Life’s Learning Opportunities and the Transformative Power of Self-Compassion

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Life’s Learning Opportunities and the Transformative Power of Self-Compassion


“Life comes for you, not at you.” coach john

Life brings lots of “learning opportunities”. Those situations where things happen unexpectedly. Maybe people don’t meet our expectations. Maybe we don’t meet our expectations of ourselves. Such “opportunities for growth” are great times to use compassion with ourselves.


“So, what is self-compassion and what makes it work?”

According to recently published research by Kristin D Neff, self-compassion has three integrated parts. Each of these three parts has a sliding scale of behaviours from uncompassionate to compassionate.


   These 3 parts are:

  • Self-kindness; Moving away from self-judgment,
  • A sense of common humanity; Moving away from isolation,
  • Mindfulness, an awareness of one’s present moment with clarity and balance; Moving away from over-identification, being caught up in an exaggerated story of negative aspects.

The integration of these 3 parts creates a self-compassionate frame of mind.  (Ref: Kristin D. Neff,  Dec 18, 2015, Springer Science


As we open to more choices in our life, we begin to get a new perspective on what some call “mistakes”. We can begin to see new choices. We can take authorship for our experiences and the meaning we give them.

We begin to recognize how our previous reactions set up some of the challenging situations. We begin to see how other people do the same; setting up predictable outcomes to maintain certainty, by doing the same thing over and over again.

How do we get out of these repeating patterns?

The scientific studies show that we learn and adapt better when we practice self-compassion.  Self-compassion has been shown to be more effective than techniques for boosting our self-esteem. (Ref:  Breines & Chen,


  • “How does that work?”



Self Compassion is …

… Self Kindness,

Shared Human Experience,

Mindfully Present in the Moment.

Understanding how self-compassion works in our lives supports our being more able to handle the stress and responsibility for our choices and their outcomes.  Self-compassion may look like “take a break, pause for a time out”, it does not mean “stop caring” or “lower your standards”.

First, self-kindness means to be understanding, gentle and supportive of yourself. Offering yourself unconditional acceptance, comforting and soothing yourself in times of upset. You are doing the best you can, while learning and growing. Moving away from being harsh and self-judgmental when you fall short of your goals. Letting go of needing to be perfect.

Second, self-compassion is recognizing our shared human experience of moving to excellence.  We understand that all human beings fail and make “mistakes”; that life is perfectly imperfect. Now we can see a wider, connected perspective of our growing edges and areas of challenge. We are human beings, together. Moving away from feeling alone and isolated, left out when we are not “perfect”. Its ego-driven to think “I’m the only one who fails or suffers”.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;

we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin                                                                                                                

Third, self-compassion is the choice to be aware of ourselves in the felt body sensation of the present moment. Mindful, even while in the midst of emotional pain and suffering. Still holding clarity and balance, even when upset. Just noticing being alive in this moment. There is a power is letting go of the past and the future. Being here and now is freeing. Moving away from being caught in an exaggerated storyline about chaos and drama, the negatives where we lose our connection with our self, others and life: A process called “over identification’.


  • “How does this help me?”

Studies show people who are self-compassionate also recognize they can create change. They do not create thoughts that hold them prisoner to telling themselves they are stuck or limited or broken. They imagine they can accomplish their goals in new ways and keep working at it until they succeed. They have greater resilience and adaptability.



If our focus is on protecting our self-esteem, we end up defending our ego. This makes it difficult to see the big picture of how we may be behaving and what is going on around us. If we become self-defensive, we often end up narrowing our perception of life. We risk becoming reactive, rather than authentically responsive in new situations. We naturally seek constant change and growth.

How is self-compassion so powerful? It takes fear, judgment and evaluation out of the picture. We stop measuring our value as human beings.

Self-kindness. Recognizing we are all human beings. Staying present to move through upset. Each of the 3 parts of self-compassion hold new possibilities and choices for us. Self-compassion is a key to freedom and choice.

Life will always bring challenges. How we choose to handle those situations makes the difference. Not everyone knows how. Self-compassion is an important step in the path of letting go and evolving how we handle conflict.


Here are 3 questions to explore self compassion in your heart-meditation or journaling:

Where can I practice self-kindness in my “learning opportunities”? 

How can I remind myself we are all human beings? While noticing how I am unique as my essential self.

What helps me stay present, with clarity when I’m upset?