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  • KS Services, LLC

Updated: Nov 13, 2020


Often parents are told about self-esteem and the importance of increasing levels of self-esteem in children and teens.  While the motivation to increase self-esteem is praise-worthy, research shows that there are more beneficial avenues for overall wellness with teens when they are able to implement self-compassion.  Dr Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research, has found that people who practice self-compassion are less critical of themselves, experience lower levels of anxiety and depression, and also have increased satisfaction with life (Neff et al., 2007).  One of the major differences between self-compassion and self-esteem lies in the fact that self-esteem is increased or decreased in comparison with others; self-esteem is, in essence, a value based practice.  Self-compassion involves being kind to oneself no matter the outcome. Self-compassion is a judgement free practice that acknowledges successes and failures as part of the human experience and dismisses critical thinking and self-talk. 

If you have an adolescent, you may be wondering how to begin to implement this practice.  How do we teach our teens to accept failures? How do we teach our teens to avoid comparison and focus on self-kindness and acceptance? 


First, it is critical to acknowledge that this is a practice.  Self-compassion is a skill that is learned and must be modeled and then modeled again.  Just as you work to teach your adolescent self-compassion, practice your own acts of self-compassion.  Ensure that your teen sees you model these behaviors on a daily basis.  


One of the major components of self-compassion is acknowledging common humanity. When your teen is struggling with a particular emotion - normalize it.  Often teens feel alone in their questions, anxiety, depression, loneliness, frustration.  Normalize the humanity of their feelings.  Help your teen understand that adolescence is a difficult time for everyone and that struggling is completely normal.  When you normalize your teen’s experience, you are not minimizing their struggles but helping them understand that others (whether they see or not) are experiencing the same emotions. They are not alone.


Help your teen understand self-compassion is quite simple to practice; it is treating yourself the way you would treat a friend.  Practicing self-compassion is simply asking ourselves, “What would I say to a friend in this situation?”  Have your teen tell you what they would tell a friend who was struggling academically, socially, or feeling alone.  That is compassion. Now have your teen tell themselves the same.  Have your teen do for themselves what they would have done for a friend.


Your teen may resist the idea of “treating myself as I would treat a friend” because it may take away their competitive edge.  Maybe your teen is fearful that practicing self-compassion would lead to complacency.  Research shows the exact opposite is true.  Remind your teen that research shows those who practice self-compassion are actually more likely to complete tasks and avoid procrastination (Neff et al., 2007).  That seems counterintuitive, but those who practice self-compassion tend to get things done faster because they are less consumed with fears of failure or doubt.  When self-compassion is a part of the daily practice, failure is not quite so scary.


Self-compassion is a skill that must be developed and practiced. As we slowly shift from increasing self-esteem to increasing self-compassion, we are able to develop stability in our wellness.  As Dr Neff states, we can “begin to feel good about ourselves not because we are special and above average but because we are human beings intrinsically worthy of respect” (Neff et al., 2007). 


If you need more guidance and resources on increasing self-compassion with your teen, feel free to email KS Services with questions.  


Laura Waller, MS

https://www.keystoneservices.biz/laura-waller-ms


Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.004.

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Self-compassion is not a term we hear often.  We often hear about increasing our self-esteem, building up our self-confidence, or finding time for self-care.  Where does self-compassion fit into this conversation?  Self-compassion is the practice of implementing self-kindness in our thoughts and actions; recognizing that mistakes, failures, and frustrations are part of being human; and being mindful of our feelings without judging them.  These three components allow us to give ourselves the same compassion on a daily basis that we offer our friends and family.  


Practicing self-compassion can be challenging which is exactly why we must practice it.  Here are a few steps to get you started…

  1. Check in with yourself and your feelings. Ask yourself how things are  going and how you are feeling. This emotion wheel can help you really specify what is going on for you.

  2. Be mindful of how you feel without judgement (Don’t blame yourself or feel guilty for feeling a certain way.) Think about how you would speak to a friend or your child...would you call them ‘stupid’ or ‘weak’ for feeling the same way you are currently feeling?

  3. Remind yourself that feeling the way you are feeling is part of being human, and you are not alone in feeling this way.

  4. Ask yourself - what would you tell a friend about this situation?

  5. Ask yourself what you need right now.

Step Five can be one of the most challenging components of self-compassion as it can feel “selfish” to identify and take care of our own needs.  Maybe you are feeling agitated and need to take a walk and soften the body (walking, exercising, yoga).  Maybe you are feeling lonely and need to connect with a friend or family member (Facetime, phone call, sit outside with a neighbor).  Maybe you are feeling drained and need to recharge (power nap, listen to music or podcasts, read a book). Maybe you feel frustrated and need to engage with a creative outlet (poetry, write in a journal, draw/sketch/paint).  The goal in Step Five is to show yourself kindness and compassion by responding to your needs.  Remind yourself this takes practice, but as you embrace a mindset of self-compassion, you are also modeling to those around you the importance of identifying and responding to needs in a healthy manner.  This is a skill that can have profound effects.  As Christopher Gember stated, “A moment of self-compassion can change the course of your day.  A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”  


If you’d like more information on how to implement the practice of self-compassion in your own life or need resources, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services, LLC.


Laura Waller, MS

https://www.keystoneservices.biz/laura-waller-ms


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  • KS Services, LLC

Do you ever find yourself regularly asking your partner, spouse, or even teen, "How are you?" and the response is the same. "Good." "Fine." "OK."


Or when you are asked the same questions, do you have difficulty offering a different response? It is no surprise that many adults and even more children struggle to identify their emotions.

This wheel of emotions, created by Robert Plutchik, is a useful tool to help not just you but also others understand what they are feeling. It offers a visual representation of primary emotions, displaying the varying nuances and complexities of different feelings.


Start at the center of the wheel at one of the seven primary emotions, and work your way towards the outside of the wheel to dig deeper into what you are feeling. Identification of your emotions will help you understand yourself better, put a name to, and come to terms with your emotions in many different contexts.


Identification of your emotions is one of the first steps in developing the ability to practice self-compsasion. Once we understand how we are feeling, we are better able to identify what we need in that moment. The same is true for practicing compassion with those around us. Once we undrstnad how our spouse, partner, or adolescent is feeling, we are better equpped to take care of those needs.

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