Supercharge with Self-Compassion

Tender self-compassion allows us to accept the discomfort of an unwanted task and to be nonjudgmental about our desire to put it off. Fierce self-compassion then propels us to take action so that we do what’s needed. The self-compassionate heart is like rocket fuel for getting things done.” Kristen Neff

If you prefer to listen

Last time we explored ways of recharging our inner energy so we can live life to the fullest. We learned that if we believe that we are worth it, we can give ourselves the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual resources we need.  So, instead of powering through and running on Low Power mode, we are energized with a charged battery. This helps us be resilient so we can better cope with the challenges of life.

The problem is, if you are like me, you may not believe you are worth it. This feeling of unworthiness comes from the way we treat ourselves.  When we make a mistake, we tell ourselves “I am a mistake.” When we let others down, we tell ourselves, “I am a terrible person.” Or “I am a selfish person.” When we fail, we tell ourselves, “I am a failure.” Or “I am so stupid”. In other words, we shame ourselves. Shame only grows if it is left in the dark and in silence. Because of the intense feeling of disgust, we shut down and isolate ourselves from others. Our energy is focused on hiding what we have done instead of fixing it. The ability to feel unashamed while seeing ourselves clearly is one of the most powerful gifts of self-compassion.

The three components of self-compassion act as a direct antidote to shame: mindfulness prevents us from overidentifying with our missteps, common humanity counteracts feelings of isolation from others, and kindness allows us to feel worthy despite our imperfections. This allows us to clearly see and acknowledge our areas of weakness without defining ourselves by them.” Kristen Neff

To engage in self-care to recharge our batteries, we must believe that we are worth it. The feeling of self-worth that comes from achievements, looking a certain way or winning someone’s approval doesn’t last. It is there when things are going well but disappears when you need it most. The worthiness that comes from self-compassion is more stable over time. You might look at self-compassion as an inner support system which provides you with resilience.  You don’t have to earn it; all you have to be is a flawed human being.

It is caring about ourselves—fragile and imperfect as we are.  Unlike the practice of positive affirmation, you don’t have to fool yourself to make it work.  Self-criticism asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?” Kristen Neff


What is one self-care activity that you don’t do because your inner critic says you are not worthy, that would be selfish, or you don’t deserve it?

Self-compassion involves wanting health and well-being for ourselves. It is not putting our needs over the needs of others, but on par with their needs. When we soothe our agitated minds with self-compassion, we’re better able to notice what’s right as well as what’s wrong, so that we can orient ourselves toward that which gives us joy.

Three Facets of Self-Compassion

The three facets of self-compassion are: mindfulness; self-kindness; and a sense of common humanity. 

Mindfulness is the idea is that we need to see things as they are, no more, no less.  This means that we need to see that we are suffering.  We often fail to recognize negative feelings like loneliness, guilt, unworthiness, sadness, as suffering.  We have trained our entire lives to deny our suffering.  When we offer ourselves the same quality of unconditional kindness that we would offer to a friend, we can stop denying our suffering. 

Our mind tends to focus on the failure itself, rather than the pain caused by failure.  Most people tend to immediately go into problem-solving mode. We need to stop for a breath or two, acknowledge that we’re suffering, and provide ourselves with a kind, caring response.  If we don’t, we risk getting exhausted and overwhelmed, because we’re spending all our energy trying to fix problems without refreshing ourselves.

One of the enemies of mindfulness is overidentification—becoming so carried away by our personal drama that we can’t clearly see what is occurring in the present moment. When we are mindful, we are aware and accepting of the present-moment. Accepting means that we are not believing that our present-moment experience should be different from what it is. The foundation of self-compassion is the ability to turn mindfully toward our discomfort and acknowledge it.

When we are mindful, we know when we can let ourselves be open and we are aware of when we are closing down. With self-compassion we let ourselves open when we are strong enough and let ourselves close when we need to.

Self-kindness, begins with stopping the constant self-judgment and negative stories on our “top ten” list. But self-kindness involves more than merely stopping our inner critic. It includes actively comforting ourselves, just as we would to a dear friend.  We can recognize that everyone has times when they blow it and treat ourselves kindly.

When we consistently give ourselves nurturance and understanding, we also come to feel worthy of care and acceptance.  When we give ourselves empathy and support, we learn to trust that help is always at hand. When we wrap ourselves in the warm embrace of self-kindness, we feel safe and secure.” Kristin Neff

When faced with our human flaws, we can respond with kindness and care, or with judgment and criticism. Responding with kindness provides us the resources needed to cope with the challenges in life. Which neuropathway do you want to strengthen?

With self-kindness, we can stop seeing ourselves as a problem to be fixed and begin see ourselves as valuable human beings who are worthy of care.” Kristin Neff

Sense of common humanity acknowledges that we are all perfectly imperfect. We are not the only ones who have failed, been made a fool of, been disappointed or rejected. Instead of pitying ourselves, we remember that everyone suffers. So instead of getting absorbed by feelings of not good enough, we see the bigger picture and more possibilities come into view.

The recognition of common humanity that is at the core of self-compassion requires that we’re neither self-focused nor other-focused. Instead, we use wisdom to see the larger whole and figure out what’s fair, balanced, and sustainable. We have a strong back and a soft front.

Strong Back and Soft Front

All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet — strong back and soft front — is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.” Joan Halifax

There are two types of self-compassion. Soft front or tender self-compassion is soft, yielding, receptive and nurturing. Like a mother holding and comforting a crying baby. It involves “being with” ourselves in an comforting, soothing and accepting way. We care for and nurture ourselves. However if we limit ourselves to tender compassion, we can end up being a doormat.

Strong back or fierce self-compassion is firm, forceful, commanding and goal oriented. With fierce self-compassion, we act in the world to uphold our true self and stand up for our rights and needs.  Think of it as having a backbone with the ability to set healthy boundaries. When our back is strong, we don’t need to harden or close down our front.

As we act to protect, provide for, or motivate ourselves, fierce self-compassion sometimes expresses itself as anger.  If the fierce expression of anger is balanced with tender concern, it can be a healthy and constructive force. There are times when we need more tender self-compassion and other times when we need more fierce self-compassion, but we always need some of both. This tenderness and fierceness may need to be applied to our inner critic.


Sometimes when you kindly tell someone or your inner critic that you don’t need that advice or criticism any more, that it is not helping, you inner critic ignores you can continues to tell you the same thing over and over. That is when you need to get fierce. Think of one thing you need to get fierce about. How can you express it with a strong back and soft front?

Tender self-compassion allows us to accept the discomfort of an unwanted task and to be nonjudgmental about our desire to put it off. Fierce self-compassion then propels us to take action so that we do what’s needed. The self-compassionate heart is like rocket fuel for getting things done.” Kristen Neff

When we are self-compassionate, we acknowledge that our needs matter, we have the strength to be true to ourselves, and we trust that even when we blow it, we will be supportive to ourselves. We don’t get so upset when we get things wrong because we know that is part of being human. We are works-in-progress so tender self-compassion reassures us when we don’t succeed; and fierce self-compassion energizes us to try again. My goal, like that of Kristen Neff is to become a compassionate mess.