What is it?

Self-Compassion is the act of extending compassion, or a caring willingness to help, to yourself in times of suffering or pain. Dr. Kristin Neff identifies self-compassion as having three important elements: self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity. Self-kindness is defined as treating yourself with softness and gentleness. Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the present moment without trying to push away or hold onto any emotions. Common humanity is recognizing that all humans suffer and that because we are human we deserve compassion too. Cultivating self-compassion is an ongoing practice that can be a significant support for well-being.

What Symptoms Might You Notice?

If you are struggling with self-compassion, you might notice

  • Critical self-talk
  • Being really hard on yourself
  • Unrealistic expectations of yourself
  • Difficulty connecting to your emotions
  • Inconsistent boundaries with others
  • Engaging in caretaking behaviors of others
  • Feeling alone in your suffering

Why practice self-compassion?

There is a significant amount of evidence suggesting that practicing self-compassion can positively impact mental health and well-being. Dr. Neff and colleagues found that individuals with higher levels of self-compassion reported less self-critical talk and had a lower risk of anxiety and depression than those who have lower levels (Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007). Other data has demonstrated that self-compassion may be a critical factor in the relationship between mindfulness practice and levels of happiness (Hollis-Walker & Colosimo, 2011). Researchers also found that higher levels of self-compassion are associated with students asking questions in and outside of the classroom and actively communicating with their teachers (Long & Neff, 2018). Additional research resources can be found at


Things you can do to practice:

There are many different strategies to help you cultivate self-compassion. Below are some suggestions to get you started

Practice self-kindness

  • Create a self-compassion mantra. This is something you can say to yourself during difficult times that is kind and gentle.
  • Practice speaking to yourself as you would your best friend or a much younger you.
  • Write a letter to yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you deeply.


  • Practice mindfulness meditation
  • Savor the moment
  • Approach your emotions with balance. Don’t exaggerate and don’t dismiss them.
  • Practice “name it to tame it” and focus on accurately labeling your emotions in the moment.

Common Humanity

  • Journal about how suffering connects us to the larger humanity
  • Defining yourself outside of certain traits
  • Practicing loving-kindness meditations

Apps that help:

  • Insight Timer: This meditation app has a number of sections focused on mindfulness, self-compassion, and other forms of meditation.
  • UCLA Mindful: This meditation app includes meditations in both English and Spanish. Mindfulness meditations range from focusing on bodily sensations, to managing distress, to cultivating loving-kindness.
  • 10% Happier​​​​​​​: This meditation app not only includes meditations, but also conversations from leading people in mindfulness and self-compassion research and practice. Please note, it does have an annual fee.

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion

Self Compassion

Self Compassion

Positive Self-Talk

Positive Self-Talk

Page last modified April 12, 2022