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How to Embrace Self-Compassion and Heal Better

How to Embrace Self-Compassion and Heal Better

What is the role of self-compassion in well- being as people age? I am intrigued  by this question because there’s now growing evidence that seniors who are high in self- compassion will think of stressful events such as back injury in a way that will predict faster recovery. In short, they have learned  how to embrace self- compassion and heal better.

Tips on self-compassion
What Compassion Looks Like

To fully illustrate  what I’m talking about I will examine ambivalence  that  some elderly persons feel about aiding the healing process of their own back pain. I will explore why a senior with low self- compassion  may be resistant to being proactive in their own recovery while a senior with high self- compassion would gladly embrace it.

Before we jump in, let’s first describe what we mean by self- compassion. Self-compassion involves treating oneself compassionately—with caring, concern, and kindness—when problems arise in life, much like people treat loved ones who experience difficulties. [1]

Feel For Yourself What You Feel For Others and Heal Better

Tips on self-compassion
what self-compassion looks like

Kristen Neff, a well respected authority in the field of educational psychology, points out that “In the West, compassion is usually conceptualized in terms of compassion for others, but in Buddhist psychology, it is believed that it is as essential to feel compassion for oneself as it is for others.

 The definition of self-compassion, moreover, is not distinguished from the more general definition of ‘’compassion.’’ 

Understanding The Meaning of Your Own Suffering so You Can Heal Better

Thus, she defines self-compassion as “being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, nonjudgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s experience is part of the common human experience” [2]

Learning to Let Go of Negative Emotions in Order  to Heal Better

This  is important because researchers in aging  have noted that many older people become self-critical and angry, castigating themselves, and bemoaning their inability to function as they once did.[3]

The good News About Learning to Heal

Studies have come out and  found that older people who were higher in self-compassion were more willing to ask people to repeat themselves when they could not hear what they said, and among people who had difficulty walking, those who were higher in self-compassion were more willing to use a walker. [4]

The Bottom Line

People who are high in self-compassion are more accepting of their physical limitations and more willing to take steps to maintain their well-being.[5]

This means that they are more willing to embrace any medical or non-medical therapy that will help them become more pain free.

Perceiving The Power to Heal Your Self Better

Tips on Learning to heal your self
Learning to Heal Your Self

This brings us to our the issue we hinted at in the beginning  of the post: how older persons  perceive the power they have or not have in terms of achieving recovery from an injury or condition such as back pain.

 We can now address how high and low self-compassion elderly make decisions about whether  the’ll be compliant when using interventions, such as balancing therapies and exercises, to speed up recovery or just give up in despair.

The Vital Elements of Self-Compassion

The 3 elements of Self-compassion That Will Make You Heal better

  1. Extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh self-criticism and judgement.
  2. Seeing one’s experience as part of the larger human experience rather than as separating and isolating
  3. Holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them. [6]

What Self-compassion is Not

Before we go on, you should be clear about something: self-compassion is not based on performance or evaluating how good you are at reaching an ideal goal such as making more money, becoming smarter, or becoming  more liked. In short, it has nothing to do with narcissism or self-centeredness. It’s just a way to learn to heal yourself by extending to yourself  the same kind of understanding and support that you give to others.

The Implications of Using Self-Compassion to Heal Better

Here are The Implications  Using Self-Compassion to Heal Better

Tips on learning to heal
Learning to heal can be electrifying

Once you stop beating yourself up with negative emotions  you’ll allow room for positive emotions  to take over. Thus instead of thinking “I seem to have bigger problems than most people do” and “Why do these things always happen to me?” You’re more likely to  think something like “This isn’t any worse than what lots of other people go through.” [7]

Learning to Get Rid of Toxic Thoughts so You Can Heal Better

This allows you to experience  a mindfulness that  detaches you from self-judgement, and most likely  all the toxicity that goes with it.  For example it’s a known fact that  stress hormones secreted when a person is upset take hours to become reabsorbed in the body and fade away.

Connected to The Human Family

When you have high self-compassion you’re less likely  to live in isolation because you understand that you’re not the only one suffering from a condition like chronic back pain. You’re more likely  to reach out to others and that will give you the emotional  support that you need to boost your healing.

Avoiding Catastraophizing Your Condition so You Can Heal Better

The term catastrophizing is the process in which anxious people with a health condition dwell on the most extreme negative consequence conceivable. The bottom line is that pain is treated as being extremely threatening. Thus, for example, a person who has fallen won’t venture out of the house out of fear that they’ll fall again and experience  pain. A person with high self-compassion is less likely to have catastrophizing thoughts.


When thinking about self-compassion one may be tempted to think this is just another way of taking about self-esteem. Those were my initial thoughts, but I was wrong. Self-compassion is not judgmental. This means just it can not produce a narcissistic individual by exaggerating one’s sense of importance, it can not also build one’s ego by some type of emotional  pep talk. Self-compassion is purely  about extending compassion to yourself.

A logical question than is whether self-compassion downplays or ignored negative facts about a stressful condition such as back pain. No, it just treats those facts in a compassionate  way.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.




The Gerontologist, Volume 54, Issue 2, 1 April 2014, Pages 190–200


Neff K. D. (2003a). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity , 2, 223–250. doi:10.1080/ 15298860309027


Mirowsky J. Ross C. E . (1992). Age and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior , 33, 187–205.


Allen A. B. Goldwasser E. R. Leary M. R . (2012). Self-compassion and well-being in older adults. Self and Identity , 11, 428–453.


Leary M. R. Tate E. B. Adams C. E. Batts Allen A. Hancock J . (2007). Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 92, 887–904.


7 Ibid

4 thoughts on “How to Embrace Self-Compassion and Heal Better

  1. This is fantastic information on compassion of ones self as I have seen both in my father as he has displayed the compassion and the anger. I think it also depends on the surroundings of the person as I seen my father angry that he was not feeling well when living in a Condo spending many hours just watching the television and doing nothing for himself. Since then mom and dad has moved to a house with a wonderful yard and I can see that this has definitely impacted my father in a positive way. My father is now out in the yard most of the time picking weeds and tending to his gardens (even though he has to take many breaks) I can really see the compassion he now has for himself and for his surroundings. At 87 my father just had a pool installed to help with exercise without stressing out his joints and to have the chance to just relax in the cooling waters. I do think that compassion for ones self goes a long way in the healing process

    1. Hi Dena,

      Your story of your father really helps illustrate in a very real way how important it is for our own well-being that we extend the same compassion that we show others to ourself. However, as you point out, the surroundings of the person can effect the compassion one shows to him or herself. Thank you for sharing your story and allowing others to learn from it.

  2. Hello Thabo,

    It is a fact that a positive attitude supports the immune system and helps us to stay healthy. I can confirm it myself – since I started to read self-development books I have learned to be less anxious and I have got a better self-confidence. I´m now much more positive minded towards myself and I don´t get the cold or the flu as often as I did before.

    I have also remarked that people I know who are rather negative minded have got less self-compassion and are more often sick than positive minded persons. It is so true what you tell in this post when we learn to let go of negative emotions, the body and mind can heal better.

    Your post is of huge value and I wish that many, many people will read this post and learn to be kind to themselves.


    1. Hello Pernilla,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s always very helpful when readers can draw on their own experiences to give perspective to the idea of self compassion and better healing. I think this sharing can only affirm how important it is to extend to our selves the same compassion that we give others.

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