Try a Little Kindness…Self-Kindness

Jack Kornfield shares the following story about Gandhi: After struggling for half a century with the British Empire, Gandhi said that his most intimidating opponent was not the British Empire or the Indian people, but a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi, “With him I seem to have very little influence.”  If, like Gandhi, you have a tendency toward self-criticism, this article could help.

Self-compassion is the antidote for self-criticism.  In a recent review Kristen Neff identified three elements that, when present, create fertile soil for self-compassion:  common humanity, mindfulness and self-kindness.  Each has its polar opposite, so you can measure where you are on the spectrum: appreciating common humanity, or that others also suffer with the same issues you do, versus isolating from others; mindfulness versus overidentification with our thoughts; and self-kindness versus self-judgement.

What is self-compassion?

If compassion involves recognizing suffering, understanding the commonality of suffering, feeling for the person suffering, and acting to alleviate suffering, then self-compassion involves turning that compassion inward. We are imperfect. Compassion involves accepting imperfection.

Common humanity

Rather than isolating ourselves from the suffering of others, common humanity involves feeling connected with others who are suffering.  Suffering is an experience we all share.  When we embrace common humanity, we remember that everyone experiences suffering.   We are not alone.


Mindfulness involves being aware of our suffering and then turning towards it, no matter how uncomfortable. It’s impossible to show ourselves compassion if we don’t acknowledge we’re in pain.  Mindfulness also allows us to see our negative thoughts and feelings as just what they are: thoughts and feelings.


Self-kindness involves being friendly, generous, and considerate towards ourselves; being emotionally available when life becomes difficult. Neff suggests that when we are moved by our own pain, we stop, place our hand on the heart and reassure ourselves by saying:  “This is really hard right now.  How can I care for myself in this moment?”

Self-Compassion Practice

In this brief self-compassion practice, inspired by Jack Kornfield, we first show compassion towards someone we love, then envision them showing compassion towards us, and end with us showing compassion towards ourselves.


Self-love.  We need it. And we can use our practices of common humanity, mindfulness, self-kindness and self-compassion to enhance our self-love.  In addition to the meditation above, you can use the following statements from Kristin Neff’s self-compassion scale as mantras to reinforce your own self-compassion.

I’m giving myself the caring and tenderness I need.

I’m remembering that there are lots of others in the world feeling like I am.

I’m keeping things in perspective.


The Self-Care Solutions newsletter allows you to personalize your approach to health and wellbeing.  It offers you choices.  Safe choices.  Evidence-based choices. The articles allow you to try on different options and see what works for you. Think of each as an invitation. While not a substitute for care by your medical team, we’re here to support you in your quest for wellbeing!


Defining self-compassion

Neff, Annual self-compassion review

Kornfield, Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion Scale

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Dr. Ruthann Russo

I love assisting people on their hero’s journey towards self-transformation. A passion which is born comes partly from personal experience – I view my own life as a series of self-transformations. I have 20+ years of education, training and experience, including being the CEO and founder of two health technology start-ups and global wellness consultant to Fortune 100 corporations.

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