The 5 Myths of Self-Compassion


The 5 Myths of Self-Compassion

What Keeps Us from Being Kinder to Ourselves?

September/October 2015


Most people don’t have any problem with seeing compassion as a thoroughly commendable quality. It seems to refer to an amalgam of unquestionably good qualities: kindness, mercy, tenderness, benevolence, understanding, empathy, sympathy, and fellow-feeling, along with an impulse to help other living creatures, human or animal, in distress. But we seem less sure about self-compassion. For many, it carries the whiff of all those other bad “self” terms: self-pity, self-serving, self-indulgent, self-centered, just plain selfish. Even many generations removed from our culture’s Puritan origins, we still seem to believe that if we aren’t blaming and punishing ourselves for something, we risk moral complacency, runaway egotism, and the sin of false pride.

Consider Rachel, a 39-year-old marketing executive with two kids and a loving husband. A deeply kind person, devoted wife, involved parent, supportive friend, and hard worker, she also finds time to volunteer for two local charities. In short, she appears to be an ideal role model. But Rachel’s in therapy because her levels of stress are so high: she’s tired all the time, depressed, unable to sleep. She experiences chronic low-level digestive problems and sometimes—to her horror—snaps at her husband and kids. Through all this, she’s incredibly hard on herself, always feeling that whatever she’s done isn’t good enough. Yet she’d never consider trying to be compassionate to herself. In fact, the very idea of letting up on her…

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3 Comments

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 3:44:49 PM | posted by Laura Reagan
This is outstanding and so helpful. The myths you mention represent some of the barriers my clients express when attempting to implement self compassion into their lives. It's such a foreign concept in US culture; and I'm so grateful to you for your work in researching and spreading the word about this important concept.

Saturday, October 10, 2015 8:47:59 PM | posted by Jeffrey Sommer
Is it necessarily the case that self-esteem means valuing oneself more highly than others? I contend that it need not be understood in such terms. More importantly, I believe that true self-esteem is both a logical and experiential concomitant to self-compassion. As I understand it, true self-esteem is experienced as a healthy evaluation of oneself, which involves openly acknowledging and accepting one's fallibilities and limitations, which comes from being compassionate with oneself.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 8:27:20 PM | posted by Veronica Suleiman
The idea of learning the healing power of compassionate self-relation is such a valuable tool!