Six Ways to Practice Self-Compassion
Updated: Jan 9
Something I commonly witness is how hard people tend to be on themselves. Often, people offer themselves minimal self-compassion or do not know how to go about being more self-compassionate. Today I offer a few ways to build a more loving relationship with yourself as a means toward increased healing and peace within yourself.
Talk to yourself as you would a friend or loved one: What would you tell a friend or family member going through something similar to you? Would the way you express yourself to them be anywhere near as critical as what you are saying to yourself? What makes it easier to offer kind words to someone you care about than to offer yourself the same grace? When you catch yourself engaging in critical self-talk, pause and ask yourself what you would tell your most cherished friend or loved one. Is it possible to turn those words onto yourself? What difference do you notice when speaking to yourself in the same way you would speak to someone you love deeply?
Acknowledge your humanity and fallibility: Often our self-criticism stems from a sense of falling short of our own expectations. You may hold yourself to standards that are difficult or impossible to obtain and then judge yourself harshly when things don’t go perfectly. It can help to remind yourself that perfection is unattainable and that your worth is not contingent on having to be perfect. It can help to remind yourself that it is natural and unavoidable to make mistakes. By shifting your perspective on achieving perfection, you can allow yourself room and flexibility to offer yourself compassion when something does not go as planned, you make a mistake, or something falls short of what you were hoping for.
Acknowledge that doing your best will fluctuate: Part of holding perfectionistic standards is the sense that you must always do your best. A potentially helpful reframe is to acknowledge that your best will look different from day to day. You will likely feel more capable and productive on days where you get enough sleep or when there are minimal stressors in your life, versus days in which you are experiencing a family crisis, a major challenge at work, or are running on three hours of sleep. By noting the factors that are limiting your ability to do your best, you can then meet your authentic needs, offer yourself some gentleness, and acknowledge that you do not have to achieve the same level of productivity each and every day.
Refrain from judgmental statements about yourself: “I am worthless.” “I am stupid.” “I am ugly.” “I’m such a weirdo.” “I’m useless.” “I’m a bad mother” “I’m a bad husband.” “I’m a bad daughter.” How many of these are statements you have said to yourself? What other judgments do you say to yourself on any given day? Judgmental self-talk is the antithesis of self-compassion and yet it is so rampant and automatic you may not even catch the slew of vitriolic thoughts you have about yourself. I encourage you to begin checking in with the thoughts you have and the ways you speak to yourself. Can you begin to shift away from judgmental statements toward identifying how a behavior has led you to feel? It can feel very different to say “I’m not feeling good about myself as a daughter since I haven’t called my parents in two weeks” versus labeling yourself as a “bad daughter.” This shift can also help by giving you agency to make a change that can help you feel better about yourself - in this case by calling your parents.
Identify the causes of behaviors: It can help to actively reflect on the root of your self-judgment and to reframe self-judgment by identifying the causes of your behavior. For example, if you struggled to speak up at a meeting and are now criticizing yourself harshly, it can help to identify possible causes that contributed to your reaction. You may be able to reflect on how speaking up got you in trouble with your parents growing up or made fun of by others, and that these reactions reinforced that speaking up was not a safe behavior. Telling yourself, “I feel unsafe when I speak up given the things that happened to me growing up. It’s understandable I would feel nervous to say something” is a much more compassionate statement than, “Ugh, I’m such a loser for not saying anything in that meeting! Everyone must think I have nothing to say.”
Engage in kind and loving behaviors toward yourself: Often we engage in behaviors that are reflective of our relationship with ourselves. So if you have a critical self-perception it is likely that you may also be engaging in behaviors that are self-sabotaging or neglectful of your needs. It can help to take stock of ways in which you may be neglecting physical needs, such as nutrition, sleep, or physical activity, or if you’re engaging in excessive substance use. How can you take steps toward engaging in behaviors that are more self-compassionate, such as taking breaks to rest and engage in enjoyable activities, engaging in physical activity that feels revitalizing and restorative, or making sure you’re getting enough sleep. It can also help to look at positive changes you can make to help you emotionally as well, such as decreasing contact with people who negatively impact your well-being or decreasing time spent on social media. By changing external behaviors that are not serving your well-being, you may begin to feel more loving and compassionate toward yourself.
I hope some of these ideas can help spark some ways to offer yourself more self-compassion. By strengthening your ability to be kinder and more loving toward yourself, you may be able to achieve the deep and long-lasting healing you deserve.