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Techniques Happiness > Self-Compassion

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Be kind to yourself. Know you are human, like others, with attendant frailties and limitations. Whilst you do what you can in life, you cannot do everything. To err is human, as they say.

Forgive yourself for your failings. When you are sad, console yourself. Find a place where you can learn without self-blame. Do not just make excuses. Do, however, accept yourself as human and build from there. Learning without blame is the key.


Selflessness and compassion towards others in providing a devoted service is a good way to find happiness. However, people who are focused on others sometimes forget to also be kind and compassionate towards themselves. In their desire to be good, they internally berate themselves and may even wallow in self-loathing.

Self-compassion is about mindfulness, common humanity and kindness.

  • Mindfulness is about being in the present and openly considering your perceptions and thoughts without getting carried away or suppressing them.
  • Common humanity is about understanding yourself as human, like others, with all the pain, joy and frustration that that includes.
  • Kindness is seeking to reduce suffering of all kinds through positive action and gentle acceptance.

Kristin Neff's research on self-compassion has found it better than the very common focus on achievement and self-esteem. It is easy in encouraging others (and yourself) to achieve great things for this to become more about punishment as stretch goals are missed and inevitable failures happen along the way. Excessive praise in the pursuit of self-esteem also has damaging effects as it loses its meaning and can lead to problems such as narcissism and emotional fragility.

Self-compassion has been found to have all the benefits of self-esteem with far fewer of the problems. Esteem is about status and comparing yourself with others, which means putting people down. It is also a source of constant anxiety as there are always others better than you.

Self-compassion is not about laziness -- in fact research shows self-compassionate people have higher personal standards, work harder and accept greater responsibility for their actions.

With self-compassion 'the secret to success is the ability to fail'. The inner secret is a focus on learning and development without destructive criticism that triggers coping mechanisms.

See also

Devoted Service

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