Self Compassion for Anxiety


What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common experience for many people, and it can manifest in a variety of ways, including worry, fear, and physical symptoms like racing heart or sweating. While anxiety can be challenging to manage, self-compassion can be a helpful tool in reducing its impact. However, there are also situations where self-compassion may not be the most effective approach. In this blog post, we’ll explore how self-compassion can help with anxiety and where it might not be as helpful.

What is self-compassion?

 Kristin Neff, a researcher in the field defines it as “ simply the process of turning compassion inward.  We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate.  We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives.”   

How can it be helpful?

Self-compassion can be helpful in managing anxiety for several reasons:

  1. Reducing self-criticism: When we experience anxiety, it’s common to engage in self-criticism or negative self-talk. Self-compassion can help us recognize when we’re being self-critical and shift our focus to more supportive and understanding self-talk.
  2. Reducing rumination: Anxiety often involves rumination, or repetitive negative thoughts. Self-compassion can help us break the cycle of rumination by acknowledging our thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  3. Increasing emotional regulation: Self-compassion can help us regulate our emotions by acknowledging and accepting our feelings. This can help us avoid getting caught up in our emotions and reacting impulsively.

When is it unhelpful?

While self-compassion can be helpful in managing anxiety, there are also situations where it might not be the most effective approach. For example:

  1. When it reinforces avoidance of accountability: Self-compassion should not be used as an excuse to avoid responsibility or self-improvement. It’s important to balance self-compassion with accountability and a commitment to personal growth.
  2. When it Strengthens avoidance: While self-compassion can help us manage difficult emotions, it’s important not to use it as a way to avoid challenging situations or experiences. Sometimes, we need to confront our fears and anxieties in order to grow and overcome them.
  3. When it isolates us: Self-compassion is about treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, but it’s also important to remember that we are part of a larger community. It’s important to balance self-care with care for others and our broader social responsibilities.

In summary, self-compassion can be a helpful tool in managing anxiety, but it’s important to use it in a balanced and thoughtful way. By using self-compassion to reduce self-criticism, rumination, and increase emotional regulation, we can manage our anxiety more effectively. However, it’s also important to avoid using self-compassion as justification for avoidance. With a mindful and balanced approach, self-compassion can be a powerful tool in reducing the impact of anxiety and promoting greater well-being.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, self-criticism, anxious rumination and negative self-talk, we can assist. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for anxiety can help you to change these experiences and you can learn to increase your self compassion. CBT for anxiety has been extensively researched and is considered an effective therapy.  Book an appointment at the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne today by calling 03 9077 0122 or booking online. Our team of experienced psychologists are here to help you overcome your challenges and improve your capacity for self compassion.


Neff, K. D. (2003). Development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250.

Otte C. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy in anxiety disorders: current state of the evidence. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience13(4), 413–421.