Self-Care vs. Self-Compassion: What’s the Difference?

Shadow of a woman's head in front of water.

You may have heard the terms “self-care” and “self-compassion.” Perhaps, you’ve even mistaken them for one another. These two topics differ in a variety of ways. In simple terms, self-care has a focus on the physical while self-compassion has a focus on the emotional.
While having a distinct difference, they both tie into one another seamlessly. We know that it’s important to care for mind, body and spirit, but what draws that distinct line between care and compassion?

What is Self-Care?

This concept revolves around the idea of action or the physical aspects of taking care of one’s self. Something as simple as brushing your teeth can be considered self-care. A trip to the spa works, too. Maybe you’ve even decided to plan a nice vacation to relax. These are all examples of simply taking care of yourself, which may seem very surface level. However, this is half of the battle, as physical health is just as important as mental health.

What About Self-Compassion?

Moving away from the physical aspects of caring for yourself, much of self-care revolves around the ability to regard yourself with compassion. Reflection of one’s emotions is an essential part of gaining compassion. To make this easier to understand, consider that having self-compassion is not much different from viewing the world with compassion. It’s important to treat yourself as kindly as you may treat the outside world.

So What’s the Difference?

The main difference between self-care and self-compassion is that there is an element of vulnerability when it comes to gaining compassion for yourself. You must push past an area of comfort and learn how to be conscious of not only what you’re doing, but also why you’re doing it. For example, waking up in the morning and forcing a smile on your face is a much different concept from waking up and smiling because you believe you have what it takes to get through the day.

Intertwining the Two

Let’s think about it like this: You’ve had an incredibly debilitating week and you tell yourself, “You know what, I’m going to purchase something for myself.” Rather than just simply spoiling yourself with something at the mall, you would transition into a mindset where you tell yourself that you’re not only getting yourself a little something but that you also deserve whatever it is that you want. That’s how compassion is applied to the sole actions of self-care.
A key part of rejuvenating the mind, body and spirit is applying the concepts of self-care and self-compassion. This can result in a healthy lifestyle while also making room for self-reflection and a relaxed mind.


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Written by Alina Hoarau

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