Self-Compassion: The New Alternative to Self-Esteem

by Dr. Grace Goodman & Institute Staff


Have you noticed how it’s often easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves? We have a tendency to hold ourselves to a higher standard of perfection than we hold for others. Our ultra-achievement oriented culture frequently sends the message that we need to be above average, the best, or perfect in order to feel good about ourselves.  Compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff describes how the impact on teens is that their self-esteem often goes up and down like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling with their latest successes and failures.  Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many experts believe is a better and more effective path to contentment: self-compassion.  Self-compassion is not based on self-evaluation or judgment. It is a consistent attitude of kindness and acceptance.


Research shows that developing self-compassion can:


  • Decrease anxiety
  • Decrease depression
  • Improve caring relationships
  • Improve accurate self-concept
  • Improve emotional resilience


Last Fall, the Institute for Girls Development started a new group for high schoolers to learn about and practice self-compassion: Compassion & Grit.  The Compassion & Grit Group applies current research in engaging, meaningful and fun ways to help teens increase their capacity for self-compassion and compassion for others. Compassion & Grit is intended to help teens approach life’s difficulties with kindness towards themselves and others.


See below for more resources to help you increase self-compassion!



Self-Compassion Resource List


Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, PhD

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher Germer, PhD

The Mindful Way through Anxiety by Susan M. Orsillo, PhD and Lizabeth Roemer, PhD

The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert, PhD



Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion website:

Resources for Parents and Teens on Self-Compassion:

The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion website:

Dr. Chris Germer’s Self-Compassion website:

The Mindfulness Program (MARC) at UCLA’s website:

The Mindful Website:



Website with Free Mindfulness Exercises:


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