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How to cultivate self-compassion

Part 1. Daily Journaling

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is:

  • Having the ability to notice suffering in others.

  • Having empathy for someone else’s pain so that your heart responds to their suffering.

  • Offering understanding instead of judgment to others when they make mistakes.

  • Realizing that suffering, failure, and imperfections are part of the human experience and a reality shared by all of us.

  • Accepting that you will make mistakes.

  • Honoring and accepting your humanness

Self-compassion is not:

  • Self-Pity. Instead, self-compassion involves understanding the commonness of suffering without feeling isolated or disconnected.

  • Indulgence. Instead, self-compassion means wanting to be better and holding yourself accountable, rather than letting yourself “get away” with things.

  • Self-Esteem. Instead, self-compassion is understanding that external things don’t define your worth. Self-compassion is knowing that you deserve to feel compassion (unconditionally) because everyone deserves to feel compassion.

Okay, now that we know what self-compassion is, and what it is not, what’s next? Reading about self-compassion is one thing, but now it’s time to do the work! We can apply the 3 main aspects of self-compassion: Mindfulness, Common humanity, and Kindness and cultivate compassion in ourselves by practicing it in our day-to-day lives.

We created a series of 4 writing exercises to help you practice and cultivate self-compassion. All that you need is a pen and paper to get started.

Exercise 1: Daily Journaling

We are BIG fans of journaling! That’s because journaling is one of the greatest tools in therapy. It helps us learn about our own thought patterns, gain self-awareness and has been found to enhance both mental and physical wellbeing. Daily journaling can allow us to strengthen our self-compassion and help us translate that more easily into our daily life. For the first part in our 4 part cultivating self-compassion series, we’re offering the exercise of daily journaling. Try keeping a daily self-compassion journal for at least 5 days, it’s okay if you miss a day, just continue to journal regularly.

For this exercise we’ll focus on the 3 elements of self-compassion:

1. Mindfulness

Write about a difficult situation or anything that you felt bad about that day. Write about any self-judgments or criticisms you had and anything that caused you pain or suffering. Try not to belittle or exaggerate your experience, but instead adopt an objective approach and write about your stress and discomfort without judgment.

2. Common Humanity

Write about the human condition. Try acknowledging that everyone has bad days, everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. Connect your experiences to the larger human experience. Think also about external forces that might have interacted with the event. Remember that you cannot take responsibility for everything. We aren’t entirely in control so we aren’t entirely in control when we fail or make mistakes.

3. Self-Kindness

What do you need to hear right now? Write yourself kind, understanding words of validation and comfort. Be gentle and let yourself know that it is okay, that YOU are okay. Let yourself know that you are allowed to make mistakes and you care about yourself indefinitely. Try thinking about other ways you can process and react to this experience in the future. Or, think about what you have learned from this experience, what knowledge or tools have you gained? How can you find empowerment?

Try keeping up with this journal practice daily. Maybe in the evening or right before bed. Grab a pen and paper, take a deep breath, and think through your day. Keep track of how this process makes you feel each day and if these feelings fluctuate or change. We’re rooting for you!

Need help getting started? We created a free self-paced 5 day self-compassion journal challenge. Click the button below to sign up.

Keep eye out for the next blog on befriending yourself through letter writing in our 4 part self-compassion writing series!


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