“To love oneself,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “is the beginning of a life-long romance.”  Love comes easy on good days when our self-esteem stands tall. It’s when we fall that our self-directed goodwill often deserts us. Suddenly, we remember all our faults. Our internal monologue clouds with harsh judgments. We blame and shame ourselves.

One way of reclaiming our well-being is through self-compassion. As a concept derived from Buddhist psychology, self-compassion entails treating oneself with kindness and care, like we would treat a dear friend.

Researchers have identified three main components of self-compassion: self-kindness, feelings of common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to acting in kind and understanding ways towards ourselves. For example, instead of being critical (I’m so disorganized! I’ll never be successful!), our inner voice is supportive and warm (It’s OK that I missed the deadline. I worked hard and I’ll make it next time). A sense of common humanity is the recognition that everyone makes mistakes and no one is without their weaknesses. Accepting that we are not alone in our suffering comforts us with feelings of inclusivity rather than alienation. Finally, mindfulness offers a “meta-perspective” on our hardships, helping us to not exaggerate our distress and become engulfed by it.

A wealth of research has shown the positive consequences of self-compassion on numerous aspects of our well-being.  Self-compassion is also associated with less self-criticism, anxiety and fear of failure.  So, self-compassion can lead to greater emotional resilience, since unlike self-esteem, our heightened feelings of self-worth will not rely on our successes.

So ask yourself “What would I say to a dear friend in a situation like this and how would I say it?

Self-compassion begins with the intention of wholehearted kindness towards ourselves.  Remember, you yourself deserve your kindness. “You yourself,” as the Buddhist saying goes, “as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”