• Khaulah Abbas

Choosing Self-Compassion Over Self-esteem

“You’re so dumb”
“You’re incapable”
“You’re too fat”
“Why me?”

Is this the way your inner critic speaks to you when you go through struggles or persona failings? This constant criticizing and beating yourself up causes a downward spiral of self-esteem which could result in increased anxiety and depression. So how can you overcome this negativity towards yourself? This is where self -compassion can help.

Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to yourself especially when faced with personal failures or inadequacies. Often people think that self- esteem and self-compassion are the same. They are not.

Self esteem is how you feel about yourself and how you think others feel about you. It involves comparing yourself to others. Self-esteem is more outward. What happens when people are “better” or “get ahead” of you? Self-esteem plummets as you begin criticizing yourself hoping that will motivate you forward. However, research shows that criticism is the worst motivation.  Your self -esteem is dependent on your work or how you look or how wealthy you are. You become in a constant state of anxiety to maintain this level or better. You may appear successful on the outside yet miserable on the inside without really knowing why.

This is where self-compassion proves to be a healthier and more beneficial focus than self-esteem. Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer and leading expert on self-compassion has identified 3 elements of self-compassion:

1. Self-kindness:

Being kind to yourself in times of suffering or inadequacies. Talking to yourself as if you would talk to a friend. Being kind to yourself results in greater emotional balance, allowing you to have greater resilience and move forward.

2. Common Humanity

Recognize that everyone is human and has difficulties, it’s not just you. You are not alone.


Be aware of your emotions; recognize them without judgment. Rather than thinking “It didn’t work I’m so stupid” a better way may be “ It didn’t work out the way I had wanted I’ll try a different way.” “I’m a failure” could be replaced with “I’m a work in progress learning everyday".

It takes time and patience for self-compassion to come easy. After all you have spent a lifetime beating yourself up and habits may be hard to break. But the result  are well worth it. People who are self-compassionate show increased motivation, increased resilience, reduced anxiety and greater emotional intelligence.”

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