Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • October 2015
Written by 

A mindfulness practice for anxiety and depression

A powerful practice that helps us deal with anxiety and depression is mindful self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff, researcher at the University of Texas, Austin, defines mindful self-compassion as a practice of evoking goodwill toward ourselves especially when we are suffering. It is a good practice to use when you are feeling inadequate. It replaces beating oneself up with self-criticism and recognizing that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing difficulty happens to all of us. Common humanity is a term Neff uses to acknowledge that being human means being imperfect and that all people have these sorts of painful experiences. When you have a difficult experience or at the end of a difficult day, say to yourself, “I love you, you did the best you could today and even if things didn’t turn out the way you planned, I love you anyway.”

Self-compassion is not self-pity

Neff states that self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-pity is an over identification with your problems and forgetting that we all have similar problems. Self-pity causes you to have difficulty stepping back from the situation to gain clarity, and often creates drama rather than emotional freedom. Self-pity brings more negativity and feelings of powerlessness.

Self-compassion is not self-indulgence

Neff describes how self-compassion is very different from self-indulgence. Being self-compassionate means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term; just giving into pleasure may harm your overall well-being. Having a bad day and giving yourself permission to participate in behavior that is not healthy — like drinking too much alcohol, overeating, being a coach potato — is not self-compassion. It is self-indulgence, and it will backfire in the long run.

Self-compassion versus self-esteem

Neff states, “Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways.” She points out that in modern Western culture self-esteem is often based on how different we are from others — how much we stand out or how special we are, making it not OK to be average. Working on self-esteem often creates narcissistic and self-absorbed behavior. It creates depression when we are unable to stand out as being special and sometimes ends in anger and aggression toward others as well. The need for high self-esteem can cause us to bury shortcomings rather than being aware of them and changing them. The need to be perfect is anxiety producing.

Self-compassion is not based on self-evaluation

People direct compassion to themselves because all humans deserve compassion. This means with self-compassion you don’t have to be prettier, smarter or more talented to feel good about yourself. Personal failings are less likely to cause depression and anxiety. Researchers found that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.

Visit to find out more about Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion.



Judith Rogers, L.C.S.W.

Judy Rogers, M.S., L.C.S.W., is the founder of the Mindfulness Center for Wellbeing in Neenah. She is a retired psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience.

At the Mindfulness Center for Wellbeing we teach how to live a happier and healthier life. Our workshops and classes combine the best mindfulness practices with New Thought principles. It is a powerful combination giving you the practices and knowledge for living a life of abundant happiness, health and wealth.

We will come to your place of employment, church or wellness center with our classes and workshops. Visit for more details. You can also reach us at 920-948-5101.

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