Self-compassion practice

Dr. Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin, has done very interesting work on self-compassion. On her website she offers many resources. Here are a few that I particularly recommend:  This is a loving-kindness meditation, which can generate feelings of goodwill and kindness with on-going practice. It goes for about 20 minutes.

Practising loving-kindness meditation can have a profound impact on how you feel about yourself and the world. If you struggle with feeling unhappy with yourself, with judgements, blame and / or shame for yourself and / or others, practising with this meditation daily with the intention of bringing more kindness and goodwill to yourself and others, will, over time, give you more gentleness and peace in how you meet yourself and the world. It does take time, commitment, and regular practice.

As you do this practice, don’t be put off if you do not feel kindness for yourself. You might notice old familiar criticisms and aversions coming up; this is a normal experience. It can take a very long time to change patterns of judgement towards ourself. Many of us have spent a life-time ‘beating ourself up’, so it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to quickly or easily muster feelings of kindness for yourself.

It is not a feeling that we are after here, it is an experience of an intention to offer caring and kindness for ourself.  Repeatedly spending time with the intention to be kind to ourself can really change those old patterns of hostility, anger, and intolerance for yourself. Try it and see.

These are links to two particularly interesting papers that Neff has written on self-compassion. She contrasts self-compassion with self-esteem, and scientifically demonstrates that self-compassion supports and heals, while self-esteem often actually undermines feelings of well-being.

Neff, K. D. (2011).  Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being.  Social and Personality Compass, 5, 1-12.


Neff, K. D. (2009). The role of self-compassion in development:  A healthier way to relate to oneself. Human Development, 52, 211-214.


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