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The Art of Practicing Self-Compassion

Jonathan Riley

“Sometimes we forget we can get our needs of acceptance, kindness & forgiveness met from within.” – Anonymous

Compassion is often something that is hard for many of us. Self-compassion is about showing yourself genuine concern, care, and love. Being self-compassionate is not something we are taught about or talk about a lot, and so it can carry some negative connotations. The concept of self-compassion puts some people off because they believe it is too “touchy-feely.” Yet practicing self-compassion can significantly increase our happiness and wellbeing.

Here are 9 ways to practice self-compassion.

Mindfulness compassion

This is the nonjudgmental observation of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions, without trying to suppress or deny them. Begin by breathing mindfully in order to notice your breath and become aware, curious and notice the physical and bodily sensations when you connect with feelings of compassion and what images and thoughts come to mind. Note these with gentle curiosity and without judgement.

Treat yourself as you would a small child

In a painful situation, consider what a child might want or need. What would you say to them? What understanding and caring advice would you give them? That child could be your own, or you could imagine yourself as a child. Consider how you would treat a good friend or even a beloved pet, and then begin to treat yourself the same way.

Become aware of your self-talk

You may be so used to criticising and judging yourself harshly that you don’t even realize that you’re doing it. Pay particular attention to the words you use to speak to yourself. Would you talk to someone you cared about the way you are talking to yourself?

Give yourself encouragement

Use affirmations and positive statements to challenge and overcome negative and self-defeating thoughts. For example, when we find ourselves judging or criticising ourselves for making a mistake, we can say “Its ok, I’m human and everyone makes mistakes”. Direct these compassionate responses toward yourself.

Comfort yourself with a physical gesture

When we were infants, our parents or guardians would rub our backs, bodies, and heads to calm us down when we were crying. When we get anxious, stressed, or uncomfortable we can now try and self-soothe to mimic that childhood response. Our attempt to calm our anxieties through self-soothing includes hand rubbing, hand-to-body contact, stroking a leg, or stroking a neck. Combining positive self-talk with a physical gesture — like placing your hands over your heart — can increase the impact.


Rather than being critical or judging ourselves harshly when we make mistakes, fail or feel inadequate, we can recognise the negative influence of self-judgment and treat ourselves with warmth and patience instead. In short, showing self-kindness means treating our worth as unconditional even when we fall short of our own expectations, whether it’s through our behaviours or even just our thoughts.

Practice Forgiveness

We can be gentle with ourselves instead of punishing ourselves for our mistakes. Understand that you do not need to be a certain way to be worthy of love. Part of this is accepting and forgiving ourselves for our flaws—we aren’t perfect, but we show self-compassion when we go easy on ourselves for having limitations.

Common Humanity

Common humanity is the understanding that unpleasant feelings are part of the human experience, and that suffering is universal. We are connected not only by the joys in our lives, but in our struggles, heartaches, and fears. Seeing our flaws as natural aspects of the human condition, and our difficulties as “a part of life that everyone goes through”; and remembering that others, too, feel inadequate at times. Giving yourself permission to be human once in a while is one way to accept your ways and remind yourself that you’re not alone in being imperfect.

Embracing the Waves of life

The struggle with self-compassion is learning to be kind and tender towards life’s challenges when they arise. It can be easy to become caught up in self-judgment when the less desirable aspects of our humanity arise. However, as we learn to embrace the waves of life, we come into greater acceptance of all that is and remember that life has its ups and downs, and it’s not possible to be happy all of the time.

Finally, it initially takes conscious effort even to become aware of our mental processes, but most worthwhile things do require practice. It can take a while to shift to a self-compassionate mindset, so it is best to start small and find a practice that suits you.


Hampton, D. (2019, July 07). The benefits of self-compassion and how to get more. Retrieved from

Moore, C. (2020, October 13). How to practice self-compassion: 8 techniques and tips. Retrieved from

Neff, K. (2020). Common humanity in the pandemic. Retrieved from–resources/common-humanity-in-the pandemic#:~:text=Common%20humanity%20is%20the%20understanding,struggles,%20he