Fierce self-compassion

by | 10 Feb 2023 | Unleashing You, Wellbeing

Fierce self-compassion sounds like a contradiction of terms. Yet self-compassion is about alleviating our suffering, and sometimes this involves thoughts and behaviours to protect, provide and motivate ourself.

What is fierce self-compassion?

Let’s start by remembering compassion is about alleviating suffering.  When it is self-compassion it is about alleviating our suffering. Sometimes this will be in soft, warm behaviours.  At other times it may require more assertiveness. 

In Chinese philosophy these two elements are represented by yin and yang.

Drawing on the work of Neff (2005) we can link the factors she identifies with the yin and yang perspective.

In the yin of self-compassion we comfort ourselves, we recognise that suffering is part of being human, and to notice, validate and accept our pain.  These are all gentle and comforting thoughts.

If we consider the yang of self-compassion these same factors present in a very different way.  Here we show ourself kindness we stand up for ourself. It recognises we are not alone and can be assertive in that knowledge and empowered in the feeling of being with others.  It gives us clarity of truth and we don’t avoid it for fear of repercussions.

These two elements of self-compassion feel very different in their sense of energy and how they feel within us. 

How might we benefit from fierce self-compassion?

Fierce self-compassion is about how we interact with our environment to reduce our suffering.  It is about how we stand up for ourself.

It is how self-compassion protects, motivates, and provides for our needs (Neff, 2021).

We can break this down to see what it means in practice.

If we are protecting ourself:

  • We may need to be brave. We might have stand up to someone in a way that is not comfortable or our usual behaviour.
  • We might feel empowered through a sense of common humanity and that we are not alone in the treatment we experienced.
  • The presence of mindfulness helps us act with clarity and be decisive in our actions.


If we consider self-compassion to provide what we need then the factors at play are:

  • Taking action to meet our needs.
  • Meeting our needs in a balanced way, not without consideration of others.
  • Noticing and responding authentically, in a way aligned with what is important to us.


If we consider how fierce self-compassion motivates us, we would see:

  • Encouragement from a supportive stance. Constructive feedback not an inner critic.
  • Drawing on our knowledge and wisdom to correct mistakes and learn from them.
  • Vision helping identify our goals and focus on them. (Neff, 2021).

How can we develop fierce self-compassion?

We need to get the right balance in the yin and yang of self-compassion as this requires a different approach in different situations.

We must start by noticing what we are thinking and feeling.  Maybe consider something you are finding difficult in your life at the moment. 

Think of actions you might take to help you, both yin and yang actions.

As a reminder:

  • Yin actions are comforting, soothing and validating
  • Yang actions are protecting, providing and motivating.


How might you meet your needs in these areas? An example might be to sooth yourself if you are feeling stressed or anxious take a few slow deep breaths.  If you need to protect yourself you might put a boundary round the time you are available to someone.

A final reminder that the outcome of higher levels of self-compassion have been evidenced to be beneficial in so many areas of life.  Showing kindness to yourself is an investment in yourself, so you can be there for others and do the things you wish to do in your life.

Remember self-compassion is kindness towards ourself and caring for ourself.  To create a plan for your self-care join one of our free Self-care Power Hour events.

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