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Four Ways to Become More Self Compassionate

In my last blog post, I discussed self-compassion. Self-compassion is exactly what it sounds like – being compassionate to yourself. Just like riding a bike, it is a skill and takes practice and time to get good at it. However, the rewards are worth it: Better self-esteem, more confidence, and greater motivation to try new things. Here are some activities and ideas for increasing your self-compassion.

  1. Notice and challenge your self-talk. Becoming aware of how you talk to yourself is the first step towards self-compassion. Do you put yourself down when you make a mistake? Do you call yourself names? Are you mean and cruel to yourself? Try to become hyper-aware of what you say to yourself. Once you start to note this negative chatter, ask yourself, “If I had a friend who was in this situation, what would I say to him or her?” Chances are it’s something warm, encouraging, and supportive.  Try saying this to yourself instead. For example, imagine that you catch yourself beating yourself up for forgetting to get gas on the way home from work. You might say something like, “That was a stupid thing to do! I can’t believe you forgot to get gas”. What would you say to a friend in this situation? Maybe something like “Too bad you forgot, but you can always get it tomorrow morning”. This statement puts things in perspective and allows you to recognize you’re human without beating yourself up.
  2. Make space for your emotions. The next time you find you’re feeling badly, whether its sad, angry, frustrated, hurt, or confused, try to be mindful of your emotions and allow yourself to feel them. Sometimes we distract ourselves from difficult emotions by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing video games. Although it will be difficult, try not to avoid the pain and stay present with what you’re feeling. As you lean into the pain, try saying something to yourself like, “This is a moment of suffering. This hurts”. Remind yourself that suffering is part of humanity, that we all hurt sometimes, and that you’re not alone. Ask yourself to be kind in this moment. Say something like, “May I give myself the compassion I need right now”. If you’re used to immediately putting yourself down when you feel low, this will be difficult to do. But with time this will become easier and will help you tolerate uncomfortable emotions.
  3. Self-compassion journal. Journalling is effective in processing emotions. In your journal, write down anything that happened throughout the day that you felt badly about. For example, perhaps you got angry at a co-worker for talking too loudly in the office. Write about how you felt when it happened (e.g. angry, frustrated, annoyed) and how you felt afterwards (e.g. guilty, ashamed, embarrassed). Try to be non-judgmental towards yourself (e.g. “I was frustrated because I’ve asked her to keep it down before”). Remind yourself that messing up is only human and is bound to happen sometimes (e.g. Everyone gets annoyed at others once in a while). Finish your journal with a compassionate statement to yourself (e.g. “You made a mistake and got upset, but its going to be okay. I know that you were feeling annoyed. You also hadn’t got much sleep the night before. Tomorrow, you can apologize to her”).
  4. Treat yourself well. When a friend of ours is suffering, we often feel the need to do something for them. We might take them out for lunch, buy them a small gift, or offer to clean their house for them. Take some time to do this for yourself. Think about something you enjoy that would help you to feel a little bit better. For example, you could buy yourself a book you’ve been wanting for a long time, treat yourself to a massage, or spend a day watching TV.

These activities will not make you immediately self-compassionate. However, with practice, you can learn to love and treat yourself as you would a family member or friend. With time, you will notice a very positive change in how you feel about yourself. Your loved ones may also notice a shift as you become more confident and secure in both your strengths and your soft-spots.

Allison Crosby is a Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling Association and specializes in the areas of anxiety, depression, self-esteem as well as many others. For more information on Allison, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.