Self-compassion and Our Business-of-One

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin in it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

~Warren Buffett

I like Warren Buffett’s suggestion that we should each think of ourselves as a Business-of-One when it comes to our careers, whether we are employees or self-employed. He invites us to consider that everything we put out into the world via social media, applications, etc., really is self-branding that shapes the reputation of our Business-of-One: it is either an act of self-compassion or not.

Self-compassion refers to the idea of treating ourselves in the way that we would treat someone who is near and dear to us. That usually means accepting them as whole beings and helping them achieve what is important to them. It also means honoring their gifts and forgiving their trespasses. Bringing self-compassion to our Business-of-One means that we make every effort to help ourselves present and be perceived and received in a way that is healthy for us and true to ourselves.

From a career perspective, lack of self-compassion (a.k.a. misrepresentation) can take many forms, starting with not taking the time to find out who we are, what we are good at, and where we have the passion and potential to go. We can easily fall into the trap of pursuing outward success, while living in misery on the inside.

Second, it involves presenting ourselves in an authentic way that doesn’t over or under represent our talents and achievements. This is important from the perspective of being able to honor our commitmentss to ourselves and to others. Over-committing and under-delivering, as well as Under-committing and over-delivering run the risk of creating confusion down the road.

Third, it means making choices on a day-to-day basis that respect ourselves, others, and the organizations that we represent, by leaving a trail of interactions and a reputation that shows us as a trustworthy and capable person. This does not mean accepting wrong treatment, but rather standing for what is right in a way that reflects the human value being defended.

When operating our Business-of-One, we need to be a ‘good employer’ that thinks about the health, wellbeing, reputation, growth, happiness and efficacy of the worker. That means knowing our limitations and having the humility to ask for help when needed. It means honoring and accepting our humanness. Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher, puts it this way: Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

Dr. Neff points to three self-compassion practices: 

1.    Self-kindness versus Self Judgement: entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.


2.    Common Humanity versus Isolation: recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.


3.    Mindfulness versus Over-identification: taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. 

Making these three practices part of how we operate our Business-of-One online and off is a good way to keep our reputation intact.


Germaine Watts is a thought leader, author, speaker and co-founder of Ensentious – a consultancy and workshop/retreat provider dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and organizations thrive. As a mindfulness coach, SuccessFinder expert, and facilitator with the Centre for Courage and Renewal, she seeks to foster connection between soul and role in ways that support of personal, organizational, and societal transformation.