One Psychology Grad Student’s Thoughts about Self-Compassion (Care)

Elizabeth Shum

University of Denver


I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t care too much about self-care. I feel like that term gets thrown around so often that it loses meaning and becomes one of those ironic sayings that you use pseudo-intellectually but that in the back of your mind you know has some merit. For the sake of writing this sincerely, I will substitute for self-care the term: identity wardship. Kidding, I cheated and thesaurus-ed dat. Let’s call it, self-compassion. Actually, I’ve been feeling like I don’t necessarily need to prioritize self-compassion. As I recently had a close friend point out to me, I am admirable in my ability to take care of myself (and modest too.) I usually have little trouble compartmentalizing life’s responsibilities from activities related to my own personal relaxation and enjoyment, and that ability (or trait) has served me well.

I haven’t always been good at practicing self-compassion; in college I almost felt like the pressure I put myself under could have been considered self-injurious behavior. I remember crying from stress and feeling alone. It was awful, and I was resolute in my desire to avoid feeling that way again. I think this is where my capacity for self-compassion originated, and it has served me well.

I am applying for internship this year. I am starting to feel things slipping out of my grasp while I desperately claw at the air to catch hold. Activities related to self-compassion are beginning to fade away and I feel powerless to stop them. The only difference between me and my hapless adolescent self is my increased capacity for self-reflection. (Yeah, I’m in grad school.)

Truthfully, I do credit my graduate training for my increased self-awareness. It’s changed me because it’s encouraged me to critically yet kindly examine the logistics of my behavior. I have confronted difficult self-criticism and rewarding self-realization. I have literally expanded my range and depth of thought. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this except that I think to write it was one attempt at self-compassion. And to entertain the ambivalence about graduate school that I often feel. I don’t know, maybe it was just to see how many times I could use the prefix “self-” in a single blog post.


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