In Praise of Vice | From self-flagellation to self-compassion

It’s barely been two months and already your good resolutions have gone up in smoke? Stop self-flagellation. Instead, it’s time for self-compassion. Explanations of this key concept in mental health, in six steps.


“Self-compassion,” summarizes Martine Vaillancourt, co-founder of Autocompassion Montréal, “is treating yourself as you would your best friend. » The occupational therapist and psychotherapist studied self-compassion with Kristin Neff, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneer in the field. “Research tells us that self-flagellation doesn’t help. We’re actually sending each other a second arrow. » On the contrary, it is better to treat yourself with “the best kindness”. A proposition much easier said than done. As proof: “78% of people have more compassion for others than for themselves,” she says, particularly women, at 84% (72% for men). Note that Kristin Neff has devoted an entire book to this subject: Fierce Self-Compassion (or Fierce Self-Compassion – free translation –, or how women can master kindness to speak up, claim their strength and shine, in English only for now).

Self-compassion and mindfulness

To treat yourself with kindness, you still need to understand that there is something at stake. Recognize that we are suffering. And this is where mindfulness comes into play. Do you smoke in secret, you failed your alcohol-free challenge and you think you’re miserable? “Whoa! What’s going on with me? illustrates Martine Vaillancourt. We must welcome what is there. Because if I welcome, I can then make better decisions. »

A shared humanity

Still with this idea of ​​recognizing the issue and the suffering, it is not crazy to realize that we are probably not alone in this struggle. This is what Martine Vaillancourt, paraphrasing Kristin Neff (Self-Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, or the demonstrated power of being kind to oneself), which in turn draws on Buddhist philosophy, calls “shared humanity.” To this end, and if it can console you, a survey of Forbes reveals that the majority of resolutions disappear within two to four months. After a year, only 1 resolution in 100 is still relevant.

Check out the survey Forbes (in English)

Self-compassion and self-esteem

This makes sense: self-flagellation means judgment, criticism, evaluation, in short, various attacks on self-esteem from all sides. All conditioned by the different successes and failures, or ups and downs of life. Conversely: “Self-compassion is not an evaluation,” emphasizes Martine Vaillancourt. We support each other when we have a difficult time. We support each other when we have just failed. » Note that again, all this is much easier said than done. “It can be learned,” insists the woman who offers around thirty hours of training on the subject. There are no tricks, even fewer secrets: “It’s not psychopop!” “, she specifies.

Self-compassion and shame

Intimately linked here: the feeling of shame. “It’s one of the emotions that scare people the most and it’s often not addressed as much in psychotherapy,” laments Martine Vaillancourt. “But all humans experience this emotion,” she says, although to different degrees. If you were raised in a loving family (or caring, in good French), you will undoubtedly be less vulnerable. “But if you’ve lived with tough people who required performance, when you don’t feel up to it, the shame will be more present. » A good dose of self-compassion will help you “welcome” failure, to bounce back better. “If I love myself, I will be able to hold hands. »

Self-compassion and freedom

Self-flagellation is a vicious cycle: we judge ourselves, we think we’re worthless, then we feel ashamed, and so on. Conversely, with self-compassion, we are more “gentle” with ourselves, we treat ourselves as we would treat our child, or a best friend, as we have said, with all their faults and imperfections. However, who says imperfections also says authenticity. “And when we are authentic, we appreciate ourselves as we are,” concludes Martine Vaillancourt. And that’s when we feel much freer! ” What could be better ?

Read “In Praise of Vice”


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