Self-compassion: Practicing Kindness and Respect Toward Ourselves

Self-compassion: Practicing Kindness and Respect Toward Ourselves

Spread the love:

Self-compassion centers around practicing kindness and respect toward ourselves. It also requires openness and vulnerability in acknowledging past trauma or mistakes and working through difficult emotions like anger, hurt, and sadness. Self-compassion allows us to release criticism and self-judgment.

It is essential to differentiate self-compassion from self-esteem. Often, as we go through life, we learn to focus on feeling good about ourselves based on our accomplishments and positive qualities. However, in moments of suffering, self-compassion outshines self-esteem.

With self-compassion, our worth is not dependent on the outcome. A self-compassionate response cuts through extreme beliefs normalizes the feeling and offers encouragement through the disappointment.

“Whenever I notice something about myself I don’t like, or whenever something goes wrong in my life, I silently repeat the following phrases: This is a moment of suffering.  Suffering is part of life.   May I be kind to me at this moment? May I give myself the compassion I need.” —KRISTEN NEFF

Related: Coping with Life Changes 


Internalized messages from past traumatic events or childhood wounds may contribute to feelings of unworthiness, making practicing self-compassion challenging. The quickest way to create a self-compassionate response involves thinking about how you might respond to a beloved friend.

In the following situations, write what you would say to a friend to help them feel better:

1. I just got fired from my job for making a mistake.

2. My significant other broke up with me.

3. I did not get hired for my dream job because I was underqualified.

4. My friends had a party and didn’t invite me.

5. I had to go up a dress size.



Have you ever noticed how you feel about yourself after browsing social media?   Many of us feel worse after scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.   

Make a   list of your social media accounts and ask yourself these questions:  Do I feel empowered, good enough, and happy after being on this social media site?   Jot down a few notes about how each of these sites makes you feel, and cross off any sites that make you feel worse. 

Consider adjusting the feeds or unfollowing people to only allow for pictures and messages that inspire, nurture, and empower. Taking this action can become a big step toward practicing and discovering self-love and self-compassion.

1. ————————————————————————————————————–

2. ————————————————————————————————————–

3. ————————————————————————————————————–

4. ————————————————————————————————————–

5. ————————————————————————————————————–


Think back to a time in your life when you struggled and faced disappointment, rejection, or failure. Perhaps it was trying out for a part in the school play, facing a breakup in a relationship, or not getting the job you wanted. Fill in the blanks to this guided self-compassion letter to yourself.


Part of self-compassion involves challenging negative beliefs and silencing your inner critic. For each of the following negative statements, see if you can come up with a kinder, gentler self-statement.

I am never good enough. ——————————————————

No one will ever love me. ——————————————————

I can’t do anything right.  ——————————————————

I am so stupid. ——————————————————————–

Why can’t I do this correctly?  ———————————————–

I am a loser.  ———————————————————————–


Self-compassion and kindness can go a long way when you are learning something new like how to ride a bike, drive a car, or cook a new dish. It is okay to make mistakes and keep trying as part of the process of learning. Think about a time you tried something new. What did you tell yourself to encourage yourself not to give up? What did you do to improve?


Some emotions can be uncomfortable and hard to experience.   We often try to make them go away or tell ourselves that we should not have them. Unfortunately, suppressing feelings can lead to many other problems, including health issues, relationship challenges, and numbing behaviors. Part of self-compassion involves allowing yourself to experience the full range of emotions.

For this exercise:

1. Close your eyes and practice mindfully breathing.

2. Allow yourself to become calmer with each inhalation and exhalation.

3. Notice any uncomfortable feelings you have experienced recently. They could include shame, fear, boredom, rejection, or something else.

4. Think about where you experience this feeling in your body.

5. When you encounter this emotion, kindly remind yourself that your feelings are natural and that it is okay to honor them with compassion.

6. When you are ready, take a deep breath and open your eyes.


Dr. Kristen Neff is a leading psychologist and an expert on self-compassion. Part of her research involves identifying an essential component of self-compassion. She explains that suffering is part of the human condition.  We all suffer and struggle, and this contributes to a sense of humanity.  

This exercise can help us realize we are not alone in our challenges. Circle the universal human struggles and challenges that you have experienced so far in your life.

  1. Death of a loved one
  2. Telling a joke and no one laughs
  3. Breaking something important
  4. Doing
  5. Quarantine
  6. poorly on   a test
  7. due to a pandemic
  8. Losing a friendship
  9. Being alone
  10. Feeling left out
  11. Losing something valuable (like   your purse)
  12. The breakup of a relationship
  13. Gaining weight


Children are so wonderful and innocent and pure. Have you ever thought about how you speak to a child? Stop and think about it—you would never speak to a child the way you may sometimes talk to yourself. In this exercise, write down some common self-talk statements and see if you can adapt them to sound more compassionate like you would say to a child.

Example: “I am such an idiot.” (after dropping my phone)

Answer: It’s okay, it didn’t break.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to drop a phone.

Statement:  ——————————————————————————————————————

Answer: ——————————————————————————————————————

Statement:  ——————————————————————————————————————

Answer: ——————————————————————————————————————

Statement:  ——————————————————————————————————————

Answer: ——————————————————————————————————————


Mantras and affirmations can help reinforce self-compassion. See which ones listed here resonate with you. Try saying these or posting them where you can read them daily. Feel free to add your own on the lines below:

  1. I am doing the best that I can right now, and that is enough.
  2. I am worthy, even when I struggle.
  3. And, I can allow myself to feel all my emotions, even uncomfortable ones.
  4. My feelings are neither good nor bad. They just are.
  5. My thoughts are just thoughts.
  6. I can make mistakes. They are a normal part of growing and learning.
  7. I pay attention to my body and how it feels.
  8. I am learning and growing every day.
  9. What is important to me might differ from what is important to someone else. And that’s okay.
  10. I can handle it if not everyone likes me.


We talked earlier about the differences between self-compassion and self-esteem. Self-compassion allows us to be kind to ourselves even when we struggle, while self-esteem reflects how we feel about ourselves about our accomplishments.

If you were looking at a chart comparing the two, your self-compassion would stay steady no matter what the circumstance, while self-esteem would go up and down depending on how your ego felt. Think about the differences in each situation below, and notice how much more helpful the self-compassionate responses are.

Example: Got a raise

Self-compassion response:  I have worked hard for this, and I deserve it.

Self-esteem response:   I am the best.   Everyone will know that I am great!

Forgot an important meeting

Self-compassion response: ———————————————————

Self-esteem response:   ———————————————————

Asked out on a date

Self-compassion response:   ———————————————————

Self-esteem response:   ———————————————————

The friend declined my invite

Self-compassion response:   ———————————————————

Self-esteem response:   ———————————————————


The classic children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit by   Margery Williams Bianco contains a dialogue between the Skin Horse and the child, in which the Skin Horse shares what it means to be real. He describes being worn down by his loving owner, and how he doesn’t mind being worn down, even if it means his eyes drop out or his hair gets worn off from petting.

I have always loved this metaphor for life. By experiencing and surviving life, even its painful events, and suffering, we become more beautiful and complete.   This passage rings true for self-compassion as well. In the space provided, share both positive and challenging situations that have shaped who you have become and have taught you more about being real.

Positive Situations:

  1. ——————————————————
  2. ——————————————————-
  3. ——————————————————
  4. ——————————————————-
  5. —————————————————-

Challenging Situations:

  1. ——————————————————-
  2. ——————————————————
  3. ——————————————————-
  4. ——————————————————
  5. ——————————————————-


Answer the following true or false questions by choosing the response that feels most accurate for you.

1. I allow myself to make mistakes and see them as learning opportunities.



2. I allow myself to experience all my emotions.



3. When I’m lonely, I will beat myself up and tell myself that no one likes me.



4. Speaking harshly to myself is an effective way of motivating myself to do better.



5. If I fail, I believe I am not good enough.



6. Struggling and suffering are a part of the human experience.



7. I punish myself for making mistakes.



8. I must be perfect to be loved or good enough.



9. I am as kind to myself as I am to other people.



10. I   tend to overreact to my feelings and exaggerate my response to get validation.




Give yourself 5 points for every   TRUE answer for questions   1, 2, 6, and 9. Give yourself 5   points for every   FALSE   answer for questions   3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10.

90–100: You are a self-compassion queen!  Keep up the fantastic work in loving and being kind to yourself.

80–90: Keep it up! You are on your way to practicing self-compassion daily.

70–80:  Continue to challenge yourself to be kinder and more encouraging to yourself.

60–70: Keep learning, and remember that everyone struggles with hard times. This understanding is an essential aspect of practicing self-compassion.

50–60: Keep practicing. Self-compassion may be a new way of experiencing life.  Allow yourself to notice your feelings and talk to yourself in a kind and loving manner.

0–50: Let’s try some self-compassion right now! You are taking steps to grow and become more loving and forgiving to yourself.   Remember, the three components to self-compassion involve being kind to yourself, recognizing the humanity in struggles, and practicing mindfulness.


What situations and experiences have you gone through that proved challenging to show self-compassion? Share an experience here, and describe what helped you overcome and get through the difficult time.


Voice-Changer Hack

On days when you’re feeling down or struggling to find any inkling of self-compassion, I have a secret hack that might help. I came up with this in a therapy session and must admit I use it myself now. I   have a voice changer app on my phone that allows me to record a statement and then play it back in different types of voices. First, I record myself saying the negative self-talk statement. 

For instance, “I’m not good enough.” Then I play this back over and over, using the different voice sounds. It becomes a great way to defuse negative thoughts and become less stuck to the meaning. My favorite voices are Robot, Alien, and Chipmunk.

Alternatively, you can simply use your voice and funnily say these statements—try saying them like a robot or even Mickey Mouse! It’s hard to stay so serious and negative when something makes you laugh or smile and negative when something makes you laugh or smile.


Mindfulness can help us work toward self-compassion. As we have discussed, mindfulness means observing the present moment without judgment. Judgment is when we tell ourselves that what we’re doing or feeling is right or wrong, or good or bad. It’s the should’s and shouldn’t.

Some emotions can feel overwhelming or uncomfortable, causing us to want to suppress or numb ourselves.  You can practice noticing emotions by first recognizing what happens in your body in conjunction with your different feelings.

Example: Anger:  My body becomes tense, my face gets hot, I clench my teeth.

Sadness: ———————————————————

Fear:   ———————————————————

Joy: ———————————————————

Disgust: ———————————————————

Surprise:   ———————————————————


Feelings are neither good nor bad. They are just like waves in the ocean —they come and go. However, when we try to fight them, it can feel a little like drowning.   Try instead to surf your feelings or float with them. They will pass, and new ones will come.   List all the feelings you have already experienced today, and consider how they came and went.


As humans, we are all flawed and imperfect.  The acceptance of this belief is a critical component of understanding and practicing self-compassion. After establishing mindfulness and learning to experience our feelings and thoughts nonjudgmentally, self-compassion goes even further.

It requires genuine kindness and acceptance of our flaws and imperfections with grace and compassion, not just awareness.  Make a list here of five shortcomings and remind yourself that you are perfectly imperfect in the column beside it.

Example: I am messy and leave crumbs on the floor.

It’s okay to be messy.












Humor can be an excellent way to defuse and let go of negative self-talk. In the square provided, design a meme or cartoon about how you are self-compassionate using a picture from a magazine, or even one you draw. Sometimes a little humor can make heavy situations feel lighter.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just delete negative thoughts? Perhaps you can visualize a silly way to pop or zap negative thoughts about yourself that come to mind. Think of words as balloons that you can let float on by out of your mind. Tell yourself, “There is that negative word.

Just notice it and let it go.” Now think of a statement like “I’m never good enough” and practice observing and dismissing the negative self-talk or internalized critical voices.

Self-Compassion Tips

  1. In addition to what we’ve explored in this article, here are a few quick and easy tips for embracing self-compassion when you need it:
  2. Next time you feel negative self-talk coming on, give yourself a big squeeze.
  3. Tell yourself what you would tell a good friend—you’re only human, and you’re awesome.
  4. Give yourself a break—step away from what you’re doing.   Move into another space, like nature, or your favorite corner of your home, relax your body and breathe.
  5. Make an affirmation jar. Fill it with messages to yourself that remind you what is special and great about you. Pull them out as needed.
  6. Conversely, write down negative self-talk statements and then throw them away in a symbolic gesture of release.
  7. Seek out the people and pets that make you feel good.
  8. Take a break from social media and unplug from electronics. Quiet your world and reflect on what is around you.
  9. Do something just for the fun of it. Create, bake, paint, write, color— whatever lifts you.


I hope this article has been helpful and filled with tools you can use for self-compassion. Navigating vulnerable and uncomfortable places, especially from our pasts, can be challenging. By adding self-compassion to the mix, we change the game dramatically.  

No matter what obstacles and detours come our way, self-compassion allows us to keep moving forward. In the next article, we will explore self-doubt and those nagging, internal voices that cause us to not believe in ourselves. Self-compassion will surely come in handy in the next leg of our journey.

Loving myself means embracing and learning from my mistakes.

Also Read: Karma Cleanse with Loving-Kindness, Compassion, And Forgiveness

Spread the love:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *