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What Are The Limitations of Self Compassion?

The world indeed needs self-compassion. But do we know everything about it? What are the limitations of self-compassion?

A man representing the significance of self-compassion

The world needs self-compassion. We need more people with traits of empathy and mercy to seek the unknown potential of humanity. We want more people to understand the significance of compassion to handle tough situations.

Self-compassion is highly valued in the world today. Moving along with the pandemic, we realized the need for self-love to deal with fears and insecurities. Besides, many psychologists have already emphasized the importance of compassion in these tough times.

In one of my recent articles, I have discussed self-compassion, where I mentioned the role of it in influencing the self-talking phenomena. If you haven’t read it till now, you can read it here.

To sum up, it is the ultimate way to come up with solutions to numerous problems. At least, that is what it seems.

However, we just know one side of the story.

That’s right.

It seems that we do not know about self-compassion as much as we would wish to. There are some facts, which have astonished the psychologists and are an eye-opener to the public. In other words, we also have certain limitations to it.

So, let us find out what are the limitations of self-compassion.

What is the foundation of self-compassion?

The term self-compassion was coined back in 2003 when psychologists were curious about numerous ways that would make people fall in love with themselves.

For almost 17 years, self-compassion has been an area of interest for both psychology and neuroscience. They have addressed the mindset behind it and found three reasons or sources for its existence.

  • Self-kindness
  • Common Humanity
  • Mindfulness

The similarities between self-compassion and mindfulness helped psychology to conclude that self-compassion is needed to handle situations that are otherwise difficult to cope up with.

A woman practicing self-compassion
Photo by Marina Abrosimova from Pexels

Talking about the above three factors, self-kindness is the first component of self-compassion. It helps us to be kind and merciful to ourselves in tough times. Instead of engaging in self-criticism and neglect, it allows us to understand the limitations of our actions.

Common humanity is the second component. It helps us realize the imperfections in our actions and stresses on the human tendency to commit mistakes and errors in life. In other words, it makes us aware of the human condition.

Mindfulness is the third component. It helps us reach emotional stability and controls negative thoughts with the help of self-awareness. In other words, it prevents us from becoming too self-absorbed to face the reality.

So, these are the three foundations of self-compassion. Now, let us discuss how researchers understand the psychology behind self-compassion.

What research says about self-compassion?

In 2003, Kristin D. Neff, a renowned psychologist, came up with the self-compassion scale (SCS), which is a 26 item questionnaire to measure the above three components of self-compassion in individuals. 

The SCS combines the three traits of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness, along with the negative counterparts’ self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification. She found that the scale negatively associates the self-compassion with the above mentioned negative counterparts.

Further, in 2016, Peter Muris, another psychologist, pointed out the inconsistencies in the assessment. After testing the range of self-compassion in individuals, he concluded that the SCS scale exaggerates its negative counterparts and establishes an inflated relation between self-compassion and its negative counterparts.

A woman hugging two dogs as part of a compassionate process
Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

However, in 2017, Stefan Pfattheicher stated that the positive counterparts of self-compassion are negatively linked to neuroticism, which is the measure of emotional stability.

The researchers pointed out that the strong correlation between SCS and neuroticism indirectly links self-compassion and psychopathology, and, therefore, the positive traits of self-compassion are not valid concerning neuroticism.

To address, the issues about her SCS, Dr. Kristin Neff argued that the test just identifies the negative traits of self-compassion, which shares some similarities with the traits of neuroticism and psychopathology. But, these traits do not negatively impact an individual and his mindfulness towards emotional and mental stability. 

In other words, the SCS might have tested the negative traits of self-judgment and isolation. However, these traits do not necessarily correlate with the traits of neuroticism and psychopathology to make self-compassion a source of psychological disorders.

The research is still debatable with its conclusions about self-compassion. However, there are some negative sides to it which I would like to discuss in the next section.

What are the limitations of self-compassion?

The researchers might be ambiguous about the idea of self-compassion and would find ways to correlate it with other negative counterparts to prove its limitations.

However, some things are largely ignored about the practical constraints that exist for good traits such as self-compassion and self-reflection. Hence, I am going to use the above research results to draw out its limitations.

So, here are 5 limitations of self-compassion.


1. Makes us highly judgmental of the situations:

No doubt.

Self-compassion is great at making sense of situations. It helps us tackle many issues at once without creating a mess with unbalanced emotional reactions.

However, in some cases, we may be highly judgmental of the situation without even realizing the benefits of understanding it at a deeper level.

In other words, critical thinking is required in some cases to deal with the possible threat or harm. In such a case, employing self-compassion can make us oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, where we must feel inadequate to learn a lesson and fix things as soon as possible.

But again we can only do this by constructively using these feelings and making them beneficial for us.

2. Isolates us from the negativity around us:

It happens when a person is too self-compassionate and fails to notice the reality. Sometimes, it is necessary to focus on certain aspects that might hurt us and make us doubt ourselves to make sense of things at hand.

But, isolating ourselves just to prevent any shortcomings is ultimately going to backfire on us and make us irresponsible and negligent towards the people who would like us to address the issues.

The tendency to withdraw from the negativity makes us incapable to deal with the truth, which hurts us mentally and emotionally.

3. Makes us too sure of ourselves:

Self-compassion indirectly affects our identity and individuality. We route to self-talking, which, if positive, identifies with the good side of our personality.

However, it comes at a cost as we become too sure to even consider changing ourselves to suit the interests of people around us.

For instance, a person might be too sophisticated concerning his identity that he fails to notice the imperfections that make him a human.

4. Builds a laid-back attitude:

In most cases, it is good to be easygoing and laid back as worrying about irrelevant things disturbs our inner peace.

However, the situation becomes worse when we become too passive to realize the implications of our carefree nature. We often go too easy on ourselves to remain serious about what’s going on around us.

In other words, our amiable and relaxed nature stems from self-compassion, but it also makes us disregard the necessity of struggles in life. We do not take anything seriously and end up sabotaging our coping process required to deal with it.

5. Makes us feel alone and misunderstood:

Self-compassion helps us understand the limitations of the human condition. Besides, it also helps us find out the best ways to motivate people to love themselves.

However, not all people are the same. Some might love themselves, while others don’t. If we are highly self-compassionate, we try to seek an understanding of the people around us. But, then realize that none are as self-compassionate as us. 

It makes us feel alone and misunderstood as no one understands us and the need to love ourselves. In some cases, it is also mistaken as naivety.

5 limitations of practicing self compassion

Final Words:

To sum up, the benefits of self-compassion are evident with its relevance in these tough times. Besides, who wouldn’t want to love themselves. It is a trait worth practicing.

But, we should also take a look at the limitations of self-compassion that might prevent us from living a mindful and peaceful life and refine our self-love with time.

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