Once we’ve gotten into the bad habit of self-criticizing, it can seem almost impossible to imagine behaving any other way toward ourselves. Yet, cultivating self-compassion goes a long way in supporting our overall wellbeing. Thankfully, self-compassion can be learned and mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to train in this skill.  According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher, professor, and author specializing in the field of self-compassion, “We often become our own worst critic because we  believe it’s necessary to keep ourselves motivated, but in fact the research shows that healthy self-compassion increases our inner drive, our resilience to setbacks, and our ability to excel at work and in every aspect of life.”

When we see a homeless person and instantly feel sad about their situation, what we’re feeling is compassion. When we witness a close friend going through a rough time we don’t instantly judge them for their weakness, but feel compassion. Why, then, is it difficult to have that same compassion toward ourselves when we feel inadequate over a supposed failure? Whether facing a wandering mind during seated meditation or having our teenager receive straight “D”s on their high school report card, these are times when we are likely to automatically jump into a rant of self-criticism. However, by practicing mindfulness meditation and compassionately bringing our attention back to the present moment each time our mind inevitably wanders, we build up our capacity to behave more gently toward ourselves in situations we’d normally beat ourselves up over.

According to Dr. Neff, there are three elements that make up self-compassion which are as follows.

Self-kindness: Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.


Common humanity: By recognizing our essential interdependence, therefore, failings and life difficulties do not have to be taken so personally, but can be acknowledged with non-judgmental compassion and understanding.


Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.

Practicing self-compassion through our formal meditation practice is an incredibly helpful way to re-train our minds to be kinder, gentler, and more supportive of ourselves when faced with failure or pain. We could use our in breath to “breathe in” compassion, maybe using a phrase such as “may I be kind to myself” if that feels right for us. Repeatedly bringing our focus back to the breath when our mind wanders in a compassionate, kind, and non-judgmental way, will methodically strengthen our self-compassion on and off the meditation cushion.

Meditation instructor Alice Lash offers mindfulness meditation in Miami. Contact Mindfultime to learn how you can begin or deepen your mindfulness meditation practice today.


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