Dr. Kristin Neff is a famous evangelist of self-compassion. She says it includes three elements:

self kindness vs. self judgment, common humanity vs. Isolation, and mindfulness vs. over-identification.

I entered my adulthood with an unhealthy habit it of self-judgment. I thought that self-criticism was the way to encouragement. It sounds ludicrous now, but I really believed that identifying my personality defects and setting out to solve them was the way towards happiness. Neff’s research shows that, being gentle and loving toward myself is a better path. My journey towards self-compassion included joining a 12-step group (emotions anonymous) and learning how to meditate. Both taught me that imperfections and dissatisfactions are part of life and provided practices in self compassion.

I was mistaken when I thought everyone else had all their stuff together and I was the only one stumbling and bumbling my way through life. It turns out that most of us are making it up as we go. I am not special in my imperfection. I learned to follow my judgment of others with the thought “… Just like me.” Discovering that we are all in the same boat, I on what Kristin Neff calls “common humanity.”

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron advises “don’t believe everything you think.” When I treat my fearful thoughts as real, I get understandably depressed and distressed. Mindfulness teaches me that each moment is its own jewel, full of sensations and power. Meditating, I give myself fresh start after fresh start, meeting each moment (ideally) without expectation. As fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, wrote, ” the only appropriate state of mind is surprise. The only state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now.”

Learning and practicing self-compassion, I move in softer, more gentle space.

In your journal:

  • do you feel in need of “self-improvement?”
  • What does your inner “self-talk” sound like?
  • How can you be more kind to yourself?
  • Write about your experience of “common humanity.”
  • How do you handle upsetting thoughts and emotions?