific link between self-compassion and our ability to live a healthy and happy life.

Dr Neff differentiates between two different types of compassion. The first is tender compassion, which involves acknowledging your feelings and being kind to yourself. Fierce compassion, on the other hand, means being aware of how you might feel hurt or upset and taking steps to stand up for yourself or speak up.

Speaking up is challenging, especially in threatening circumstances. However, fierce compassion is needed to coach ourselves through change while taking time to be present and tender with our feelings. 

Research shows that people who practise self-acceptance are likelier to succeed because they are not as anxious about taking risks or failing. They have a solid foundation of self-support. Therefore, treating yourself with kindness can help solve problems and conflicts and advance your career. 

Tips for practising self-compassion

Practising self-compassion can be as simple as putting your hand on your heart and saying kind words to yourself. Another is speaking to yourself and acknowledging when challenging feelings come up. For example, saying, “this is difficult” or “this is painful” can help you ground into the present moment and be mindful of your feelings.

We might tend to push our feelings away and see them as weaknesses, but this is often a result of cultural stigma that prevents us from fully processing our emotions. Other tips for becoming present with your feelings and managing negative self-talk include journaling and other mindfulness techniques

Learn more about enhancing your mental health at SACAP Global

You can register for one of our short online courses to learn more about self-acceptance and mental health management. These courses focus on helping build confidence and positive self-esteem and include the following: 

If you’re interested in how to become an effective and compassionate leader, we also offer short online courses that can help managers create a supportive work environment:

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