What Self-Compassion is Not?


Self-Compassion is not Self-Pity/Self-Absorption.

Self-pity causes individuals to become immersed in their problems, feeling that they are the only ones suffering and this tends to emphasize the egocentric feelings of separation from others. As they are wrapped up in their emotional drama, they are not able to step back from their situation and adopt a more balanced perspective.

Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows one to see the related experiences of self and others without the feeling of isolation and disconnection. “Mental space” is provided to recognize the broader human context of one’s experience and to put things in greater perspective.


Self-Compassion is not Self-Indulgence.

Many people are concerned that having self-compassion could result in letting themselves get away with anything. “I’m too sad to do anything good now. So to be kind to myself, I’ll just rest in bed and have my tub of ice cream.” - This is self-indulgence bringing a moment of pleasure which may ironically harm our well-being.

In contrast, self-compassion focuses on being happy and healthy in the long term. The intrinsic care for oneself provides a powerful motivating force for growth and change (which often involves a certain amount of displeasure), while also providing the safety needed to see the self clearly without fear of self-condemnation.


Self-Compassion is not Self-Esteem.

Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. In the attempt to raise self-esteem, we may develop self-absorbed behaviour, act in ways that put others down so that we can feel better about ourselves or react negatively towards those that potentially makes us feel bad about ourselves. It may also encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings, resulting in the inability to see ourselves clearly and accurately.

Surely, self-esteem is not all bad. However, unlike self-esteem, self-compassion is neither dependent on self-evaluations nor external circumstances. It is always available, even when we fail terribly in life. Self-compassion does not discriminate. All human beings deserve compassion and understanding. It does not go higher or lower with the possession (or lack) of positive traits such as talent, intelligence, good looks and so on, which also means you don’t have to be better than others to feel good about yourself. Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden, ignored or distorted. Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behaviour, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.

Science behind the Benefits

How do we change? In this pioneering talk, Dr. Shauna Shapiro draws on modern neuroscience and ancient wisdom to demonstrate how mindfulness can help us make positive changes in our brains and our lives. Edited by Kevin Raman and Preston Yeung.

In this dialogue CCARE's founder and director, Dr. James Doty, will ask Eckhart Tolle about his life's work and what role compassion may have played.


Mindful Self-Compassion Exercises

Self-Compassion Daily Exercise

Self-Compassion Short Break