Self-Compassion: Week One

Defining and Exploring Self-Compassion in Your Own Life

Topics/Agenda: Week One

  1. How do we define self-compassion?
    1. The three components of self-compassion
  2. Exploring your history with self-compassion
  3. Finding a self-compassion mantra or statement

Week One

Defining Self-Compassion

The definition of self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff is the ability to “extend compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure or general suffering.” If we dive a little deeper, we find the compassion means to be suffer with others or to respond to their pain with your emotions. One way of viewing self-compassion is practicing the ability to see yourself and accept yourself, flaws and imperfections included. Practicing self-compassion means responding to ourselves with the same heartfelt gentleness and empathy. There are three components of self-compassion that we will work on throughout this group.



This is perhaps the easiest component of self-compassion. Self-kindness refers to treating ourselves as we would treat a friend who was in pain (physical or emotional). This can mean responding to ourselves with warmth, understanding, sympathy, and gentleness. It also means that we work to not address ourselves with frustration, self-criticism, or by dismissing and ignoring our pain. We will explore tools for self-kindness throughout.



In the context of self-compassion, mindfulness means that we approach our emotions with equanimity or balance. We do not aim to suppress or exaggerate our emotions. By practicing mindfulness meditation, we can cultivate greater willingness to observe our thoughts and emotions with openness. This practice and openness to our internal experiences can allow us the mental and emotional space to respond kindly and compassionately to our emotions without reacting in ways that we do not feel good about. We will explore mindfulness further in today’s component.


Common Humanity

This is the third and final component of self-compassion. Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans suffer and experience pain. Practicing common humanity allows us to feel more connected to the human experience and our fellow people. By removing the “I alone” from our self-talk, we may not reduce the intensity of our emotional experience, but we can recognize that we have support and compassion in our fellow humans.


Dr. Kristin Neff’s TED Talk

The School of Life’s Animated Video on Self-Compassion

Next Steps


Now that we have defined self-compassion from the technical and research standpoint. I would like you to do some self-exploration. Each of the following questions can be answered in journal format or simply during a period of self-reflection.

  1. How do you define self-compassion for yourself? For example, what might practicing self-compassion during a period of pain look like for you specifically.
  2. What are some of the pitfalls you see yourself struggling with as we begin cultivating self-compassion? For example, some of us have histories of critical self-talk or histories that suggest that being very hard on ourselves leads to greater productivity.
  3. When you have been suffering, what act by someone else brought you joy? OR When you have seen someone suffering, what acts do you find yourself engaging in towards them?

Finding a Self-Compassionate Soothing Statement or Mantra

Having a statement that you can use at times of suffering, can help with self-soothing and be a part of cultivating a self-compassion practice. We often meet our difficult moments with negative or critical self-talk. For example, “just deal with it” or “suck it up” may be common phrases for you during tough periods. While these tools may have worked for you in the past, this is about trying something different. Self-kindness begins with changing our self-talk.

Here are some phrases that you might start with. Find the words that feel right to you and are authentic to your own voice.

  • “This is a tough moment.”
  • “Tough moments are inescapable.”
  • “Tough moments call out for tender care.”
  • “I’ll give myself the kindness I deserve and need.”
  • “This really hurts and I can give myself space to feel this pain.”

Page last modified March 11, 2024