A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day.
A string of such moments can change the course of your life
– Christopher K. Germer

Compassion towards others is often easy to most of us. Self-compassion, on the other hand, can be difficult and downright uncomfortable. Self-compassion can be a key component in working through shame, increasing self-esteem and overcoming perfectionism.  The girls I work with have been riddled with self-hate and such low self-esteem that asking them to be self-compassionate is like asking them to speak a foreign language. I do a group activity that helps the girls gain insight on how to be self-compassionate and what it would feel like. First, I have them think of someone they have only good feeling towards. I ask them to create an image this person in their minds and imagine sending them this positive love. I then ask them to write this person a short letter expressing this compassion and positive feelings.  After they are done with the letter, I have them cross the person’s name off who they wrote it to and write their own names instead. It is such a powerful experience to hear these girls read these letters to themselves and express self-compassion.   Some girls get so uncomfortable that they cannot finish reading the letter.
3 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion
Pulling from Dr. Kristin Neff, Ph.D. research on self-compassion, I have outlined steps to self-compassion below. For more information on self-compassion please visit Dr. Neff’s website at www. Self-compassion.org

  1. Recognize when you are suffering.  This can be difficult because often our suffering comes from our own negative self-judgment.  We need to practice tuning into our suffering, just as we would recognize and tune into another suffering when we are being compassionate.
  2.  Respond to suffering in a kind, caring and supporting manner. Again, much like compassion toward others find words of comfort. For example, you could say to yourself “it is really hard to feel ashamed” or “you’ve had a hard day and need a little break.”
  3. Remember that suffering is part of the human experience. We are not isolated in our suffering and that others experience pain as well. Imperfection is part of the shared human experience.

Blog written by Megan Belcher, CSW, Therapist