Kristin Neff, PhD is a professor and researcher who has defined and studied self-compassion. What is self-compassion? She defines it as having three elements:

  1. Mindfulness: we must recognize when we are feeling painful emotions rather than ignoring them completely or over-identifying with our emotions. Mindfulness helps us label our thoughts, emotions, and action urges in the present moment without judgment.
  2. Common humanity: we must remember that we are not alone. Being human means being imperfect. Painful emotions and feelings of inadequacy are part of our shared human experience, which connects all of us. We are innately worthy of love, regardless of our social status, achievements, abilities, etc.
  3. Self-kindness: we can be warm, understanding and gentle with ourselves, like we would be with a friend or loved one who has failed or feels inadequate, instead of harshly critical. This does not mean we don’t learn from mistakes and repair/correct when necessary; it means we expect to make mistakes, to feel inadequate, and to fail so we do not berate ourselves with negative self-talk when those things happen.

Dr. Kristin Neff has found that self-compassionate individuals are better able to cope with difficult or painful emotions, are more resilient in the face of failures and shortcomings, are more motivated to learn and grow from failures rather than give up because their failures do not define them, and experience greater well-being than those who judge themselves for imperfections and failures.

Self-compassion can feel awkward, cheesy, and really difficult at first. With practice, we get better at it. Check out for more information, research, and practices.