Self Compassion: A supportive foundation for learning

When I became a Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist a light bulb went off in my head about how I could amalgamate teaching and learning theories with what I was learning about the mind.   The mind is a complex place, and emotions, memories, and past associations ultimately drive how a person behaves and how a person learns. It is fundamental that as teachers, we acknowledge the building blocks to learning to support our students optimally. The textbook Student Engagement talked about how motivation drives engagement which drives learning. A large part of motivation is the student’s belief that they can actually accomplish the task being asked of them (self efficacy). The ability for a student to feel that they will be competent stems from many things; their past experiences with learning, teachers, post-secondary school, a particular task (i.e. writing, math, etc.), their overall self esteem , including how they view their intelligence.

In my experience teaching nursing, some students come into the program already defeated, having had a difficult time in school. Others come in having done very well in school, breezed through it in fact and hardly had to put any effort in. Post-secondary is different, because a student who breezed through school will unlikely be able to breeze through a university degree. These students may not even know where to begin to write a paper, or how to study for an exam. Learning can be stressful, challenging and damaging to a person’s self esteem. I can’t tell you the number of times I coach my students about positive self talk because their internal voice is getting in the way of their success. We are so often our own worst critic. How demotivating it is to work hard when we’re berating ourselves along the way.

Teaching students self compassion through the learning process is vital to support their learning. It will create a beautiful foundation from which they can branch out from. This is a wonderful TED Talk which talks about the importance of self compassion. I also like that it talks about the negative impact of self esteem because it continually involves comparison of self to others which creates a toxic internal environment.   It also poignantly talks about how negative self talk demotivates us, the opposite of what most people think.

This video I plan to introduce to my students in their first year of nursing school. As many of the students embark on this tumultuous journey of being a university student I can help give them a crucial tool in making that a successful one. A tool they can transfer and use in all aspects of their life. If I as a teacher can help the students to help themselves I am promoting their motivation, engagement and therefore their ability to learn. It is an essential building block to creating a self determined/self-regulated/self-directed learner.


Barkley, E.F. (2010).  Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Neff, K. (2013).  The space between self-esteem and self compassion.  Ted Talk. Available at





About turnera2014

I am a Nursing (RN) Instructor taking the Professional Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College in hopes to challenge my current teaching modalities and inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
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