What is self-compassion? Self-compassion is defined as “being kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings…” (Neff & Dahm, 2015). When we fail at something, we practice having compassion for ourselves rather than berating ourselves with negative thoughts. Compassion towards ourselves means behaving kindly towards ourselves in the same way we would behave towards a dear friend. It means noticing our own pain and suffering, empathizing with, and offering ourselves kindness and understanding.
It is written in the Book of Psalms 145:9 that G-d is “compassionate toward all His creatures.” We are commanded to emulate G-d’s ways. Abraham emulated G-d’s compassion for all when he intervened with G-d’s plans to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham himself could have benefited from the destruction of the cities. Instead, he sought to find merit within them to spare lives.
We are told to show compassion, care, and sensitivity toward all human beings, who were created in the image of G-d. One of the ways we are instructed to develop the trait of compassion is to prevent causing pain to animals. If G-d concerns Himself with the welfare of the smallest of creatures, so too, we should concern ourselves with our own welfare and prevent causing pain to ourselves and others.
Positive Psychology research has uncovered that there are three main components to self-compassion:
1. Self-kindness. We refrain from criticizing ourselves for our mistakes or flaws. We show ourselves the support and understanding we would show a dear friend.
2. Common humanity. We recognize that as human beings, everyone makes mistakes once in a while. We acknowledge mistakes as a fact of life.
3. Mindfulness (Neff & Dahm, 2015). We become aware of our negative self-talk and address our thoughts and feelings with love and compassion rather than overidentifying with negative emotions.
We will find many benefits to practicing self-compassion in the long run, such as developing greater levels of happiness, optimism, and positive moods. In addition, we will acquire greater wisdom and more motivation and willingness to take initiative. We will find ourselves open to agreeableness, curiosity, and learning (Firestone, 2016).
Not only does practicing self-compassion benefit us greatly in the long run, it also allows us to prevent negative outcomes that inevitably result from lack of self-love and self-compassion such as anxiety and depression. Compassion is an expression of our G-d given soul. By emulating G-d, we achieve heightened spiritual levels and the pleasure of unity and connection with our Creator.