Offering Yourself Kindness | Educational Outreach and Student Services

     What if I told you ‘no pain, no gain’ is a myth? Or at least in the way you think about it. In a world where we’re told to do everything, all at once, the right way, the first time, we often find ourselves comparing where we are, with where we want to be. If you just related to that sentence, congratulations, you’re human. 

     College students experience a different type of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), where in four years, we are trying to maximize our education, opportunities, experience, and figuring out who the we are. You ask yourself, “How do I get job experience”, “I wish I went to spin class last night”, “My resume is not as full as my roommate’s”, “Do I even like my major”, “I am doing it all, but should I be doing more? Can I do more”? These are the existential questions of a college student at 2 A.M. And when there are questions, there is a scientist doing research!

     Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher at UT Austin is an education scientist studying how self compassion affects productivity and success. The 30 second summary: being kind to yourself in failure could make you more successful! Dr. Neff has three components of compassion that could change the game.

  1. Mindfulness

     Those long days and sleepless nights, where we have stress in the here- n’-now with future oriented anxieties. Yeah, that’s the cortisol cocktail. When we experience stress it impacts us and our well-being in so many areas- body, mind, and spirit. This coupled with comparison, you are feeding your vices and impacting your overall success. 

     Dr. Neff defines mindfulness as an opportunity to experience one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them (2003). Mindfulness is a life skill that allows you to be aware of what is occurring in the moment and what that might mean for you. In knowing yourself better, you are able to build skills to overcome stress. 

  1. Self kindness

     Have you ever had a moment where you locked your keys in the car and said some explicative, followed by something along the lines of “I’m the dumbest person in the world”? That is a form of self-criticism and honestly, we do this to ourselves a lot. When we experience an overwhelming moment, our brain and body are listening. This impacts your success.

     Dr. Neff recommends developing kindness where you respond to yourself with curiosity and understanding. Much like talking to a friend, they wouldn’t say you have the attention span of a goldfish for leaving your keys in the car. They might say something like, “You have been really stressed lately”, “This one event doesn’t define you”, or even “I know that felt frustrating for you. How can I help you right now”? When you are able to explore your situation with self kindness, you are more likely to support yourself in solving problems.

  1. Human connectedness

     Humanity. No matter how hard you look at it, you are within the realm of your own possibility- and that is your representation of ‘perfect’. Of course it would be nice to have the perfect internship, the ideal grades, and the most impressive resume in the pile- that’s what college wants to instill, academic validation. However, realistic expectations of yourself and next steps might serve you better in the long run.

     This isn’t to say ‘don’t hold yourself accountable’. It is quite the opposite actually. It is holding yourself accountable when you are in the moments where you are struggling; to give yourself grace and to accept your humanness. Being human is not about perfection, although we strive for self betterment every day. It is accepting yourself in the places you are. Sometimes we aren’t happy when we look at where we are and where we want to be. Those moments aren’t times for harshness and judgment, they are mile markers of how far you have come and where you are going. 

     If you are currently sitting here wondering where you fall on your self compassion journey, Dr. Neff created a quiz for you to see where you are. (Self Compassion Quiz) If there is one thing that you walk away with, your success is not always dictated by how much you are doing, but it could be based on how you celebrate yourself. 

I hope you choose compassion when you strive for self improvement. With admiration,
Emily Hinsberger, 2nd Year Graduate Student, Masters of Counseling


Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and identity, 2(3), 223-250.