Self-compassion is the practice of relating to yourself with kindness, unconditional acceptance and forgiveness. It is treating yourself with the same care and compassion you would show a close friend in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure or genuine suffering. Self-compassion consists of three core components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-compassion is strongly linked to well-being, coping and resilience. While self-criticism may increase motivation in the short-term, it often increases fear of failure, shame and performance anxiety. Self-compassion offers long-term gains. It makes it safe to experience failure which increases motivation to pursue difficult tasks and take personal responsibility for mistakes. People who practice self-compassion tend to experience greater satisfaction in their relationships and be more understanding of themselves and others.
1. Give yourself a permission slip. Provide yourself with permission to be flawed and to make mistakes. Accept the feelings that arise when recognizing your imperfections. Acknowledge that other people feel or have felt this way before.
2. Acknowledge that life is hard. When you find yourself trying to use self-compassion to make pain go away, try shifting away from this subtle form of resistance. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging that we are all living imperfect lives. Remember that you are not alone in this experience. Failure and disappointment are inevitable. Our struggles do not divide us but serve as a point of connection.
3. Ask yourself what you need in this moment. Allow yourself a moment of self-compassion by simply asking yourself what you need during a difficult time. Even if you can’t find an answer or can’t meet your needs at that time, simply asking the question is a form of self-compassion.
4. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Think about a time when a good friend felt really bad or was struggling in some way. How did you respond, what did you do, what tone of voice did you use? Was your approach different from how you respond to yourself in these situations? What factors or fears lead to treating yourself and others so differently? How would things change if you started responding to yourself the same way when you’re suffering? Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?
5. Write yourself a letter. Find your compassionate voice by writing a letter to yourself whenever you feel inadequate or when you want to help motivate yourself to make a difficult change. It can feel uncomfortable at first, but gets easier with practice.
Here are three writing practices to try:
1. Think of an imaginary friend who is unconditionally wise, loving, and compassionate and write a letter to yourself from the perspective of your friend.
2. Write a letter as if you were talking to a beloved friend who was struggling with the same concerns as you.
3. Write a letter from the compassionate part of yourself to the part of yourself that is struggling.
After writing the letter, step away and return to it later. Use the letter as a source of comfort and support when you need it most.
The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive (Germer and Neff, 2010).