Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Practice Self-Compassion & Be Kind To Yourself
Published Jul 7th, 2020 & updated on May 27th, 2021
You don’t think you need to learn how to practice self-compassion until something like this happens. Muse along with us for a minute while we paint a picture.
You’ve finally scored THE job interview. It’s your dream role and you’ve been prepping for this interview for weeks. You’ve researched the company, you know what you’re going to wear, you’ve rehearsed what you’re going to say. No room for failure this time.
You’re in the waiting room. Your palms start to feel clammy. You’re a little nervous. You think to yourself, “Don’t mess this up”. The interviewer calls your name and you walk into the room on shaking legs. You sit down and – and you blank. You forget absolutely everything.
Now you’re really sweating and your heart is pounding and you’re so mad at yourself because UGH you practiced for this and you screwed it up and why can’t you just do one thing right???
Now imagine a friend tells you the exact same story.
You answer the phone and hear their voice…they sound so defeated. Your heart breaks for them. You know how bad they wanted this job. You tell them that it’s ok, everything will be ok. It was just one interview. They are so talented and qualified and amazing and there will be many more interviews. “It happens to everyone,” you say. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Hmm.. do you see where we’re going with this?
Experiences like this are NORMAL. They happen to everyone.
When they happen to others, we are good friends – great friends, even. We are there with support and encouragement because all we want to do is make them feel better. So why, in the exact same situation, do we feel authorized to rip ourselves apart?
Because we aren’t practicing self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff has spent years studying self-compassion and describes it as giving the same care to yourself as you would a good friend:
“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
Maybe this seems like a revolutionary idea. Being kind to ourselves? What? Or maybe this is a Eureka Moment – everything finally makes sense. Either way, being kind to ourselves is so so so important.
In fact, Dr. Neff has found that “self-compassion is very strongly related to mental wellbeing”. Ok, we should definitely be nice to ourselves.
The Three Elements of Self-Compassion
According to Dr. Neff, there are three elements crucial to self-compassion. As we dive thru them together, think about where you stand in relation. Are you more prone to one than the other?
Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement
Self-kindness points to being understanding to ourselves, rather than giving ourselves large doses of harsh criticism. When you reflect on your self-talk, does it sound like something you’d be okay with saying to your best friend? If the answer is no, you’re likely being way too mean to yourself. Your internal critic got hold of the reins and is wreaking havoc. Get those reins back.
Common Humanity vs. Isolation
Making mistakes is part of being human – it connects us all together. When you realize you are not alone in your feelings, you begin to feel the common humanity in our experiences.
Mindfulness vs. Over-identification
Being mindful means accepting your thoughts and feelings as they are and not necessarily trying to change them.
Simply put, self-compassion is the same as having compassion for others:
“With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.”
So, are you ready to be a friend to yourself?
6 Ways You Can Be Kinder To Yourself
Let’s start implementing self-compassion in your daily life. Check out these exercises from Dr. Neff herself on how to be kinder to your incredible self:
1. Learn more about what self-compassion is.
Watch Dr. Kristin Neff’s Tedx Talk about self-compassion and the impact it’s had on her life. She explains the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem and some of the science behind self-compassion.
2. See how you actually treat yourself.
Take Dr. Neff’s self-compassion test to see how you’re treating yourself now, as well as some areas of improvement for the future. Think of it like those quizzes you used to take in teen magazines. Except, instead of telling you which member of One Direction you are, this one tells you how kind you’re being to yourself. Fun and productive.
3. Write a letter to yourself from an imaginary friend.
This may sound odd but writing from another perspective will help reframe your thoughts. You’ll realize how you should be treating yourself all the time and can start allowing that compassion into your own life. The only thing left after that will be coffee dates with your imaginary BFF.
4. Change your critical self-talk.
Critical self-talk can be an ingrained habit so this will likely take time and dedication. First, try to recognize and acknowledge when you’re thinking negative thoughts. Then, try to work on shifting them to be more loving and compassionate. As Dr. Neff says, “Love is more powerful than fear”.
5. Keep a self-compassion journal.
If you’ve been around for a while, you may have noticed that we kind of dig journaling.
Ok, we really dig journaling.
Use our free DiveThru app to track your journey to self-compassion. As you go through the events of the day, try to keep the three elements of self-compassion in mind: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Check in with yourself and as you do, celebrate the little moments of self-kindness until they become second nature.
Another good place to start is our 6-Day Gratitude Challenge! Say it with us now, “Today I’m grateful to myself for….”
6. Take advantage of the resources available to you.
The entirety of the world wide web is at your disposal; there are so many amazing (free!) resources just beyond the google search bar. One excellent resource is guided reflection in podcast format. Dr. Neff has created ten different self-compassion guided meditations that are free to listen to. Some of the topics include self-compassion for caregivers, noting your emotions, and self-compassion break. Take some time to explore these, along with other resources on your journey to become more self-compassionate.
At DiveThru, we believe in you and we are here for you. With just a pinch of practice, a teaspoon of forgiveness, and a cup of kindness, you’re on your way to becoming a better friend to yourself. Mix in a whole lot of love and you have the perfect recipe for self-compassion.
Or is that the recipe for chocolate chip cookies? Either way, it’s a win.