We owe a debt of gratitude to Kristin Neff for defining Self-Compassion. Once a definition was scribed, we could all go on to research and train each other in these skills. Kristin talks about Self-Compassion as having three components:
- Mindfulness. We need to be aware of our experience before we can do anything to address it. Specifically, we need to be aware of our own suffering before we can tenderly soothe and care for ourselves. Not only do we need to be aware, but we need to develop the courage to turn toward our suffering, to turn toward ourselves, to not abandon ourselves when we hurt. Mindfulness is the skill that allows us to do that. Mindfulness is the practice of being with our experience just as it is, without trying to avoid it or change it. Once we can watch our experience without getting caught up in it, we can choose how to respond. The opposite of mindfulness is over-identification with our experience (getting lost in our story) or completely alienating ourself from our experience (denying its existence). Mindfulness keeps us there with ourselves, with courage, with compassion.
- Kindness. Once we have learned to be with our experience, we can then have a relationship with it. And developing a kind relationship with our experience is part of Self-Compassion practice. It is possible to be mindful but to not be kind toward ourselves. Kindness is an added component to awareness, an inclination of the heart toward our experience and ourselves. Kindness doesn’t question or blame us in the midst of our difficult experience; it joins with us and includes us in the way a parent might be drawn toward a child who is in pain, not in order to judge, but to soothe and comfort.
- Common Humanity. Self-Compassion reminds us that we are not alone. All human beings, all creatures on this earth, suffer in similar ways to us. Our emotional pain does not separate us from others: it’s an inevitable, common, human experience. When we remember that we are not alone, we experience the antidote to feeling isolated.