We are surrounded by (what feels like) interchangeable terminology relating to Self. Self-love, Self-care, Self-compassion. And what about self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth. One thing I know from my research is that definitions vary depending on the author’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.


So here are the definitions that work for me:


  • Self-Love: a loving kindness towards self, involving feelings of worthiness


  • Self-Care: practices that demonstrate I am looking after myself


  • Self-Compassion: accepting myself fully and forgiving my transgressions


I believe self-compassion is the greatest of these three, because it takes in the whole picture of you, the light and the shade.


  • Self-Esteem: focuses on our perceived value and self-worth, whereas self-compassion comes from a universal understanding that we all deserve compassion.


  • Self-Confidence: makes you feel better about your abilities, whereas self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and see yourself from a more realistic standpoint.


Self-love, self-care, and self-compassion are practices. There is no endpoint, they are ongoing commitments to being the best version of you that is humanly possible. How does this relate to coaching?


Compassion in Coaching


My own self-compassion practice is a great precursor for bringing compassion into the coaching space. Let us look at empathy and compassion. Joan Halifax in her TED talk “Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy” says empathy speaks of “I am not separate from your suffering.” She adds, compassion is like empathy but has a component that says we cannot be attached to outcome. This sits well with a coach’s remit, which is to partner with their client (in helping them find their own outcome) and not lead them.


Brene Brown in her book “Atlas of the Heart” brings in the importance of boundaries with empathy and compassion. “Boundaries are a prerequisite for compassion and empathy. We cannot connect with someone unless we’re clear about where we end and they begin. If there is no autonomy between people, then there’s no compassion or empathy, just enmeshment.”


I believe the coaching qualities and skills that underpin bringing compassion into the space include: listening without judgement, allowing moments of stillness for thoughts and feelings to be processed, connecting with care while remaining autonomous, and removing all thoughts of your own agenda for the session.


Looking After Yourself


As coaches it is imperative we stay aligned with Self. Whether that is physical, mental, or spiritual. To serve our clients we should meet them as fully formed as we can. This means ensuring our needs are catered for. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs talks about five levels of need that humans require. Have a look at the areas below and work out which need attention right now.


  1. Physiological needs e.g., nourishing food, well-hydrated, enough sleep
  2. Safety needs e.g., safety of body and health, job, resources
  3. Belongingness e.g., connecting with friends, family, community
  4. Esteem needs e.g., sense of accomplishment, respect to others and from others
  5. Self-Actualisation e.g., achieving our full potential, living with morality and truth


With over 500 hours of coaching under my belt I have learnt the importance of being fully resourced. This means prior to my first client of the day I need to have completed my yoga practice, eaten a healthy breakfast, and read some of my current book. I need to ease into the day, and not feel rushed or coerced. Then, I must ensure my internet and computer are working, my coaching space has everything I need close to hand.


The Coaching “Hour”


I have to be aware of my energy levels. I have learnt that four coaching sessions per day is my optimum. If you had told me at the start of my training with Radiant Coaches Academy that running four hours of coaching a day would be my limit then you would have got an eyeroll coupled with the voice in my head that tells me I’m lazy: “Four hours?! It’s alright for some!”


But for each client it is never “only an hour.” Yes, the session is 60 minutes long, but what about the admin that got them to my zoom door, my preparation before the session, and any follow-up actions. Let’s detail the work that surrounds a coaching session.


  1. How did my client find me?

Daily social media posts, weekly IG LIVE, weekly Facebook LIVE, monthly coaching and education event on meetup.com, twice-monthly newsletter, regular interactions in two Facebook groups, guesting on podcasts, writing a monthly column for an international magazine


  1. How did I sign them up?

Keeping my online calendar updated, booking in the sessions for my regulars, checking the contract and coaching agreement is signed, logging the coaching hours for ICF


  1. What do I do to ensure I am coach-ready?

Yoga, running, a walk in nature, connecting daily with friends/family/community, nourishment and hydration, journaling, monthly session with my coach supervisor, bi-weekly therapy, regular coaching sessions, connecting with my coaching community, monthly meetings with my business accountability group


  1. What do I do before their session?

Double-check I have everything I need to hand, ground myself with stretches and intentional breathing, drink water and sometimes a fruit tea, give honour to the connection that is about to unfold, remember where they were at when we last met, or remind myself of their pre-sessions questionnaire if they are a new client


  1. What do I do after their session?

Stand up and stretch, breathe, drink water, sometimes put on music and dance to release any of my client’s energy that I am holding on to. Then type up notes from their session (if requested) or leave them a voicenote summary


  1. What do I do between our sessions?

Email any articles or recommendations of books, podcasts etc., that I think may be of interest, respond to their emails, hold them in mind, mark in my diary any times where they have anything coming up between sessions that they want me to send intentional thoughts their way.


Feeling Worthy


Remembering this list really helps with my ongoing money mindset work, because it is not “just an hour”! Our clients are not buying beans from a store, they are buying a life experience. This list also reminds me how important it is to move away from the hustle culture that tells us we must do more, be more, earn more, own more, and move into a space that has me prioritising pacing myself.


How do you prioritise your time for self? I recently attended Paula Shepherd’s monthly coaches catch-up event and one participant shared they block out self-care time and label it “Something in the diary,” so that if someone asks them for a meeting or similar they respond with, “I can’t attend because I have “Something in the diary” (literally!) An old coach of mine suggested that I bill myself for the time I spend on self-care, I love this idea particularly when I start getting busier in my practice.


What does self-compassion mean to you, and how do you practice it? Share your ideas below.


Self-Compassion Resources

  1. Guided Self-Compassion Meditations – Kristin Neff
  2. RAIN of Self-Compassion – Tara Brach
  3. Paula Shepherd Consulting, LLC | Facebook
  4. Ali has several Spotlight Coaching Sessions available at the launch price covering self-love, self-care and self-compassion in her “On Being Single” offering: Spotlight Coaching Sessions – Ali Hendry

Ali Hendry, Education Director (Europe)
Radiant Coaches Academy