What would you do if you were able to be kinder to yourself?

Posted in: Kate Elliott

How often do you find yourself mulling over a conversation, stuck in a loop of (over)thinking all the much more insightful things you could have said, all the myriad ways in which you could have been better/stronger/cleverer/altogether different? Do you find that you are frequently self-critical, compare yourself unfavourably to others or conversely put others down to feel good about yourself? Well, congratulations, you too are human! 

Self-compassion is a positive psychology concept and describes the ability to be kind and understanding to oneself, even when one makes mistakes or experiences setbacks. It is a skill that can be learned and developed, and it has been shown to have a number of benefits for mental and physical health (Neff, 2003). In the workplace, self-compassion can help employees cope with stress, manage difficult emotions, and build resilience. It can also lead to increased productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction (Neff, 2003). 

Self-compassion can be misconstrued as weakness or self-indulgence, but evidence (Neff & Pommier, 2013) shows that developing compassion helps to bolster our resilience and that having compassion for ourselves can develop our compassion for others.  

Be kinder to yourself. And then let  your kindness flood the world. — Pema Chodron 

There are 3 components of self-compassion (Smeets & Neff, 2016): 

Self-kindness refers to being caring and understanding with oneself rather than harshly judgmental. Instead of attacking and berating oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.  

Humanity involves recognizing that humans are imperfect, that all people fail, make mistakes, and have serious life challenges. By remembering that imperfection is part of life, we feel less isolated when we are in pain.  

Mindfulness in the context of self compassion involves being aware of one’s painful experiences in a balanced way that neither ignores and avoids nor exaggerates painful thoughts and emotions. 

A first step to developing your self compassion is to notice more: 

  • how do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake – do you insult yourself or do you take a more kind and understanding tone?  
  • when you come across a challenge, do you tend to ignore the fact that you are suffering or do you stop to give yourself care and concern?  
  • how do you feel right now, just thinking about giving yourself care and concern?  

What might you do instead, if you were able to be kinder to yourself? 

Kate Elliott, Coaching Psychologist & OD Consultant 

To explore ways to develop your self-compassion and your compassion for others, come to our next leadership conversation: Compassion and courage at work (bath.ac.uk) 

To explore self-compassion practices, visit Self-Compassion Exercises by Dr. Kristin Neff 

To work with a coach to develop your self-compassion: The University of Bath coaching service for staff 


Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85–101. 

Neff, K. D., & Pommier, E. (2013). The relationship between self-compassion and other-focused concern among college undergraduates, community adults, and practicing meditators. Self and Identity, 12(2), 160–176 

Warren, R., Smeets, E. & Neff, K. D. (2016). Self-criticism and self-compassion: Risk and resilience for psychopathology. Current Psychiatry, 15(12), 


Posted in: Kate Elliott


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