This article defines the construct of self-compassion and describes the development of the Self-Compassion Scale. Self-compassion entails being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical; perceiving one’s experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as isolating; and holding painful thoughts and feelings in mindful awareness rather than over-identifying with them. Evidence for the validity and reliability of the scale is presented in a series of studies. Results indicate that self-compassion is significantly correlated with positive mental health outcomes such as less depression and anxiety and greater life satisfaction. Evidence is also provided for the discriminant validity of the scale, including with regard to self-esteem measures.
Self-compassion—treating oneself with kindness, care, and concern in the face of negative life events—may promote the successful self-regulation of health-related behaviors. Self-compassion can promote self-regulation by lowering defensiveness, reducing the emotional states and self-blame that interfere with self-regulation, and increasing compliance with medical recommendations. Furthermore, because they cope better with stressful events, people high in self-compassion may be less depleted by illness and injury and, thus, have greater self-regulatory resources to devote to self-care. Framing medical problems and their treatment in ways that foster self-compassion may enhance people’s ability to manage their health-related behavior and deal with medical problems.
While research suggests strong associations of self-compassion with mental health and well-being, gender norms may hinder the development of self-compassion by women on one hand, and men on the other. This study represents one of the first systematic analyses of potential gender differences in self-compassion using meta-analytic techniques, including whether such gender differences are moderated by age or ethnic minority status. Fixed-effects models were used to estimate the average effect size (ES) of gender differences in self-compassion scores across 71 journal articles and dissertations providing a total of 88 estimates. Results revealed that males had slightly higher levels of self-compassion than females, with a small ES observed (d = .18). This difference was larger in samples with a higher percentage of ethnic minorities. Researchers and practitioners should take these group differences into account in future studies and interventions focused on self-compassion, while not overemphasizing gender differences in self-compassion as being large in size.
Self-compassion (SC) involves being kind to oneself when confronting personal inadequacies or situational difficulties, framing the imperfection of life in terms of common humanity, and being mindful of negative emotions so that one neither suppresses nor ruminates on them. The current study explored whether being self-compassionate is linked to healthier romantic relationship behavior, such as being more caring and supportive rather than controlling or verbally aggressive with partners. A total of 104 couples participated in the study, with self-reported SC levels being associated with partner reports of relationship behavior. Results indicated that self-compassionate individuals displayed more positive relationship behavior than those who lacked SC. SC was also a stronger predictor of positive relationship behavior than trait self-esteem (SE) or attachment style. Finally, partners were able to accurately report on each other’s SC levels, suggesting that SC is an observable trait.
This study examined the effects a 6-week mindfulness group had on 31 college students who were intending to enter helping professions (e.g., nursing, social work, counseling, psychology, and teaching). Group activities included meditation, yoga, a body scan exercise, and qi gong. The group members completed the Perceived Stress Scale, the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, and the Self-Compassion Scale at pre-pre, pre, post, and follow-up intervals. Perceived stress significantly decreased, and mindfulness and self-compassion significantly increased in response to the group. Group members’ comments on their experience are reported. Implications for future research and practice are explored.