Health & Well-Being

Incorporate the Yin and Yang of Self-Compassion at Work

Many people think of self-compassion as a gentle approach to caring for yourself. This could include creating mantras, mindfulness practices, and journaling.

While these are wonderful habits to implement into your life, there is another, more active side to self-compassion. This includes standing up for yourself, setting healthy boundaries, and facing challenging situations with mindful focus.

These two sides are considered the yin and yang of self-compassion.

The yin of self-compassion involves soothing ourselves through various calming practices, some of which are listed above. The yang of self-compassion includes developing the confidence and clarity to stand up for ourselves and stand firm in our beliefs under challenging scenarios. This type of self-compassion is fierce and unwavering.

Initially outlined by Kristin Neff, Chris Germer, and Steven Hickman, this two-sided approach to self-compassion allows us to face and cope with challenging life situations. The combination of both standing up for yourself while simultaneously providing soothing comfort in tough times can lead to greater well-being, resilience, and satisfaction.

Here are two common scenarios in the workplace where incorporating both the yin and yang of self-compassion can help you navigate challenges with more ease.

You haven’t gotten a raise in a few years, and you know you deserve it.

These days, companies value loyalty less. Research shows that US workers gain the highest pay raises by regularly changing companies. Loyal workers receive little to no salary increases, while job-hoppers are often brought in at a higher rate. The pandemic especially has brought out the issues regarding fair pay, and it is your right to advocate for a wage that demonstrates how your work is valued.

Yin: Remind yourself you are worthy of receiving fair compensation for your efforts and output. Notice how you feel about the inequity and validate your own feelings. Try keeping a hand on your heart and deep breathing to experience self-kindness and recalibrate your nervous system.

Yang:  Spend some time organizing your thoughts about the value you bring to your job and what kind of raise would make you feel as though you are properly compensated. Bring this conversation to your boss, explain why you believe a raise is warranted, and outline your reasons. Focus on yourself and the value that you bring. Do not make comparisons to coworkers.

It is also essential to think about what you will do if your request is denied. Is it worth staying at a job where you feel undervalued and underpaid? What are you willing to compromise to increase your satisfaction?

You’re experiencing bias as an older employee at your company.

As we age, we may experience biases at our workplaces. Age discrimination exists in the workforce, but you do not have to accept it. If you’re experiencing age discrimination at your job, you may still be able to use self-compassion to help yourself.

Yin: You may find the ageism you experience at work ingrained in your beliefs. You may start thinking your age is detrimental to your job. However, you can use yin self-compassion to both acknowledge that inner critic and reconsider your thoughts about your age. Journaling may be helpful here: Consider writing out how your age and experience improved your quality of work. Can you rewrite the story in your head to be positive about what you bring to the table at your job?

Yang: While it is worthwhile to investigate your thinking and beliefs about your age, you still need to address that you are experiencing bias in the workplace. Consider setting up a call with your HR department to discuss how you experiences. Talk about how you feel you are unfairly missing out on raises, promotions, training, or anything else you notice is only to younger employees are receiving.

Remember, you still have the agency to improve yourself. Use the yin and yang of self-compassion to stay calm and advocate for your best self.


Denette Mann

Denette Mann, is a licensed professional, who works with children, teens, adults, and families struggling with anxiety, stress management, relationship problems, and emotional trauma. Denette, a voracious learner, has continued to advance her learning in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, Mindfulness, and Mindful Self-Compassion. Her therapy dog, “Shaw,” a Maltipoo, is often by her side.

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