Why self-compassion is not self-indulgence

Being self-compassionate and kind to oneself is essential for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with the same kindness, understanding, and support that we would offer to a good friend who is going through a difficult time. It means being non-judgmental and accepting of ourselves, even when we make mistakes or experience setbacks.


Moreover, self-compassion requires finding a balance among the many experiences of life and not overly focusing on our discomforts or disappointments. This involves recognising that as members of the human family, we all experience both pleasures and difficulties, including losses, disappointments, and injuries. When we cultivate this combined self-awareness and other awareness, we can experience greater peace, joy, and compassion for ourselves and others.

In fact, true compassion for others cannot be achieved without a profound compassion toward ourselves. When we practice self-compassion, we develop a deeper understanding of the human experience and a greater capacity for empathy and compassion for others. This interconnectedness of self-compassion and compassion for others highlights the importance of self-compassion as a foundational practice for well-being and healthy relationships.

Self-compassion plays an essential role in building resilience. When we practice self-compassion, we are better able to cope with setbacks, failures, and challenges. Rather than getting caught up in negative self-talk and self-blame, we approach these experiences with kindness and understanding. We recognise that it is normal to experience setbacks and failures and that these experiences do not define our worth as a person.

By adopting a self-compassionate mindset, we are more likely to view difficult experiences as opportunities for growth and learning. We are better able to identify the lessons that can be learned from our failures and setbacks and apply these lessons to future challenges. This can lead to a sense of empowerment and an increased belief in our ability to handle adversity.

Research has shown that when we practice self-compassion, our brains release oxytocin, which is often referred to as the 'cuddle hormone'. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during physical touch, such as hugging and is associated with feelings of warmth, comfort, and social bonding.

A study by Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm, and Singer (2013) found that compassion training, which involves cultivating feelings of compassion and kindness towards oneself and others, led to changes in brain activity and increased positive affect. Specifically, participants who regularly practised self-compassion showed increased activity in the insula and striatum, brain regions that are associated with reward and positive emotions. These changes were similar to those observed when individuals receive social support, such as a hug or praise from another human being. These findings highlight the importance of self-compassion as a way to regulate our emotions, build resilience, and promote well-being.

The benefits of self-compassion are numerous. It promotes mental and emotional well-being. When we are self-compassionate, we are less likely to engage in negative self-talk, rumination, or self-criticism. This can lead to a decrease in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Self-compassion also increases positive emotions, such as happiness and contentment, and helps us develop a more positive outlook on life.

Remember that self-compassion is about treating yourself with the same kindness, care, and understanding that you would offer to a good friend. It takes practice to develop self-compassion, so try incorporating these statements into your self-talk and notice how it feels to speak to yourself with kindness and understanding.

  1. "I am doing the best I can at this moment."
  2. "It's OK to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes."
  3. "I deserve to take care of myself and my needs."
  4. "It's OK to feel sad, angry, or frustrated. My emotions are valid."
  5. "I am worthy of love and kindness, especially from myself."
  6. "I am not perfect, and that's OK. Perfection is not achievable."
  7. "I forgive myself for any past mistakes and move forward with compassion.
  8. "I am strong and capable of overcoming any challenges that come my way."

Incorporating self-compassion into your daily routine takes practice, but the benefits are well worth it. By treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance, you can improve your mental and emotional well-being, enhance your relationships with others, and live a more fulfilling life.


Klimecki, O. M., Leiberg, S., Lamm, C., & Singer, T. (2013). Functional neural plasticity and associated changes in positive affect after compassion training. Cerebral Cortex, 23(7), 1552-1561. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, EH8
Written by Aaron Kelly, MSc, MSc, MA (Hons) MBACP
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, EH8

Aaron Kelly is a psychotherapist who is deeply committed to helping people overcome mental health challenges and live happier, more fulfilling lives. Aaron is known for his compassionate and empathetic approach to therapy, working closely with clients to understand their unique needs and challenges in order to help them achieve their goals .

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Anxiety

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals