Compassion towards yourself: 4 obstacles

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Robert Maurer

Compassion towards yourself: 4 obstacles

Being kind to ourselves improves our mood and gives us motivation and creativity to solve any problem. However, some people reject this idea. How come?

Last update: May 31, 2022

Feeling compassion for yourself is rare, also because for a long time the term was given a negative connotation. It has been associated with grieving, pain, pity, and passivity, among other aspects. However, this is not the case.

One of the reasons we are not compassionate with ourselves is that, in principle, it is an attitude we take with others. From an etymological point of view, the term comes from the Latin cumpassio, which means 'to suffer together'. It goes beyond empathy: it is getting in tune with the other and suffering together.

When this term is not applied to others, but to oneself, it means to sympathize with one's pain. Not to silence it, question it or disguise it, but to welcome it in a positive way, with a sense of self-care and self-protection.

However, several factors prevent you from feeling compassion for yourself. We present them in the following lines.

"Compassion can be defined as the ability to recognize one's own suffering and that of others, and do everything possible to prevent or alleviate it in the best possible way."

-P. Gilbert-

Factors that prevent you from feeling compassion for yourself

1. Confusing compassion with pity

It is common to confuse being compassionate with pity or victimhood. Although they share the same root, what differentiates one from the other is the action involved.

When we feel sorry for ourselves, what we do is recognize suffering and experience it. In other words, detect a wound and be aware of its presence. The ideal is to let others see and recognize it as well.

One goes further when one feels compassion for oneself, since it's not just about acknowledging your own hurt or pain, but also to understand them and heal them in a loving way. An exercise of respect and self-care, not an exaltation of suffering.

2. Not knowing how to be compassionate towards yourself

One of the main obstacles to cultivating compassion for yourself is that many times you don't know how to do it. On a theoretical level, we can understand what it means to sympathize with one's pain, but it is not always easy to translate it into daily practice.

It is necessary to know and sensitize yourself before being compassionate. Only in this way is it possible to identify the presence of pain or suffering and perceive its intensity. Taking care of yourself means not exposing yourself or limiting exposure to what hurts us. Also reduce personal demands when you are vulnerable.

Many times the best way to be compassionate to yourself is to allow yourself to ask for help. There are situations that, for one reason or another, we cannot solve individually. Asking and accepting the hand of others is also a way to show solidarity with our pain.

3. Thinking that treating yourself badly makes you stronger

One of the great obstacles in exercising self-compassion. There is a misconception that one is strong when one resists attacks without flinching, as if we were oaks.

The path of desensitization can protect us from suffering to some degree. It doesn't make us immune to it, but it does create some resistance that mitigates the damage. The problem is that this also leads to indolence and prevents one from living fully.

Insensitivity is not strength. True strength lies in the ability to stay in touch with our essence and at peace thanks to it. Being compassionate towards yourself makes you strong because it helps you understand yourself better and adopt the most accurate position in all circumstances.

4. Don't cultivate compassion for yourself for fear of being selfish

Another mistaken belief is that which leads to confusion between compassion and selfishness. The idea that focusing too much on ourselves is an affront to others it is widely shared. Aren't there people who are worse off than us? What would they say if they saw us give so much importance to our suffering?

The truth is, it is very difficult to be compassionate towards others if you are not compassionate towards yourself first. One is closely related to the other. Each one finds humanity within himself, through the path of sensitivity and understanding.


If we can be compassionate with ourselves, we reduce sterile self-criticism, we increase trust in us and even strengthen the immune system.

We also become more understanding and supportive of others. In short, this healthy habit makes us better people.

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