Self-Compassion Matters

Did you know that when we judge ourselves, we are actually triggering stress and depression?

Let me explain why.

Studies have shown that when we criticize ourselves, the body goes into defense mode. The reptilian brain indicates to our body that there is a threat to our persona, and this releases adrenaline and cortisol as response.

Threat and threatened

We are the threat and the threatened.

When we don’t like something about ourselves, we feel threatened. This threat (self-criticism) is not directly to our actual self, but to the concept we have of ourselves. But if we’re constantly criticizing ourselves, we’re constantly attacking ourselves. It is then probable that we’ll release a lot of cortisol, and by consequence we’ll reach high levels of stress.  Eventually, the body will shut itself down in order to protect itself from this stress, and we will become depressed.


This realization was a HUGE eye-opener for me. I had been harming myself all this time with self judgment. I never really understood why I felt so stressed, even at times when I didn’t have major obligations. I get it now. Setting very high standards and judging myself when I didn’t reach them made me sick.

This is why practicing self-compassion matters. It helps us deal with stress, depression, and anxiety. And it can also help us experience more happiness, and develop stronger mental health.

But what is self-compassion anyway?

“With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” Dr. Kristin Neff

Self compassion matters

Similarly, self-compassion is about being aware of pain in our bodies, and then taking action to lessen or eliminate that pain. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of self-criticizing ourselves when things don’t go according to plan, we stopped to ask ourselves “How can I take care of myself in this moment?” Or instead of sulking, maybe we can tell ourselves “This is just a bad day. Tomorrow it will be ok.”

One way we don’t show self-compassion is when blaming ourselves for not acting like we’re supposed to. The other day, my sister asked me for money to which I said no. I’ve had a lot of expenses this month and lending her that money would have left me short. Saying no to her made me think horrible things about myself, such as “I’m a bad sister” and “I’m not being compassionate with her.”

But you know what? In the end, I understood that saying no to her was an act of self-care. By saying no to her, I said yes to myself. And ultimately, by taking care of my finances, I will be able to better help her and others in the future.

Saying no doesn’t make us bad people. Self-compassion is about saying “I matter too.” Or saying “I can’t do this right now” and not feeling bad about it.

If we can show ourselves kindness and understanding after acting in a way we’re not supposed to, then we’re on our way to self-compassion. Click To Tweet

For most of us, having compassion for others comes naturally. Whenever we witness a friend or family member suffering or making mistakes, we try to alleviate their pain or minimize their shame. However, when it comes to our own pain or suffering, having compassion for ourselves proves to be more difficult.

This was true for me last week when I was experiencing low energy. I wanted to work, but my body wanted to rest. I found myself taking one to two hour naps in the afternoons, something I rarely do. This messed with my schedule and I couldn’t finish the things on my to-do list. My lack of productivity made me feel unworthy, so again, I started to judge myself.

This time, self-judgment appeared in the form of a scolding internal voice that said things like “You should be writing right now”, and “Your product isn’t going to sell itself”. By the end of the week, it only got worse. “You’ll never make enough money”, “You’re lazy”, it continued. After meditating about it, I realized that I was judging myself harshly and I wasn’t being compassionate with myself. I then let myself rest, and simply acknowledged that I was having a bad week.

When we accept suffering and the not so perfect side of ourselves, we actually make our life easier. After all, we are human. Suffering and failure is part of being human and it is something we all share.

There will be days when we’ll follow our diet, and days when we won’t. There will be days when we’ll feel extremely happy, and days when we’ll feel sad for no reason. And that’s ok.

It’s ok to be happy. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to fail. It’s all good. Flaws don’t define our worth. Achievements don’t define our worth either. They’re just a part of us.

Here’s the thing:

You are AMAZING. Flaws and all. I hope you acknowledge how amazing you are, and dare to embrace your whole self. I also hope you show yourself a little bit of self-compassion. I’m learning to do this too.

And if you’d like to learn more about the topic of self-compassion, I invite you to watch this TED-talk.


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Author: Jessica Araus

My name is Jessica. I’m a writer and illustrator living in the Netherlands. I write stories based on my life experiences and I also create colorful illustrations that entertain and inspire many. It’s my hope that this blog serves you as a simple reminder of the power you have to choose, create, and live a life that you love.

4 Replies to “Self-Compassion Matters

  1. Wow. I love what you wrote about self-judgment making the body feel under attack. “We are the threat and the threatened”. YES! I understood that stress causes harm to the body, but linking it to the release of adrenaline and cortisol made it more vivid somehow.And I believe, along with stress and depression, will also make your body shut down by producing illness in various forms.

    Self-care is the most important thing on our to do list. Or at least, it should be. As passionate as I am about self-care it can still be a challenge to give myself rest when you’d rather do something more fun. (Perfect reminder for myself right now). Thank you for this great post. You are firing up my own passion to write more about this, but also to let myself rest FIRST. Love you my friend.

    1. I’m happy you liked my post Yvon. I sometimes find it challenging to take care of myself too. This is because I love working, and I often forget to take breaks. But self-care is a beautiful practice, and the more we do it, the easier, it gets. I’m loving the concepts of self-compassion and self-care, and like you, I’m passionate about them. Let’s keep giving ourselves more of these. As always, thanks for your honest comment and for taking the time to read. I love you too my friend. <3

  2. Such a great post- it so easy to get sucked into a spiral of self loathing because of little comments we make to ourselves in our minds. Thanks for the reminder to be kind.

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