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Sowing Seeds of Self-Compassion

by Mary Jo Liew ASEBP | March 5 2021

“Be kind to others, so that you may learn the secret art of being kind to yourself."
--Paramahansa Yogananda

This month marks one-year since the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to hit pause on ‘normal life.’

I will never take for granted socializing with family and friends, face-to-face meetings, the ability to gather in large crowds, travel to new places, or go to the grocery store without coming out drenched in hand sanitizer.

Without a doubt, there have been challenges and we’ve had to learn, grow, and adapt in ways we never expected. Over the last year, we’ve heard many stories of educators coming together to support each other in times of difficulty.

From teachers sharing knowledge with colleagues in how to deliver lessons online, to others sharing stories of resilience and connecting through their experiences in leading a team during a pandemic, there is comfort in knowing we are not alone. If you haven’t seen it, check out this EdCan Network article on lessons learned from educators during COVID-19.

Despite how we’ve risen to this unprecedented challenge, we still tend to be harder on ourselves than others.

Recently, I led a team meeting and used the Letter to Yourself wellness activity as an ice breaker. The activity asks you to reflect on how you treat others, compared with how you treat yourself.

It wasn’t until I completed this exercise that I realized we don’t usually extend ourselves the same empathy and compassion that we have for our friends, colleagues, and family. Why is it that self-compassion seems so indulgent? Does being critical and competitive of oneself help us achieve our goals?

While we may think that being hard on ourselves pushes us to do better, it often has the opposite effect. Research shows that being overly critical of oneself contributes to insecurity, can lead to isolation, and can prevent us from learning from our failures.

Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research states, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings—after all, whoever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Dr. Neff’s model has three components to it:

  • Self Kindness: Life is full of difficulties and challenges. Accept that things are not meant to be perfect all the time.
  • Common Humanity: Recognizing that everyone is human and we all make mistakes. We all experience difficulties, and we are not alone.
  • Mindfulness: Awareness that when we are stressed, we should strive to be non-judgmental to ourselves.

There are many benefits to practicing self-compassion. Check out this EdCan Network webinar that explains people who are more self-compassionate are happier, less stressed, and more resilient. When we are self-compassionate, we are better able to handle the challenges life throws at us and more optimistic in doing so.

As we get ready to welcome spring, I challenge you to sow your own seeds of compassion and incorporate some of these exercises into your day. Whatever your role is, remember to give yourself grace and be gentle with yourself.

The next time you’re setting personal goals, consider how being kind to yourself can help you succeed. When we are kind to ourselves and focus on the positive, we can achieve great things.

Not every day is going to turn out the way we want it. Check out Reach Out to Build a Better Mental Health for a reminder of the supports available to you.

Visit for more self-care info, community resources and support. Follow us on Facebook at #YourASEBP and #ThinkShareHeal and on Twitter at @ASEBP.


Mary Jo Liew

Mary Jo, or MJ as her family and friends call her, is an ASEBP workplace wellness consultant with a passion for all aspects of mental and physical wellness. When MJ isn’t at work, you can find her chasing after her two boys, or out for family walks with her goldendoodle dog. In her quest for balance she can be found teaching at her local barre studio, or working on testing the perfect cookie recipe.