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Fostering Self Compassion in the Workplace


By Taya Wong, National Client Relationship Coordinator, Wellness Works Canada


Self compassion is like when you demonstrate compassion to a family member, friend, or a co-worker, but extend it to yourself. It is simple to extend our kindness to others, but it is hard to do the same thing to ourselves. Often, we are judgmental and critical of our own actions. The idea of self compassion proposed by Kristen Neff focuses on how to share the empathy that we give and receive from others but for ourselves during vulnerable and difficult times.

Self compassion can give one patience and understanding. It can assist against maladaptive thoughts, fear of failure, and perfectionistic tendencies. Giving yourself self compassion can let you breathe and have a break from exhausting stress. This attribute can also prevent burnout and loss of motivation. Self compassion can increase resiliency to prepare for the next hardship.


Three Components of Self Compassion:

1. Common humanity is recognizing the idea of being human. When one makes a mistake or is a part of failure, it is easy to only assume you are the only one to experience this isolating feeling. This vulnerable and shared feeling allows us to realize that we are only human. Everyone makes mistakes. Exercising this trait also contributes to psychological safety, making teams more effective and innovative.


2. Self kindness is being understanding and empathetic towards oneself. It is easy to be kind and warm to others, but it is hard to be like that for ourselves. This requires us to take things in stride, realizing that we are imperfect and letting the go any self criticism. Life is dynamic and ever changing, therefore one must grow and learn with the hardships and the successes. Ultimately being kind to oneself can alleviate internal suffering and stress.


3. Mindfulness is the action of being in the present moment. Overall, this means letting go of judgmental thoughts and ideas. Negative thoughts are going to happen, but it is important to acknowledge them and let them go. This is crucial to not get caught in anxiety provoking thinking. Instead, exercise mindfulness and observe thoughts and feelings, recognize the state there are in, and try not to suppress or deny them.


Strategies to foster self compassion in the workplace:

  • Take a step back and reconnect with yourself: Getting overwhelmed can be easy when there are demands and and a lot of stress. Therefore, taking the time to stop and take a breath can help slow your thoughts down to the present.

  • Reframe negative and maladaptive thoughts: Taking the time to recognize when your thoughts are becoming negative and stifling is crucial to reframe them. It is important to switch these maladaptive thoughts with positive affirmations. To increase this in the office, get some Mental Health First Aid kits with loads of positive affirmation cards that people can grab as a reminder.

  • New Perspectives: This can be an opportunity for growth and seeing experiences in a different light. Remember to reach out to others for help, whether it be something small like a quick check in, or something bigger like asking for assistance during a project. People often forget that others can share different or similar experiences that you may encounter. This can help protect against isolating thinking and dissociation of oneself. If you are a leader, make it easy for staff to get a hold of you.

  • Exercises: This can include breathing techniques such as placing a hand over the heart while breathing deeply. Writing in a journal is a good tool to place your thoughts on paper. Meditation can be helpful to soothe the soul and be in the present moment.

At work, there are all kinds of demands, piling tasks and stress. Using self compassion as a resource can be a beneficial way to take a pause and destress. Research has shown a decrease in anxiety, depression, self criticism, and rumination when using self compassion. On the other hand, studies state an increase in connectiveness with oneself, self determination, and overall well-being with self compassion. In conclusion, self compassion is sharing the empathy normally expected from others during hardships but towards yourself. It fosters self kindness, realizing that everyone is human and notion to stay in the present moment. Overall, self compassion can relieve internal stress and tension bottled up, acknowledging various thoughts, and letting them go.


In short, self compassion is not selfish, it fosters self-determination and well-being.


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