In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of self-compassion. This blog has been written in a way to incite self-reflection. 

One definition of compassion is the following: “We propose that compassion consists of five elements: recognising suffering, understanding the universality of human suffering, feeling for the person suffering, tolerating uncomfortable feelings, and motivation to act/acting to alleviate suffering.” (Strauss, Lever Taylor, Gu, Kuyken, Baer, Jones and Cavanagh, 2016)

So, from this definition, here are some points for self-reflection. 

  • Do I recognise my own suffering? How do I recognise suffering in myself?

Oftentimes, we go through our days so blindly and out of routine that we do not even feel our body’s signals or sensations. It might be true that I am coping and doing well in some areas, but it does not mean that I do not carry some difficult emotions. 

Let’s say in terms of grief. Even if I can continue working, it does not mean that the grief is not there. At this stage, it is important for me to know how I am suffering. Is it that I am experiencing mood swings? Am I experiencing more irritability? How does my body feel? Am I tense, or do I feel fatigued? These are some general questions, and it is important for an individual to see their own personal experience. What I wish to highlight here is that even seemingly unrelated things can be connected in ways that we are not aware of. Psychotherapy can help in untangling these feelings and in gathering more awareness.

  • Do we recognise that this is a shared experience? Or are we harsh with the way we are experiencing things? Do we expect more from ourselves than from others?

People have a myriad of thoughts and feel a multitude of feelings, often even contradicting ones. With more awareness and insight, one can know how we usually function, what our baseline is, and what can help in the moment. 

It is important that we do not get caught up with judgements or outdated beliefs (about ourselves or others). The more we attend to these judgments rather than the feelings themselves, the more we isolate ourselves. We isolate ourselves from further awareness, from getting adequate help, and from being present.

  • Do we ‘feel for’ our own suffering? Do we feel our suffering at all? What sense do we make out of our own suffering? Do we accept it blindly?

I have met many individuals who have learnt that one way or another it is not ok for them to be in a negative space, and it is not acceptable to have negative feelings. Many times, this comes from the same outdated beliefs that would need to be challenged, but perhaps more pressingly, the individual needs to feel and know that they will be ok even if they do.

One needs to keep in mind that acknowledging what you are experiencing and honouring it is far from whining. It is the only way to accept it. Accepting feelings is the only way we can truly move on and learn from them.

  • Tolerating uncomfortable feelings. Am I able to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and to stay with them? Do we ‘wait it out’ or get too scared of the feeling?

As we mentioned, being present with and accepting your experience is the only way to truly reflect and grow from it.  This is probably the hardest part, and it is something that often needs to be done over and over again. 

  • What do we do with that suffering? 

Try to move from the experience with the newly gained insights and grow as a person. This will often come about naturally as we process things in more depth. We might also need a little more support from friends, family, and professionals too and this is ok. Making meaning of situations is an important part of life experiences and it’s also what helps us integrate things.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Jessica Saliba Thorne is a Gestalt psychotherapist. She has experience within the mental health field and sees adults with mental health difficulties, relationship issues and trauma at Willingness.


Strauss, Clara & Lever Taylor, Billie & Gu, Jenny & Kuyken, Willem & Baer, Ruth & Jones, Fergal & Cavanagh, Kate. (2016). What is Compassion and How Can We Measure it? A Review of Definitions and Measures. Clinical Psychology Review. 47. 10.1016/j.cpr.2016.05.004.