Self Care vs. Self Compassion

Each of these two concepts are important in the treatment of borderline personality disorder. They may sound similar but are actually different. Here’s a brief look at each.

Self Care

The practice of self care is a key social skill in Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It is one of several Distress Tolerance techniques people can employ to reduce emotional pain during a crisis. The idea is to focus on your individual senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and. touch and do something that uses any of them in order to calm your emotions in the moment. Gaze at the stars, listen to music, light a scented candle, eat a favorite food, pet your cat or dog. Each of these simple acts can slow things down for you and help to lower your emotional temperature.

Linehan believes the value of practicing self care is that it can improve your emotional state of mind by doing something that brings you some degree of joy. That, in turn, might enable you to carry on regardless of how bad things may seem. Here’s how Linehan describes it:

What is important is that you experience life as worth living- one that is satisfying and one that brings you happiness.

Self Compassion

Self-compassion is different in that it allows you to focus on internal states of mind. Self-compassion develops when you learn to accept yourself as you are -faults and all- and treating yourself kindly rather than harshly.

Many people who have BPD are emotionally sensitive and have able to feel empathy for others who may be suffering. Self-compassion is a twist on the “Golden Rule’ and asks that you treat yourself as you would treat others.

Kristin Neff, PhD, an expert on self-compassion defines it this way:

Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.

Dr. Neff has written, researched and taught the principles of self-compassion for years. You can learn more about her and her work, including exercises she developed to practice self compassion as well as other very useful resources on her website


Signup for BPD Updates

[wpforms id=”27400″ title=”false” description=”false”]