According to Dr. Kristin Neff: “Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.”
Borrowed from Mindful Self Compassion for Teens
Challenges of Adolescence
27% self-report HIGH levels of stress during school year; 13% during summer
35% say stress kept them up at night in last month
39% skipped exercise in last month due to stress
40% report neglecting responsibilities at home and 21% at school due to stress
14.3% of 13-18 year olds experience a mood disorder
31.9% experience an anxiety disorder
19.1% diagnosed with a behavior disorder
11.4% have a substance use disorder
Overall, 22.2% have severe impairment or distress
(Merikangas et al., 2010; American Psychological Association, 2014)
Summary: While the research for youth is not as extensive as research for adults, the evidence continues to mount for the benefits of teaching mindfulness and self compassion for youth. Research conducted by Dr. Kristen Neff and Pittman McGehee have shown that teens with greater self-compassion experience less anxiety and depression and greater connection with others. (2010) Self compassion, which is the ability to soothe oneself and take care of oneself when experiencing difficult emotions, is a skill that can be taught.