The Difference between Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgement

Observing another human being suffering, you will most likely experience compassion for them. You will feel moved by other person’s suffering and compassionately respond to their pain with care and desire to help. Additionally, compassion means understanding others when they make mistakes or even disappoint you rather than skipping to the harsh judgment of their actions (or even worse, their personalities). Compassion means that you are conscious of common humanity, realizing that imperfection and suffering are parts of the shared human experience.

While we often readily offer our compassion to others, we tend to judge and criticize ourselves for the same shortcomings and flaws.

Why is Self-Kindness Important?

According to Kristin Neff, a pioneer researcher of self-compassion, self-kindness vs. self-judgment is one of three vital elements of self-compassion (along with common humanity vs. isolation and mindfulness vs. overidentification). Self-kindness involves offering the same understanding and compassion towards yourself when you fail, make a mistake or having a difficult time. It includes warmth, understanding, and kindness towards yourself when you fall short or feel inadequate instead of lashing yourself with self-criticism.

Self-kindness motivates you to grow and change in ways that improve your emotional and mental well-being. Having compassion for yourself means accepting that you are only a human with flaws and imperfections. A human being who encounters frustrations, losses, and failures, makes mistakes and puts up with limitations. Having self-compassion means that you understand that this is a reality shared by all human beings. It allows you to accept this reality, acknowledging that no one is perfect, and neither are you.

A self-compassionate individual understands that you are bound to be imperfect and fail as a human, so they don’t immerse themselves into self-criticism when confronted with challenges and failures but tent to be gentle and kind to themselves.

On the other hand, self-judgment is one of the main causes of frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression. However, most people don’t realize that these hurting feelings often have roots in their own self-judgments and self-destructive thoughts. In many anxious people, there is nothing actually happening that is triggering their anxiety, other than their own self-critical thoughts.

Why are We So Hooked on Self-Judgement?

People commonly falsely believe that self-judgment will protect them from other people’s judgment and rejection. In other words, we incorrectly think that by self-criticizing ourselves we will be safe from other people’s judgment.

However, instead of motivating you, self-judgment will create anxiety that will immobilize you and prevent you from accomplishing goals and seizing opportunities in life.

How to Overcome Self-Judgment?

To rise above self-judgment and self-criticism, you need to become aware of your self-judging thoughts and feelings of fear, anger, anxiety or depression that these thoughts trigger. Once you become aware of your self-negative talk and harmful feelings, ask yourself how certain you are that what you are telling yourself is true. Open your heart and mind to the truth. This will allow you to discover a caring and compassionate way of speaking to yourself.

Learning to recognize your self-judgments is a process that requires patience and dedication. However, self-compassion is the only way to emotional composure. Once you learn how to be self-compassionate, you will start feeling loved, self-assured, and safe.