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Self Compassion in Mentoring

When it is our own heart we hold in our hands, how do we treat it?

Recently my mentor sent me an interesting article called Self Compassion: The Most Important Life Skill?

Of course I had to read it right away.

This urgency comes from the fact that I have quite literally lost count over the last few months of the number of folks who have responded to some random comment or other that I have made with the words, “You are too hard on yourself.”

I know this.

But somehow being reminded doesn’t make it any easier to stop.

I don’t know if being too hard on yourself is a learned trait, a genetic trait, or (most likely) some combination thereof.

What I do know is that, once begun, it becomes habit-forming.

Not unlike having an eating disorder or turning to the bottle or some other equally inconveniently convenient means of temporary relief, somehow mentally flailing away at yourself over time starts to seem like a reasonable approach to those oops! moments in life, regardless of how ineffectual it has proven itself to be.

Equally interestingly, the article touches on an issue I have often mentally wrestled with – the untested belief that extending to myself a bit of human kindness will somehow make me lazy. Or soft. Or otherwise inert. According to the article, this untested belief has unfortunate and far reaching side effects:

Due to our ever-increasing competitive societies, researchers speculate the tendency to choose self-punishment, rather than self-compassion, is on the rise. People often believe that punishing themselves will keep them in line and ultimately keep them safe.  Unfortunately, self-criticism can lead to generalized hostility (toward oneself and others), anxiety and depression; these are problems that can handicap people from reaching their full potential.

Conversely, according to Mark Leary, a researcher at Duke University, offering ourselves compassion has just the opposite effect:

People high in self-compassion tend to have higher standards, work harder and take more personal responsibility for their actions.

The Creativity Research Journal also reported that self-compassion training has been found to help both anorexics and people who are overweight.


Comprised of equal parts kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity, the self-soothing art of self-compassion clearly merits more consideration than may first meet the eye.

Today’s Takeaway: Where can you resonate with a lack of compassion towards yourself, especially when compared with the amount of compassion you extend towards loved ones and others who inhabit your inner circles? Where do you offer more human kindness to strangers on the street or pets than you do to your own self? How might your experience of being you in your own life shift if you sent a little more compassion your own way?

Self Compassion in Mentoring

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2011). Self Compassion in Mentoring. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 May 2011
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