What is Self-Compassion?

lifestyle Sep 06, 2022
What is Self-Compassion

There has been a visible lifestyle shift among the general public, especially among the younger generation. We’re talking about the rise of the self-care and self-love movement. We see it in the way people are taking more time for themselves, setting better boundaries at work, being more forgiving of themselves, and much more.

Aside from self-love and self-care, another thing we need to be more mindful about is self-compassion. While it may not be as popular as self-care or self-love, it is equally important and valuable — especially for dads and future dads.

What Is Compassion?

First, what exactly is compassion? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, compassion is “sympathetic consciousness” for other people’s distress or suffering, as well as our desire to alleviate their troubles.

Rather than pity, we feel a certain warmth for other people in need. In short, compassion is what we feel when we recognize others’ suffering and want to help them reduce or get rid of it.

We feel empathetic to their pain and offer comfort to help stop their pain. Part of showing compassion is not judging people for their troubles. Regardless of whether their pain or distress is due to their own fault, we still feel empathetic and offer a helping hand, rather than judge them for it.

What Is Self-Compassion?

Now that we know what compassion is, it’s easier to define what self-compassion is. According to Dr. Kristen Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin specializing in self-compassion, self-compassion is essentially the same as compassion — only instead of turning our empathy and desire outwards to help other people, we turn it inwards and help ourselves.

In the same way that we might respond to others’ pain and suffering by offering kindness, comfort, and a helping hand, we do so for ourselves. Rather than blaming ourselves for getting into a bad situation or judging and criticizing our shortcomings, we recognize the situation and be more understanding towards ourselves.

We realize we are in a bad spot and give ourselves space to breathe and relax. More importantly, we recognize that we are human — we make mistakes, we make bad choices, we get hurt. We also need to recognize that life is far from fair and it is inevitable that we face painful experiences.

However, that doesn’t mean we have to wallow in or ignore our pain, nor beat ourselves up over our failings. Instead, we take action to comfort ourselves and put our minds at ease so we can better tackle whatever issue may be at hand with a more positive mindset.

Elements of Self-Compassion

Aside from answering the question:”What is self-compassion?” Dr. Neff also gave us the three elements of self-compassion. These are:

  • Self-kindness. Neff notes that practicing self-compassion means being more understanding, sympathetic, kind, and less critical of ourselves whenever we are suffering or feeling inadequate.
  • Recognizing our humanity. It is important that we understand part of being human and living life means having imperfections and experiencing low points or making mistakes.
  •   Dr. Neff states that being self-compassionate means being mindful of our negative emotions. We shouldn’t suppress, nor exaggerate them. Instead we should maintain a non-judgemental and receptive mindful state to better process our feelings.

Self-Care vs. Self-Compassion

Before we explore why self-compassion is important or how we can practice it in our everyday lives, let us also define what self-compassion is not.

Many people still wonder what self-care and self-compassion are — or specifically, how are they different? Although there are similarities between the two, they are still two separate concepts.

Self-compassion means being more understanding and forgiving of ourselves. It also means showing more consideration and helping ourselves in the same way we would help others get through bad times. Self-compassion comes in two parts: first is comforting or thinking of ourselves in a more positive light, and the second is taking action to help ourselves feel better.

Meanwhile, self-care is essentially treating ourselves better — regardless of whether we are in pain or not. Self-care is embodying kindness towards our own self and taking better care of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being in all situations.

Benefits of Self-Compassion for Dads

Why is having self-compassion something we must work on as fathers (or future dads)? Here are some of the amazing benefits of self-compassion:

  • Better mental and emotional health. Self-compassion can help lower your anxiety and stress levels, as well as reduce your risk for related depression.
  • Better self-worth and happiness. Self-compassion helps foster better self-worth and boost happiness or optimism. Less self-criticism means less chances of self-sabotage and a more positive view of ourselves, our choices, and our actions.
  • Increase motivation and productivity. Self-compassion is a better motivator than fear of failing. When you are more self-compassionate, you are more forgiving of yourself, which can take away or reduce crippling fear of failure and instead help you view the experience as a learning opportunity.
  • Cope with tough situations better. By being kinder to ourselves, we can build greater resilience and strength to help us get through hard times.

Best of all, by being more self-compassionate, we can lead by example and help our children (and partners) practice it as well. By teaching our kids to be self-compassionate, we are helping them to better handle any future hardships and take care of themselves.

Watch the "What is Self-Compassion?" video here:

Working on Self-Compassion to be Better Dads

For more resources to help you work on becoming more self-compassionate, the importance of self-compassion as a dad, and how to practice it more, Dad University has you covered. Check out our other videos:

This is the 1st video in a 3 part Self-Compassion Series.  The other videos are:
Part 2 = Why Self-Compassion is So Important as a Dad
Part 3 = Self-Compassion Exercises You Can Practice as a Dad

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