I made a mistake. 

My chest tightens, my hands tense, and the negative self–talk starts. “How could I have done that?” Worse-case scenarios fly through my head. I start worrying about how this will impact others.

Then I pause. 

I take a deep breath and do something that never would have occurred to me several years ago. I practice self-compassion. I acknowledge that I’m having a hard moment. That making mistakes is normal and part of being human. I take some more deep breaths as I wonder how many other humans on the planet might have also made a mistake at this exact moment— millions? I imagine I’m talking to my best friend, and I tell myself, “It’s going to be ok. We’re going to get through this.” I take another deep breath. My shoulders relax, and my hands unclench. I move forward. 

Self-compassion practice might sound like a hokey, popular, fleeting trend. However, it can radically transform one’s ability to navigate daily challenges, pain, and stress. Research shows that a regular self-compassion practice can help to reduce stress, increase resilience, and boost confidence in adolescents, college students, and adults of all ages.

Self-compassion involves three main components:

  1. Self-Kindness: Being gentle and understanding toward yourself instead of harshly self-critical. It means acknowledging your flaws and mistakes without judgment.
  2. Common Humanity: Recognizing that suffering and imperfection are part of the human experience. You are not alone in your struggles; everyone faces challenges and setbacks.
  3. Mindfulness: Observing your thoughts and feelings without attaching undue importance to them. It involves being present in the moment and not getting lost in self-criticism or over-identification with your thoughts and emotions.

When put into practice, the components of a self-compassion practice turn into a Superpower in the following ways:

  1.  Increasing resilience: When you treat yourself with kindness, it is easier to bounce back from setbacks and failures. You build emotional resilience that helps you weather life’s storms with grace and determination.
  2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Research shows that self-compassion lowers levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. By soothing your inner critic and practicing self-care, you can reduce the harmful effects of chronic stress on your physical and mental health.
  3. Improved Mental Health: Studies have shown that self-compassion is associated with increased well-being and decreased symptoms of depression. It fosters a positive self-image and a greater sense of self-worth.
  4. Better Relationships: When you extend the same compassion to yourself as you do to others, your interpersonal relationships benefit. You become more empathetic, understanding, and forgiving, which leads to healthier and more fulfilling connections with others.
  5. Increased Motivation: Contrary to what some may believe, self-compassion doesn’t lead to complacency. It increases intrinsic motivation and promotes changing from a place of self-acceptance and self-care rather than self-criticism and shame.

You can cultivate self-compassion through multiple avenues: 

  1. Meditation Practice: Dr. Kristin Neff, a psychologist and renowned self-compassion researcher, has free resources and meditations on her website.
  2. Challenge Self-Criticism: When you catch yourself engaging in self-criticism, challenge those thoughts. Ask yourself if you would speak to a beloved friend the way you’re speaking to yourself. 
  3. Treat Yourself with Kindness: Be intentional about treating yourself kindly. This can involve self-soothing activities like taking a warm bath, going for a walk, or engaging in a hobby you love.
  4. Embrace Imperfection: Understand that perfection is an unattainable goal for anyone. Embrace your imperfections and acknowledge that they make you human.
  5. Seek Support: Talk to a therapist or counselor if you struggle with self-compassion. They can provide guidance and techniques to help you develop this transformative skill.

Self-compassion can be a remarkable superpower. By practicing self-kindness, recognizing our shared humanity, and being mindful, you can change how you relate to yourself, react to stress, and connect with others. In my experience, self-compassion practice has helped prevent me from getting stuck in stress and self-recrimination the way I used to. Instead, I notice my thoughts, offer myself self-compassion, and can move forward.  


  1.  Kristin D. Neff & Pittman McGehee (2010) Self-compassion and Psychological Resilience Among Adolescents and Young Adults, Self and Identity, 9:3, 225-240, DOI: 10.1080/15298860902979307
  2.  Kristin D Neff , Ya-Ping Hsieh & Kullaya Dejitterat (2005) Self-compassion, Achievement Goals, and Coping with Academic Failure, Self and Identity, 4:3, 263-287, DOI: 10.1080/13576500444000317
  3.  Tavares, L., Vagos, P., & Xavier, A. (2023). The role of self-compassion in the psychological (mal)adjustment of older adults: A scoping review. International Psychogeriatrics, 35(4), 179-192. doi:10.1017/S1041610220001222
  4.  Bergen-Cico, Dessa, and Sanghyeon Cheon. “The mediating effects of mindfulness and self-compassion on trait anxiety.” Mindfulness 5 (2014): 505-519.
  5.  Kristin D. Neff & S. Natasha Beretvas (2013) The Role of Self-compassion in Romantic Relationships, Self and Identity, 12:1, 78-98, DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2011.639548
  6.  Kotera, Y., Taylor, E., Fido, D. et al. Motivation of UK graduate students in education: self-compassion moderates pathway from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation. Curr Psychol 42, 10163–10176 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02301-6


This blog post was written by Ariana Figueroa, NBC-HWC, the Health Coach for Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville.