Self Compassion Is Not Easy

Self-compassion isn’t easy. It means treating yourself the same way you’d treat someone else who is having a hard time. Sadly, not many of us are great at doing that.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Take a minute and visualize your best friend calling you.

“Hi,” you say. “How are you?”

“Terrible,” she says tearfully. “You know I was told to stay home from work back in March because I was designated high risk for covid. I’ve been using sick time and getting paid. But today, my boss and HR called to tell me my job had been eliminated. I gave my heart and soul to my work for ten years and I’m devastated.”

You sigh and say, “Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s probably because you’re old, ugly, and not the brightest bulb on the tree, plus, you can be confrontational and inflexible. And you’re at least 50 pounds overweight, your clothes don’t fit, and your hair is graying. I’d just give up now because there’s really no hope of finding another job. I mean, frankly, who would hire you?”

Doesn’t that whole conversation just make you cringe inside? Would you ever talk that way to someone you cared about? Of course not. But strangely, this is often what we say to ourselves in similar stressful situations.

With self-compassion, we can learn to speak to ourselves like a good friend. Instead of belittling, you could say, “I’m so sorry. Are you OK? You must be so upset. Remember I’m here for you. How can I help?

Acknowledging and respecting our own pain allows us to take a wiser and more objective perspective on ourselves and our lives. Self-compassion motivates like a good coach, with kindness, support, and understanding, not harsh criticism.

So, when life gets hard, how can you find self compassion?

Here’s one tip that’s helped many of my clients: write a letter.

Find your compassionate voice by writing a letter to yourself when you are struggling or feeling Inadequate. It can feel awkward at first, but it gets easier with practice.

Here are three formats to try:
Think of an imaginary friend who is unconditionally wise, loving, and compassionate and write a letter to yourself from the perspective of your friend.
Write a letter as if you were talking to a dearly beloved friend who was struggling with the same concerns as you.
Write a letter from the compassionate part of yourself to the part of yourself that is struggling.

After writing the letter, put it down for a while and then read it later, letting the words soothe and comfort you when you need it most.

Also, try this Self-Compassion Meditation.

Years ago, I learned this meditation from one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Joan Borysenko. I’ve used it consistently and recommended it to clients regularly. It is always comforting and healing and just what I need in times of stress!

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