Self-compassion can help us be more resilient and increase our self-esteem. Research suggests that people who can show themselves compassion have lower rates of anxiety, depression, shame and worries about failure and also have increased rates of resiliency. So how do you bring self-compassion into your life, especially if you think that being hard on yourself motivates you to get stuff done? Read below for ideas to get started. I hope you will experiment with some of these ideas and just begin learning how you can cultivate more self-compassion.

How to Learn Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff, an influential scholar in the field of psychology. She researches, writes and teaches about self-compassion. She talks about giving ourselves the compassion we might give to a friend when we are struggling or facing life challenges. Life is inevitably going to give us bumps in the roads and sometimes huge potholes that might sideline us for awhile. Learning how to bring self-compassion into your life will help you heal a lot quicker. The difficulty we are facing is enough of a challenge. Not giving yourself compassion just adds insult to injury. Think about what you might do for a friend and give yourself the same kindness when you find yourself in rough waters. Below are some things to try to bring more self-compassion into your life. You can try one a day or one a week. Keep practicing and go gently. This is not the kind of thing you do once and then forget about. I encourage you to keep trying and build in as many ways as you can. Choose the practices that feel good and right to you. You may even come up with some on your own. The suggestions below are just starting points, you choose what is best for you.

Forgive Yourself

This is a biggie. It can be really hard to do. But I bet you have small opportunities every day to work on this and it can be an effective practice to build especially if you start with the small stuff. I’ll give you an example from my life, in my early days as a mom. I had 3 very small children and often times I would pack up a bag or two with all the stuff I needed to go out for the day. I would of course be running late and invariably I might be halfway down my street and realize I forgot something. I use to get so mad at myself for forgetting things and just work myself up in my head. One day, my daughter dropped her cup and I instinctively said, “oopsie.” I thought if I can say “oopsie” for her, I can say “oopsie” for me when I made a mistake or an accident happened. I started giving it a try. I will be honest, it was very weird at first to be a grown up woman saying this out loud to myself, but it became very helpful for all those little things we forget and the things we beat ourselves up for every day. I know you are saying you might need to forgive yourself for the big things, but chances are if you can’t do it for the little things, it is going to be much harder to it for the big things. Try a day where you say “oopsie” when you make small mistakes so that you can practice self-compassion and move on more quickly. When we make a small mistake and have to correct it, think about whether you want to do it with a sense of ease and clarity or from an angry place where you make that mistake live on longer that it should. You can quickly move on from mistakes rather than having them ruin your whole day. Bonus, if you say “oopsie” out loud you begin to teach your own children self-compassion.

Reframe Negative Judgement

When you are noticing negative judgments, imagine a friend who tells you they are saying these things to themselves. What would you say to them? Would you allow them to say mean things about themselves?  Re-frame your negative judgments about yourself in a way you would do for a friend. Be realistic in your reframing. If you think, “I’m such a loser,” don’t reframe it by saying “I am the best person in the whole world” because your BS meter is going to go off. That is too general and doesn’t feel believable. Use the reframe to say something that is accurate and meaningful. So something like, “Even though I made mistakes on my last project, I know that I put in extra hours, did thorough research and made sure staff had my support so that they could get their work done.” See what I mean?

Become Friends With Your Inner Critic

When your inner critic shows, that negative voice that reminds you that you are “not good enough,” remember it is just a part of that is worried about you and wants to help you get it right. Your inner critic really just wants to help and protect you! So, shift your focus away from the CONTENT of what it is saying and focus on the act of protection. Your inner critic is not reflecting the reality that is going on right now, in fact it is probably distorting a lot of things. So talk to your inner critic and say, “thank you, I appreciate that you are trying to protect me from making mistakes.” You can even imagine what your inner critic looks like and dress her up so you can see her when you talk to her. If your inner critic is hanging around you might as well dress her up. And yes, we can use humor to help us create a space for more self-compassion. You can give yourself permission to have fun with it.

Hold Your Heart

Another technique which can be helpful is a “Heart Holding” technique. When there is a struggling “part” of you that just is feeling distressed, show that “part” some self-compassion. Maybe it is a worried part. Or maybe a sad part. Place your hand on your heart and talk to that part and say, “I see you. I am here with you. I will help you get through this.” You can even add, “we got this.” Bonus: gently breathe while you do this to help calm your nervous system.

Give Yourself Permission To Be Human

Give yourself permission to be human. Give yourself permission to try and fail. Thomas Edison failed 999 times. Imagine if he didn’t try just one more time? Failing is part of succeeding. Have compassion for yourself when you fail so that you can try again. Trying something new is pretty brave. Here might be a good place to use the heart holding technique to help the inner critic who might be worried you are going to fail. Let your inner critic know that no matter what you can survive a failure. You have in the past and you can do it again.


Kristin Neff, Exploring the Meaning of Self-Compassion:

Harvard University Self-Compassion Resources: