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Brighton-based Clinical Psychologist

Dr Sophie Ann Bafunno-Clifton

The art of self-compassion: being kind to yourself in tough times

In today’s high-pressure society, the pursuit of perfection can often lead to a harsh inner critic and unrealistic self-expectations. The art of self-compassion involves a paradigm shift, where we learn to treat ourselves with the same kindness and understanding that we would offer a good friend. As a psychologist, I’ve seen the transformative power of self-compassion in helping individuals navigate tough times with grace and resilience.

Understanding perfectionism and its pitfalls

Perfectionism is often rooted in a fear of failure or judgement. It’s exemplified by clients like Olivia, who constantly strove for flawless performance at work, resulting in chronic stress and burnout. Recognising that perfectionism is more a trap than a trait is the first step towards healthier self-expectations.

Embracing imperfection: The path to self-acceptance

The journey to overcoming perfectionism begins with embracing imperfection. This doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity but acknowledging that making mistakes and having flaws is a natural part of being human. It involves shifting focus from what is lacking to appreciating what is.

Self-compassion techniques for everyday life

Mindful self-compassion

Practise being present with your feelings without judgement. Mindful self-compassion involves acknowledging your emotions, whether they are feelings of inadequacy or moments of failure, and responding to them with kindness and understanding.

Challenging perfectionist thoughts

Learn to identify and challenge perfectionist thinking. When faced with self-critical thoughts, ask yourself, “Would I say this to someone I care about?” If the answer is no, it’s a sign to reframe your thoughts in a more compassionate way.

Kindness breaks

Incorporate regular ‘kindness breaks’ into your day. These are moments where you consciously offer yourself words of encouragement and understanding, much like how Emma started her day with affirmations that focused on her strengths and efforts rather than her flaws.

Gratitude practice

Cultivate a practice of gratitude. Focusing on what you are thankful for can shift your perspective from criticising what you lack to appreciating what you have. For instance, Ben started writing down three things he was grateful for each night, helping him to focus on the positives in his life.


The art of self-compassion is not just about being easy on yourself; it’s about recognising your humanity, embracing your imperfections, and treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer others. By adopting strategies to overcome perfectionism, you open the door to healthier self-expectations and a more compassionate relationship with yourself. Remember, being kind to yourself, especially in tough times, is not a luxury, but a necessity for true well-being.

How Brain Matters can help you further

If the topics discussed in our articles resonate with you and you’re seeking a deeper understanding or specialised assistance, we are here to assist. We recognise that each person’s journey is distinct, and we’re dedicated to providing bespoke support tailored to your individual needs.

Dr Sophie Ann Clifton

Dr Sophie Ann Clifton

Chartered Clinical Psychologist
ASD assessor, EMDR Therapist

From August 2024, we will be taking on new referrals, and we wlcome you to get in touch and connect with us. Whether you’re looking to enhance your mental wellbeing, navigate relationship dynamics, manage anxiety, or simply seek a space for personal growth, we are ready to support you with expertise and compassion. Discover how our personalised psychological services can contribute to your path of healing and self-discovery. 

Contact Brain Matters Psychology to arrange your session and take the first step towards a more enriching life.