How to Improve Your Self-Compassion
Exercises to become kinder towards yourself
“Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.”— Nathaniel Branden
Self-compassion beats self-confidence anytime, as I wrote in my previous post. I discussed how overconfidence and narcism force us to compare to others, they blind us and make us feel miserable when things go wrong.
Being self-compassionate is like fresh oxygen to your mind.
Here are some exercises for you to put on your oxygen mask first.
1. Reframe your thoughts
When your inner voice is making critical judgments, moderate those thoughts by making them conscious.
Reframe your judgmental words in a positive way.
The above are just examples, use your own words. Find a way to observe yourself through a kinder lens. The idea is not to lower your bar but rather focus on what you can improve — criticism will only get you stuck.
2. The criticizer, the criticized, and the compassionate observer
This exercise by Kristin Neff is inspired on the two-chair dialogue.
You will sit in three different chairs — arranged in a triangle form — each representing a different perspective. Refocus your thoughts and feelings on being supportive and caring of yourself.
Identify an issue. Start at the ‘self-critic’ chair and express out loud your thoughts and feelings. Move to the ‘criticized’ chair — empathize with how your inner-critic makes you feel. Conduct a dialogue between the two trying to integrate both perspectives.
Lastly, take the ‘compassionate observer’ and try to make sense of the overall situation as if you were observing someone else. What does your ‘compassionate-self’ say to the ‘critic,’ what insight does it have?
Reflect on the learning. Check out the in-depth version here.
3. The Compassionate Letter
The purpose of this exercise to write a letter to yourself as if you would address a friend that is suffering and being harsh on herself/ himself.
Writing will help you tone down negative emotions and be more kind to yourself — treat yourself the way you want your loved ones to treat you.
This letter is a space to express what you are going through and how you are feeling — focus on how you’d like to feel. Provide yourself some words of encouragement and some small steps that can move you in the right direction.
Reflect how you talk, and how you would like to talk, to yourself.
You can record yourself and then listen to the recording the following day, or you can read it out loud to a friend. The purpose of listening to your own voice is to take some distance — observe yourself without being emotionally attached.
Check out a more in-depth version by Paul Gilbert here.
- A collection of guided self-compassion meditation by Kristin Neff. Start listening.
- The RAIN of self-compassion meditation (Recognition, Allow, Investigate, Nourish) by Tara Brach. Watch it here.
- Self-love and self-compassion guided meditation by Craig Wenaweser. Watch it now.
- Mindful meditations compilation by U.C.L.A. Check it out.
5. Additional Resources
Albert Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, on embracing ‘unconditional self-acceptance’ (Video).
Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion expert, on finding the space between self-esteem and self-compassion (Video).
Paul Gilbert makes a case of how compassion is determined biologically, by our experiences and context — however, we can reprogram ourselves and develop The Compassionate Mind (Book).
Kelly McGonigal explains how self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control, shifting the brain into a state of inhibition. The Willpower Instinct (Book).
More exercises by The Compassionate Mind Foundation (Downloads).
Missed my post on self-compassion? Check it out here.
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