Self compassion versus the inner critic

An evening with Kristin Neff – the self-compassion expert

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’re probably aware that I am a big fan of Brene Brown, the Texan academic who is spreading the message across the globe of the gifts of imperfection and courage in vulnerability. Brene speaks of wholeheartedness, and that’s where my inspiration for helping people to move into alignment within themselves so they can build a wholehearted business comes from.

Brene led me to another woman with an equally important message, especially for those of us with a harsh inner critic. Dr Kristin Neff is also a Texan academic and she has focused on the power of self-compassion for the past ten years.

I was on cloud nine last week when I discovered that both women were speaking in Sydney within the month – the universe seems to be lining up things for me!

I’d like to share the key messages from the presentation that Kristin gave as a guest of Developing self-compassion has been a gift to herself, she explained. It helped her tremendously as she parented her autistic son, easing herself out of self-pity as she and her husband faced very demanding challenges,

Open your heart to yourself

We would all likely describe ourselves to be a good friend, available and compassionate to those we care about when they are experiencing pain or loss or struggling with a difficult situation.

But what about ourselves?

If you are “typical “, it’s highly likely that you tend to cut yourself out of the circle of self-compassion, says Kristin. Instead, we often lose ourselves in the throes of self-criticism, not appreciating the opportunity and need for self-compassion.

Who amongst us has managed to escape the attention of our internal self-critic? Very few I would guess.

What’s the tone of that inner voice?

What does it say to you?

Is it gentle? Forgiving? Does it reassure and encourage you to try again? Does it express its belief in your ability, your likelihood to succeed?

Or does it bemoan your lack of progress, your obvious shortcomings, pointing out how stupid or scared or foolish you are? That you will never make it, that everyone else is doing a better job, being a better parent, partner or entrepreneur?

In my own experience that insidious wee voice is very quick to critique, to notice when I have tripped or hesitated or not quite managed to achieve something at the level I expected of myself.

Fortunately, self-compassion is a learned skill and a habit that we can develop and it leads to increased self-worth, intrinsic motivation and emotional resilience.

Who would like a dose of that?!

Kristin shared the three components to practice to increase your own self-compassion:

Self Kindness versus self-judgment

We are encouraged to take our own emotional pain seriously, To pause and acknowledge that what you are experiencing is painful and should not be trivialised. It doesn’t matter the source or the cause, pain is pain and your perception is reality. So treat yourself with care and understanding, not harsh judgment. Actively soothe and comfort yourself.

I like to think of this step as turning your heart towards yourself.

Common Humanity versus isolation

Recognise that you are not alone. That everyone struggles. You are not separate and having a unique experience – this is a part of the larger human experience. Life is imperfect. Feel united with others who have also experienced pain and loss and fear and struggle. Feel the connection that will lessen the sense of isolation and distress.

I like to think of this step as expanding your heart.

Mindfulness versus over-identification

Avoid suppressing your emotions (it’s not important, it doesn’t matter how I feel) or running away with painful emotions (ah, this is the end, why do I even try, it’s hopeless and pointless…..) Instead, practice mindfulness. Sit with the feeling. Be with your painful feelings. Recognise them as being real, but not able to destroy you in themselves. You are not your feelings.

I like to think of this step as balancing your heart.

When these three mindful steps are taken, self-compassion can flourish, your inner critic can fade into the background and you can move towards your goals with more grace, ease and wholeheartedness.

If you’d like to learn more about Kristin’s work you can purchase her book online at Booktopia here.

Self-compassion is a core component of my own work on Self-Worth – you can take the Self-Worth Quiz on the Centre for Self Worth Hub here.

I’d love to hear from you:

  • Do you have an inner critic that has a thing or two to say to you?
  • How do you practice self-kindness?
  • Do you minimise your feelings of pain or struggle?

Self-compassion is a learned skill, one that is so very worth developing for a more wholehearted business and life.

Take the Inner Critic Quiz

Angela Raspass

Business Mentor, Author and Founder of the Centre for Self Worth, Angela blends strategy & self-worth to support business owners & leaders develop sustainable, impactful & fulfilling visions. What will unfold in Your Next Chapter?


  1. Simone on July 10, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Great article Angela and such an important aspect of self development. Thank you.

    • Angela Raspass on July 10, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Thanks Simone – yes it is, and so easy to overlook in the big picture. I’d love to see more of us develop this valuable tool so we can more effectively address that inner critic who can be rather fierce at times!

  2. lyndal - on July 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for your generous sharing. Recently gained some understanding of those inner critic voices…even the ones that can throw you into a panic attack. Refreshing to realise you can choose which thoughts to pay attention to and show some love to yourself.

    • Angela Raspass on July 16, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      Hi Lyndal, you’re welcome…. and yes, recognising we have a choice is so important – awareness when the critic is showing up and having a strategy to work with so you don’t let her get you down….. a little dose of self love and compassion goes a long way 🙂

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