Self Compassion vs. Self Care, A Leader’s Blueprint

Posted on: September 28th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Self Compassion vs. Self Care, A Leader’s Guide

Plus, How to Strive for Resilient Leadership in a Modern World

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Did you know that September is National Self Care Awareness Month? 

Established in 2017 by Evolve to Live (link at bottom), it was created to help people build a self-care habit and pursue a connected life. 

And if you’re like me, it’s a great reminder… to pursue a connected life by building a self-care habit. It’s not a static thing, self-care. It continues to evolve and grow, just like you.

With the Olympics wrapping up, football season underway, and school back in session, it seems as though we as a society are competing while doing so-called self-care. What starts as a day off from work to shop turns into a late-night, arms draped with shopping bags. And a feeling of shame knowing you’ve blown your budget.

Take one look at social media and you’ll see a myriad of images capturing just that. Cue the white, fluffy bathrobe with crisp green cucumber slices over one’s eyes, in what we’ve come to know as a typical spa-like setting. It’s kind of crazy that the American culture of winning and expectations has us comparing and competing while attempting to do self-care. As if that’s an actual thing. 

And this competitive nature tends to permeate your internal boundaries, your work, or your family cultures. It can be so toxic. So today, let’s take a few minutes to redefine self-care, taking a look at self-compassion and setting the tone for resilient leadership in your life.

What is Self-Compassion?

I heard the phrase “self-compassion” at a resilient leadership training. The distinction was made that for many of us, particularly us women in helping professions, we struggle with caring for ourselves. It may seem “selfish,” as if putting ourselves and our needs ahead of others and caring for ourselves as much as we care for others, is somehow indulgent and selfish.  

Self-compassion is giving yourself the same benefit of the doubt, the same grace, the same internal messages and dialogues that you would give another person. It’s about remembering that the messages you tell yourself are powerful. And being mindful of those messages is worth the work, physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

And it’s something you know you want to start doing more of, but how?

Here are three ways to build your self-compassion:

  1. Change the tapes in your head and your internal beliefs, those feelings and thoughts you have about yourself. If they are overly critical, based on past mistakes, or aren’t something you would say out loud to someone else, write them down and throw them away. Spend some time coming up with new things you’d like to start saying to yourself. Affirmations and reminders of your gifts, talents, and successes. Reminders that you are enough, exactly as you are. 
  1. Cut yourself some slack, you don’t always have to be on–to be doing, creating, leading, performing, achieving, making, etc. Take time to just breathe, sit, reflect, ponder, relax, rejuvenate. When you do get back to doing, you will be able to do your work even better than before.
  1. Take one small step, try to be 1% closer to what your intentions and goals are each day. Many of us, myself included, try to make a myriad of changes in one giant leap. It’s unrealistic and typically not sustainable to permanently change our behaviors and habits overnight.  Forward progress, no matter how seemingly small, is an accomplishment. Let’s aim for 1% that sticks around. And celebrate it.

Now you have a few things to try as you work to be more compassionate to yourself. Next, we’ll dive into self-care and explore how we can create a more aligned habit.

What is Self-Care?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

My interpretation? Self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation. 

And while the act of self-care takes on many forms, from a manicure and pedicure routine at a local salon to reading a spiritual book each morning; from traveling to a new place to making time to talk to family or friends. At the core of self-care is you – and the things that will bring you a bit of happiness, a bit of relaxation.

You’ve come to realize that you’re not that great at it. In fact, you encourage those you love to practice self-care, but when it comes down to it, you’re lousy at practicing self-care – or for that matter, even self-compassion.

Well, we have that in common. I’m committed to encouraging and reinforcing for my team at Community Connections for Children and for my friends and families that self-care, self-compassion, and work-life balance are critical to our overall health and success. To take time to just be, to do nothing, and to recharge their batteries. 

But to do that myself? Now, that is a challenge. And in this season, I’m working hard to change that. It starts by acknowledging the type of leader I am, that you are, externally, and then aligning that same dedication and intentional internally. 

What is Resilient Leadership?

Resilient leadership means that you understand that you are human. That you can’t meet the needs of your staff and those you serve if you have not nurtured yourself. 

It means that you are willing to be vulnerable, honest, and authentic with yourself and those around you. To admit your mistakes, admit when you don’t know something, admit that your team does (and if fact should) know how to do their jobs better than you do.

Resilient leaders understand that crises are also opportunities. That as a leader your mindset and ability to remain positive and calm will have a direct impact on your team.

Resilient leaders understand that you need to slow down, to pause, and think before you speak and act. Especially in a moment of high stress, change, and uncertainty.

Resilient leaders understand that relationships, effective and open communication, compassion, and trust are the most important predictors and indicators of the health and success of their organization. Research tells us that people leave their job not because they don’t like the tasks, but because of unhealthy relationships and toxic environments.

And it’s something I strive to do, to embody resilient leadership. While expanding my understanding of self-care and self-compassion, just like you. And when I think of people who embody those traits, a few exceptional human beings come to mind… Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, and Brené Brown.

An Example of Self-Care, Self Compassion, and Resilient Leadership

Perhaps the best example of resilient leadership is the very one who has led us through the pandemic, Dr. Fauci. Each day, he would keep getting up, facing the next unknown with the COVID pandemic, responding to the politicization of COVID, and trying to move the needle in the right direction a little each day. Even as the public grew wearier and wearier, he led with compassion and grace.

And while you certainly hope you don’t need to lead your people through the thickest of it, you can learn from his approach. His calm manner, his consistent message, and his compassion. 

As you work on your own self-compassion, as you develop a self-care habit that is more aligned with where you are now, and where you want to be, you’ll grow as a leader. It’s okay for it to be a transition, to show yourself a different type of care, to try something new and fail. 

“I think that’s the most surprising part about true resilience. Resilience makes you strong, and while you earn the right to your strength, you simultaneously become more tender. While you harness the ability to rise quickly from the ground, you don’t fear the fall as much the next time. Resilience can only come from experience, and God willing, you’re forced to build new foundations.”

– Rachel Hollis

Just think of all you learned over the past two years, the past two decades. And let’s all commit to being more tender, with ourselves and with each other.

Continued Reading:

Center for Resilient Children: Resilient Leadership 

Center for Resilient Children: Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey 

Evolve to Live: Self-Care Awareness

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more, visit