Four Reasons Why You're Not Compassionate With Yourself

Being compassionate with yourself improves your mood and gives you motivation and creativity to solve any problem you have. However, some people reject this idea. We ask why.
Four Reasons Why You're Not Compassionate With Yourself
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 12 June, 2022

You’re rarely compassionate with yourself. In fact, for a long time, the word compassion has had a negative connotation. In part, it’s because the term has been associated with complaining and feelings of sorrow, pity and passivity, among other negative aspects. However, this isn’t the case.

One of the reasons why you’re not compassionate with yourself is that, in principle, it’s considered to be an attitude you demonstrate toward others. From an etymological point of view, it comes from the Latin root cumpassio, which means ‘to suffer together’. It’s something that goes beyond empathy: it means you empathize with the other and suffer as if you were them.

When this term isn’t applied to others, but to yourself, it means sympathizing with your own pain. Not to silence, question, or disguise it, but to welcome it in a positive way, with a sense of self-care and self-protection. Nevertheless, there are several factors that prevent you from being compassionate with yourself. In this article, we talk about four of them.

Compassion can be defined in many different ways, but its essence is a basic kindness, with a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it.”

-P. Gilbert-

1. Confusing compassion with pity

As we mentioned earlier, it’s extremely common to confuse being compassionate with yourself with pity or victimhood. Although both feelings have the same root, what differentiates one from the other is the action involved in each of them.

When you feel sorry for yourself, you recognize your suffering and feel sorry for it. It’s like detecting a wound and being aware that it’s there. You might lick that wound or try to make others see it and recognize it too.

On the other hand, self-compassion isn’t only recognizing your own hurt or pain, but also trying to understand it and heal it in a loving way with yourself. It’s an exercise of self-respect and self-care, not an exaltation of suffering.

Woman with eyes closed

2. You don’t know how to be compassionate with yourself

One of the main obstacles to being compassionate with yourself is that you don’t know how to do it. In theory, you can understand what it means to sympathize with your own pain, but it’s not always easy to translate this into daily practice.

You need to understand and sensitize yourself before you can be compassionate. Only in this way will you be able to identify the presence of pain or suffering and perceive its intensity. Self-care means not exposing yourself or limiting your exposure to what hurts you. It also involves reducing your self-demands at times when you feel vulnerable.

Often, the best way to be compassionate with yourself is by allowing yourself to ask for help. After all, you often encounter situations that, for one reason or another, you can’t resolve on your own. Therefore, asking for and accepting others’ help is also a way of showing solidarity with your pain.

3. You think that treating yourself badly makes you stronger

This is one of the greatest obstacles to exercising self-compassion. You possess the erroneous belief that you’re strong when you resist attacks without flinching. It’s as if you were an immovable oak tree.

The path of desensitization can protect you from suffering to a certain extent. It doesn’t make you immune to it, but it does forge a stance of resistance within you that reduces any damage. The problem is that this also leads to indolence and prevents you from experiencing life and your feelings in depth.

Insensitivity isn’t strength. True strength lies in the ability to stay connected to yourself and to be at peace because of it. Being compassionate with yourself makes you strong because it helps you understand yourself better and position yourself more accurately, whatever the circumstances.

Woman looking in a broken mirror

4. You believe that if you’re self-compassionate you’ll become selfish

Another mistaken belief is the one that equates self-compassion with selfishness. In fact, the idea that focusing too much on yourself is an affront to others is widely shared. After all, some people are so much worse off than you. What would they say if they saw you attending to your own suffering?

However, the truth is that it’s extremely difficult to develop compassion toward others if you’re not compassionate with yourself first. One is closely linked to the other. We all find, within ourselves, all of humanity, through the path of sensitivity and understanding.

If you manage to be compassionate with yourself, you reduce self-criticism, increase your confidence, and can even improve your immune system. You also become more understanding and supportive of others. In short, you become a better person.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Araya, C., & Moncada, L. (2016). Auto-compasión: origen, concepto y evidencias preliminares. Revista Argentina de Clínica Psicológica25(1), 67-78.
  • Arrebola-Domínguez, M. (2018). La autocompasión.
  • Estupiñan Sanfeliú, A., Pérez Prieto, J. A., & Rios Fino, L. M. (2019). Revisión sistemática de literatura de las intervenciones en y con Auto-compasión de 2016 a 2019.
  • Galve, J. J. G. (2012). Revisión del concepto psicológico de la autocompasión. Medicina naturista, 6(1), 5-7.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.