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Fostering Emotional Resilience by Practicing Self-Compassion

We need to treat ourselves with kindness despite our shortcomings.

Key points

  • Emotional resilience, the capacity to adapt to adversity, trauma, and tragedy, can help people cope during times of uncertainty.
  • Practicing self-compassion involves accepting one's shortcomings in a healthy way and can further develop emotional resilience.
  • Ways to practice self-compassion include taking care of one's physical health, practicing mindfulness, and allowing oneself to make mistakes.

For over a year, we have been experiencing unprecedented and challenging times. Although it seems as if circumstances are slowly improving, there is no definite answer as to when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. More importantly, we have not been able to assess the full psychological impact of the pandemic. This uncertainty poses a risk for our health and well-being.

However, as human beings, we all have resilience — the capacity to adapt to adversity, trauma, and tragedy. This has been a skill that we have been exhibiting throughout these times. Even though sometimes it may seem like a challenging task, emotional resilience can be fostered daily. One of the ways this can be achieved is by embodying the practice of self-compassion — the act of treating ourselves with acceptance, understanding, and kindness, regardless of our personal shortcomings.

Many often confuse self-compassion with self-pity or selfishness. Nonetheless, self-compassion involves recognizing our humanity by accepting that we are all imperfect, flawed individuals (Neff, 2015). Having self-compassion does not mean that we ignore our negative characteristics but acknowledge them with empathy and kindness, which allows us to process and grow without dwelling in self-pity.

Moreover, acts of self-compassion can be easily mistaken for selfishness. This thought process is associated with the common belief that to be caring and considerate for the welfare of others, we must neglect or treat ourselves unfavorably. Some may even feel as if they need to sacrifice their own well-being, or put themselves last, to prove that they care for the feelings of their loved ones. This misconception has been proven wrong by psychological research, which has recently shown that when we take care and are good to ourselves, we are also good to others (Neff, 2015). Therefore, we must normalize prioritizing our own welfare by taking actions that promote and protect our psychological safety and resilience.

AscentXmedia, iStock
Source: AscentXmedia, iStock

Tips for Practicing Self-Compassion

The following are some self-compassion strategies that we can incorporate into our daily lives to foster our emotional resilience.

1. Make time to take care of your body and physical health. Practicing self-care should not be considered a privilege but a necessity. Incorporating positive lifestyle factors can help us reduce stress, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and foster resilience. These factors include maintaining proper nutrition, getting enough rest and sleep, exercising regularly, and practicing a fun, enjoyable activity or hobby during the week.

2. Practice mindfulness. Usually, when we make mistakes, we engage in negative rumination, which is described as experiencing excessive and intrusive thoughts of our negative experiences and feelings. Negative rumination also usually involves self-defeating thoughts that may increase our self-criticism and judgment. However, practicing mindfulness, or awareness of these thoughts and feelings, can help us lessen self-criticism and balance our emotions. Mindfulness can also help us acknowledge and accept our shortcomings and reduce feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

3. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us the beauty of the shared human experience. We all experience adversity, and we all make mistakes. None of us are perfect, and we must acknowledge that having flaws is part of our humanity. Remind yourself that erring is human, and therefore, you cannot and do not need to be perfect.


American Psychological Association. (2012). Building your resilience.

Neff, K. (2015). The Five Myths of Self-Compassion. Mind & Body.

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