Self-Compassion

I hardly know where to begin. I discovered the self-compassion work of Dr. Kristin Neff through Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection e-course. Dr Neff has a really loooong title. She’s an Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Whew.

Dr. Neff spoke at TEDx Menitoba on The Space Between: Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion.  In the video, she defines self-compassion, a term I had never heard before, what factors in our culture drive us to not practice it and the benefits if we do practice it.  The video is less than 20 minutes and very insightful.

Self-compassion as a healthier way of relating to yourself, yes. Interesting, yes. Novel, yes. But it didn’t hit me that I might find this personally useful until I took the 26 question assessment.  If you’d like to take it too, check the right nav bar of her home page.

The test breaks down behaviors that make up self-compassion. It assesses how much we practice Isolation, Self-judgement and Over-identification, all not very self-compassionate behaviors, vs how much we emphasize our Common Humanity and practice Self-kindness and Mindfulness.  The screenshot below describes how these factors relate to one another.

Self Compassion Components

Self Compassion Components from Dr Kristen Neff

My scores show I could use some help in this area.

Self Compassion Scores

Self Compassion Scores

While the result raised my eyebrows, my husband was not surprised. LOL!

Dictionary.com defines compassion this way: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorry for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. It sounds like a good way to feel about ourselves. Antonyms or opposites are merciless, indifferent. That seems like a painful way to feel about ourselves.

So how do we whisper compassionately to ourselves? And what do we say? One of Brené’s affirmations is “I will talk to myself the same way I talk to people I love.” This made me check my level of discourse with myself, my self-talk.  Words that acknowledge pain and not ignore it, words that embrace less than perfect, words that celebrate joyous events and not minimize them are some good candidates to use.

For another angle, I looked up compassionate on Biblegateway.com. It’s used 82 times in the New International Version of the Bible. That would mean that God and Jesus see us, see our pain and have a feeling of deep sympathy and a strong desire to ease the suffering. Hmm, now that’s interesting. The problem of pain is a big one. If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he fix it. I defer to C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain and other books. That question feels beyond me.

Returning to things I have some hope of affecting, my own actions, I’m practicing self-compassion this week. How about you?

If you’d like to read my other Brené Brown related posts, click the first 2 links below.

4 thoughts on “Self-Compassion

  1. kathrynwelds

    Thanks so much for sharing the Self-Compassion assessment, Jennifer. You may be interested in related findings, drawing on Neff’s work in my blog post, Self Compassion, not Self-Esteem, Enhances Performance – http://kathrynwelds.com/2013/01/23/self-compassion-not-self-esteem-enhances-performance/
    Neff relates a hair-raising story of applying self-compassion when her autistic son had a very loud episode on a long-haul flight from the U.S.
    You may be interested in her account of this journey to find another dimension of healing for her son, documented in The Horse Boy – http://www.horseboymovie.com.

    1. Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson Post author

      Hi Kathryn, thanks for sharing your post. This sounded like the kind of research that you would have written about. Brené also covers the work of C.R. Snyder on hope and power. It sounded like something you’d also enjoy.
      The story about Neff’s son is in the TEDx video that I linked to and it is very powerful. I saw The Horse Boy book on her site and will take another look. Thank you!

  2. Tyna S. Cline

    I’ll definitely be looking into Dr. Neff. Thanks, Jennifer, for doing the preliminary work and reporting back to me! 🙂

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