The Power of Self-Compassion: Shawn’s Journey

Shawn, 27, from rural Newfoundland, wears many hats: employment support worker, research and teaching assistant, online course facilitator, and member of the National Council of Persons with Lived Experience (NCPLE).   

Growing up, Shawn describes his home environment as “unhealthy and dysfunctional.” He witnessed significant conflict between his parents and endured long custody battles. He also remembers facing distressing experiences of bullying in school due to pervasive homophobia and ableism. Shawn’s family, friends, and teachers often told him he should give up on his goals because they thought he wouldn’t be successful. All of this led to severe anxiety and depression which impacted his motivation and daily life. It was self-compassion that eventually prompted him to seek help.  

When asked what self-compassion means to him, Shawn replied, “Maybe it’s a little cliché, but self-care comes to mind. It’s also about embracing the uncertainty in life, making mistakes and moving forward the best you can while accepting what’s happened.”   

When Shawn failed a math course at university, instead of self-criticism, he met himself with kindness. “My first instinct of course was to beat myself up about it. But then I thought, you know what, that was a challenging course. I’ll try again next semester.” This shift in mindset, though not always easy, helped him break free from rumination and obsessive thoughts that worsened his depression.  

Acknowledging the need for external support is another aspect of self-compassion for Shawn. “In difficult situations when I don’t have much control over the outcome, it’s helpful to talk it out with people I trust.” During tough times, he turns to trusted friends, family, or mental health professionals for listening and support, recognizing this as vital self-care. As Shawn says, “Sometimes you just need someone to listen and be there for you.”  

Now aiming for a social work program at Cape Breton University, Shawn dreams of a career in mental health advocacy. His journey is fueled by self-compassion, which has transformed his emotional resilience and relationship with himself.  

Shawn’s story underscores the transformative power of self-compassion. By practicing kindness towards himself, he’s gained emotional strength and improved his mental well-being.  

To start your journey of self-compassion, explore our toolkit for practical tips and guidance.