The Importance of Being Compassionate with Oneself

Being compassionate with oneself doesn't equate to weakness. On the contrary, it's strengthening. If you learn to treat yourself with kindness, if you forgive yourself when necessary, and learn to speak to yourself affectionately, you'll be able to better deal with the difficulties and complexities of life.
The Importance of Being Compassionate with Oneself

Last update: 17 January, 2021

Being compassionate with oneself isn’t selfishness. Each individual has the right to practice self-care that allows them to forgive past and present mistakes, get encouragement in difficult moments, or treat oneself with respect. Since no one comes into this in their knowledge book, it’s important to learn how to cultivate it.

In The Decameron, Boccaccio said that nothing made people more human than feeling compassion for those around them. Somehow, both culturally and socially, we’ve been instilled with the idea that this dimension always goes from the inside out. Well, it’s true that it’s good to feel empathy toward those who are suffering, since it makes us nobler. However, there’s an equally important detail many people ignore.

Compassion must also project towards oneself. Doing so is healthy, cathartic, and even necessary. Some define it as a kind of “healthy narcissism”, in fact. Whatever it is, this psychological area goes far beyond self-love; it gives it support, momentum, and meaning. Let’s delve a little deeper into this topic.

Being compassionate with oneself: the key to psychological well-being

It’s one thing to love yourself and another to love yourself well and as you deserve. Not all self-love is healthy because there are plenty of excessive egos and self-concepts that position themselves in a harmful narcissism where no one else exists or is important in the world. Likewise, in everyday life, it’s pretty common to see individuals treat themselves without the affection and respect they should have for themselves.

Going through the world with frayed self-esteem gives way to the shadows of depression and other psychological problems. On the other hand, men and women that are unable to control negative, accusing, and damaging self-talk are always bound to face mental suffering. They’ll miss out on opportunities, build unhappy relationships, and rarely achieve personal fulfillment.

A woman looking down while hugging her legs.

Being compassionate with oneself isn’t an act of weakness. Sometimes, it’s difficult for us to give way to this feeling because we associate compassion with pity, with a feeling that’s often empty, passive, and comprised between sadness and tenderness towards something or someone.

This is very sad. The truth is that most people have distorted this dimension to the point where they’re uncomfortable when they experience it. Therefore, it’s necessary to reformulate it and give it the importance it deserves.

The importance of being compassionate with oneself

Kristin Neff defined the term self-compassion and described its usefulness for psychological well-being. According to her research work, this construct equates to the practice of mindfulness. Let’s remember that scientific studies support the mental health benefits this practice can have.

Being compassionate with oneself is, above all, accepting the imperfection of human beings. It’s understanding that people are fallible, make mistakes, and learn how to respond to them with kindness and affection. There are many reasons why this should be developed:

  • Duke University (United States) stated something interesting in a study. People who apply self-compassion in their day-to-day lives have good emotional intelligence and feel more satisfied with life.
  • On the other hand, self-compassion has also been shown to correlate with a lower incidence of depression and anxiety. This is a relevant fact that’s worth contemplating.
  • Those capable of being respectful and affectionate with themselves in difficult moments shape a non-judgmental internal dialogue, one that doesn’t criticize and that allows them to accept themselves the way they are.
  • Likewise, it’s also interesting to note that people who practice self-compassion don’t usually worry excessively and don’t submerge themselves into negative musings that reduce psychological well-being (Krieger, Altenstein, Baettig, Doerig, and Holtforth, 2013).

Components of self-compassion

Books and studies on self-compassion have become more relevant in recent years. We already know that motivating patients with depression to be more self-compassionate could improve their progress and progressive recovery.

Studies such as the one conducted at the University of Zurich, for example, speak of how useful it is to include it in cognitive-behavioral therapy. That being said, it’s pretty interesting to keep in mind those elements that shape the exercise of self-compassion:

  • Being able to speak kindly to others and to oneself.
  • Judging oneself positively.
  • Being aware that human beings aren’t perfect or invulnerable.
  • Understand that suffering, mistakes, and loss are part of life.
  • Being compassionate with oneself implies knowing how to appreciate and love oneself.
  • Mindfulness allows people to develop this dimension more effectively.
A man thinking about the importance of being compassionate with oneself while looking at the ocean.

Being compassionate with oneself: a key to being independent

Being compassionate with oneself is the opposite of considering oneself weak or fragile. It’s understanding how much one’s worth. In turn, it means being tolerant of our mistakes and embracing our internal wounds to give us encouragement and keep moving forward.

Also, an equally interesting detail is important to consider. Self-compassion increases independence to validate emotions, needs, and self-esteem. When you know what you deserve, you stop depending on other people’s attention and reassurance. You may appreciate it, but you no longer need people to tell you.

To conclude, giving yourself permission to be imperfect and continue loving yourself in every situation and circumstance is a healthy exercise worth practicing. Today’s a good day to begin!

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  • Barnard, L. & Curry, J.F. (2011). Self-Compassion: Conceptualizations, Correlates, & Interventions. Review of General Psychology, Vol. 15, No. 4, 289–303.
  • Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: Overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy 13, 353-379. doi:10.100/cpp.507
  • Krieger, T., Altenstein, D., Baettig, I., Doerig, N., & Holtforth, M. G. (2013). Self-compassion in depression: Associations with depressive symptoms, rumination, and avoidance in depressed outpatients. Behavior Therapy, 44, 501-513. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2013.04.004
  • Neff, K. (n.d.). Definition of self-compassion. Self-Compassion.org. Retrieved from http://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/
  • Neff, K., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. In Brian D. Ostafin (Ed.) Handbook of Mindfulness and Self-Regulation (pp. 121-137). New York, NY, US: Springer.