6 mins read

When people think of the way that they view themselves and interact with themselves, people’s common engagement is with self-esteem. 

Self-esteem involves the positive evaluation of self-worth, comparing yourself to others (including a past version of yourself) and leaning into areas that you have improved from your past self or are better than others. This works out well when things are going positively and we are succeeding in accomplishing our goals and tasks. But, when we fail, self-esteem tends to desert us and we are left with low self-worth and shame.

As an Enneagram One, I always struggled with self-esteem. I have a strong critic voice that can latch on to imperfections at any given moment. So, when it came to comparing myself to others or a past version of myself, it was very rare that I could come out of that feeling good about myself. Even if you aren’t an Enneagram One, placing our value of self solely on self-esteem is setting ourselves up for much fluctuation and instability.

This is why Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer’s work in self-compassion is so vital and something I am grateful to have come across and to share with others. I highly recommend reading/working through their workbook: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.

There are numerous excellent practices and research within this book, but a piece that I continually lean into and share with others is the three components of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness.

Kristin and Christopher share that mindfulness does include the traditional sense of the word that many are familiar with, which is being attuned to what is going on in our body and being attuned to the present moment. In this step, we work to name the emotions that we are experiencing and the way in which those emotions are presenting themselves. A piece about their explanation of mindfulness that I really appreciate is that they also explain that we shouldn’t over-identify or ruminate in this step. This occurred for me recently, when my experience with anxiety became my sole identity, and it has been really helpful to remember that there is a fine line between “naming and taming” and “ruminating and being stuck.” They explain that we shouldn’t over identify with our emotions and experiences at this step. An example of over-identifying would be believing that we as a whole are a failure as a person whenever we make a mistake.

The next step is common humanity. This step involves recognizing that failure and suffering are part of the human experience. When we are in the midst of suffering or having made a mistake, it can be easy to fall into thoughts of being the only person to be in this state. Especially when shame is present, feelings and thoughts of being in isolation will be very strong. So, this step involves reminding ourselves that we are not alone and that others have been through what we are going through. This step also involves being rational about the experience and identifying contributing factors to what occurred. Maybe you lost your patience with your kids lately and feel regret and sadness over this. Common humanity would be recognizing that parents lose their patience sometimes and that getting only a few hours of sleep at night is likely contributing to your shortened fuse.

The last step in self-compassion is self-kindness. This step involves speaking to ourselves in the same way that we would talk to a friend. Being an Enneagram One, this is something I have always struggled with. But, something that I have found really beneficial and helpful with self-compassion is that we are leaning into and identifying that we are suffering or that we made a mistake. Taking that initial step in naming those experiences tends to appease my critic voice and allows it to quiet down enough that self-kindness is actually possible. The goal here is to speak to ourselves with warmth and kindness.

When I first started with this practice it was helpful to go through each step daily and journal it. After doing this for some time, it started to become more natural for me in my everyday processing without having to write it out.  

I know that things that work for me may not necessarily be as effective for others, but I always encourage people to at least give these things a shot. So, if you find yourself tired of the fluctuation of only leaning into self-esteem, you find yourself with a strong critic voice or you want to work on being kinder to yourself, then I strongly encourage giving self-compassion a try.


Kylie Larson, MA, LPC

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Outside of the therapy room, Kylie enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the world through the eyes of her son, adventuring with her husband, running around with her dogs, cheering on our Kansas City teams, gardening, being active, reading and exploring new recipes.

Professional Background
Bachelors in Elementary Education from Kansas State University, 2015
Master of Arts in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University, 2020

Kansas Counseling Association
American Counseling Association

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