the social justice argument for self-compassion

This is one of those posts that’s definitely about sex, but could just as easily be true about pretty much every domain of life.


One of the things that’s true about high achieving women – and maybe also, ya know, most people everywhere – is that they compare themselves with their peers, and base their sense of self-esteem on how they’re doing relative to other people.

Most of us have an intuitive sense that this kind of comparison doesn’t do anybody any good, but I’ve been trying to figure out some way to articulate why it doesn’t do us any good, in a way that actually motivates us to try something different, rather than just go, “Yeah yeah, comparisons are bad.”

And here’s my idea:


Self-esteem and self-confidence generated through comparison with others necessarily implies that you benefit from others’ suffering, failure, and deprivation.


What I’m saying is that the harm that comes from self-esteem through comparison with others isn’t bad (only) because it hurts the person doing the comparing, but because it gives the person a vested interest in others’ failure.

And especially if you’re a person interested in social justice, equality, and universal rights, that’s no good for anybody.


The alternative?




Self-compassion is being kind to yourself without reference to how you’re doing compared to other people, but rather simply because you’re a person and deserve respect and kindness.

It motives you to be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you fall short – without letting yourself off the hook – but it doesn’t rely on other people failing in order for you to feel like you’re doing okay.


So if you notice yourself putting yourself down by comparing yourself with others, instead try giving yourself the same kindness and compassion you’d give anyone else in your situation. Notice that you would never talk to someone else – not even a stranger on the train, much less a friend for loved one.

And if you notice yourself congratulating yourself by comparing yourself with others… do exactly the same thing.


What do you think? Do you buy it?