Oakville Zen Meditation

#186 Self-compassion is not self-pity July 30 17

                                               Self-compassion is not self-pity

The word compassion comes from the French compassion and before Latin word “compati” /compasio:   com= together, pati or patio = suffering /pain. The exact meaning is “ suffering with”.

The Dalai Lama is advocating over and over learning and expressing compassion first for self so we can to express compassion to others because, as he said, without self-compassion, expressing compassion for others is difficult if not impossible.

So, self-compassion means to “to suffer with self.” Sounds weird, isn’t it?

Medical studies have shown that people who are prone to self-compassion find that compassionate images are providing calm and comfort whereas those who are too self-critical find the same images stressful if not alarming. On the other hand, self- compassionate people tend to be more receptive not only to their flaws and mistakes but also those of others.

What does it mean?

Self-compassion does not mean at all self-pity or narcissism and has nothing to do with self-esteem, or lack of insight or being self-centered.

It means to accept, forgive and be empathic with our struggles and pain rather than resisting and fighting them. It does not mean, either, to give up in finding a solution.

According to the Dalai Lama, self-compassion has three main components:

1) Being kind, generous and forgiven with self:

We can be very hard and unforgiving with ourselves, even if we are more kind with others. It is even a trait that we are using during job interviews : “ I am hard with myself”. It sounds great to the interviewer.

To practice self-compassion, we need to understand and accept our own suffering, perceived flaws and shortcomings. Instead of punishing ourselves all the time for mistakes and failures, we need to acknowledge the fact and that we are not perfect and that we are going to do the best we can to fix the issues. Being kind, empathic and forgiven with self opens the door to be the same with others.

2) Having a sense of common humanity among all of us:

Mistakes, flaws, pain, failure, setbacks are mandatory parts of our life and we all experience them regardless our efforts to prevent them. No one is exempt.

A self-compassionate person avoids the self-pity, separate attitude such as “why me”, “it is unfair”, “I don’t deserve it”.

These self-pity mind-set reactions are usually pure ego-driven and should be avoided since they will always enhance the suffering. Remember: more resistance, more deny = more pain.

3) Being mindful of our emotions and accepting them:

In order to express self-compassion, it is critical to learn to be aware of our emotions, including our negative feelings and then to accept them as they are before looking for potential solutions.

Again, mindfulness implies paying attention w/o judgment nor decision.

We need to face painful thoughts w/o exaggeration, defeatism or drama.

In fact, people who rate high in self-compassion respond far better to humiliating experiences and criticism than those with high self-esteem simply because not only they accept the way they are but also forgive themselves. This positive attitude toward self is always beneficial in search for solutions.


Simply put, self-compassion is to accept & be empathic to our physical & emotional pains and their sources rather than being resentful.

Self-compassion provides some sort of emotional buffer to harsh feedbacks. It helps us to accept and forgive our negative sides and their consequences in order to fix them faster and better...if possible.

By being more positive and receptive with ourselves, solutions for improvement become easier to find.

Again, it is critical to differentiate self-compassion with self-pity, high self-esteem and narcissism..

Thank you.