Six Self-Compassion Exercises for a More Positive Outlook

Summary: These self-compassion exercises can help you to develop a more compassionate attitude towards yourself, and may even improve your overall well-being.

Most people will know that to have compassion is to offer kindness and understanding to those who fail or do wrong.

Often, we can find it easy to be compassionate towards others.

However, the idea of self-compassion is not one that a lot of us are familiar with – we are our own biggest critics, after all.

Self-compassion is the act of offering ourselves the same kindness and understanding we would offer others during hard times, like when we feel inadequate. 

Myths About Self-Compassion 

Myths tend to be created out of half-truths, or become distorted along the way.

Unfortunately, they can also carry a lot of power, especially to those who believe them.

There are three common myths about self-compassion that hold us back from practicing it.

If you’re struggling to show self-compassion to yourself, then it’s likely that you might believe one of the following myths:

Self-Compassion Is Self-Pity 

Self-compassion is actually the opposite of self-pity. 

If you have self-pity, then you feel sorry for yourself- whereas if you have self-compassion, then you “give yourself a break.”

Self-compassion certainly acknowledges suffering, but as we’ll see in this article, it places it into perspective.

Self-Compassion Is Self-Centered

Self-compassion is often seen as being a bit selfish.

This is to do with misconceptions relating to the prefix “self.” 

In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, we have a tendency to believe that we’re being selfish if we can’t deliver on the demands that family, friends, and colleagues expect of us. 

However, when we’re kind to ourselves, we’re actually better placed to help others!

Self-Compassion Hinders Growth 

If we stop seeing things that we strive for as “pass or fail” situations, then we learn from our experiences. 

This enables us to see achievement and self-growth in a new way.

We come to terms with life’s disappointments and think of them as learning opportunities. 

Studies on this indicate that people who have self-compassion have strong coping mechanisms and the motivation to do better.[1]

What Are The Three Elements Of Self-Compassion? 

Self-compassion is based on the understanding of three essential elements. 

Firstly, self-compassion considers humanity in relation to oneself.

Secondly, it looks at how we interact with our problems and experiences.

Finally, it engages the practice of self-kindness and mindfulness. 


When we have compassion, we have empathy. 

Self-compassion involves the same kindness and understanding that we would show to a friend or family member.

The difference is that we apply this to ourselves. 

Self-compassion is about being gentle with yourself, rather than judgmental.

Once you have mastered this step, you’ll be better placed to deal with the stresses of everyday life.

Common Humanity 

Self-criticism and judgment isolate us from others.

This is because we feel unworthy. 

However, once we recognize that we share what it is to be human with other people, these feelings of isolation go away. 

As people, we all go through difficult times.

This is another thing that we have in common with humanity.


Practicing mindfulness helps to keep what we’re going through in perspective.

We don’t deny what’s happening, but we don’t inflate it either.

The beauty of mindfulness is that it’s not judgmental, and so it means we’re gentle with ourselves.

How To Practice Self-Compassion 

Self-compassion can definitely be taught.

You’ll notice some results straight away, but you do have to work at it to achieve the full effect.

The following tips will get you started:

Ground Yourself

Grounding yourself sets the scene for true self-compassion, which can’t happen unless you get rid of your inner self-critical dialogue.

You can start by simply focusing on the sensations of the environment around you.

Take in what you can see, hear, feel, and smell.

Acknowledge Your Emotions

Once you’ve grounded yourself and are fully in the present moment, then you’re ready to acknowledge exactly how you feel.

The idea is that you’ll be fully aware of your suffering, but at the same time, you’ll be calm. 

Consider The Compassion You Would Offer To Someone You Love

If a friend came to you with something they were struggling with, or if they were feeling down, you would offer them love and kindness. 

When you’re struggling, imagine you’re a friend.

Below are some tips on how to speak to yourself kindly and with understanding, as you would to a friend or family member having a difficult time. 

Offer Yourself That Same Kindness

Once you’ve thought about how you would help somebody else with the same problem as yourself, ask what you need to hear in order to feel that same kindness.

Self-Compassion Exercises 

Using the above principles, we’ll now apply them to a more specific situation.

The following exercises are designed to encourage you to think about self-compassion. 

 Exercise 1: How Would You Treat a Friend? 

Consider just how much more compassionate you would be to a friend who is facing the same difficulties as yourself.

What advice would you give them? Give that same advice to yourself.

Exercise 2: Self-Compassion Break 

This exercise is exactly as it sounds – giving yourself a break. 

To start with, you need to deliberately bring on the stressful feelings that have been troubling you.

Although this sounds like the opposite of what you should do, bear with it, because it’s highly effective! The best way to evoke these feelings is to think about the problem that you’re worried about.

Once you’ve done that, you interrupt the thoughts.

You effectively cancel them out by telling yourself that you’re suffering right now, but that others share the same experience.

You then affirm yourself with a statement like “I deserve self-compassion.” 

Exercise 3: Exploring Self-Compassion Through Writing 

There are many ways that you could approach this exercise.

For example, you could write a letter of comforting words to yourself.

Another option is to keep a journal, or diary, on how you’re feeling.

There are no real rules here, but whatever form of writing you choose should be gentle and compassionate in tone.

Exercise 4: Changing Your Self-Talk 

We all have an inner dialogue, and this voice can easily become self-critical.

However, we can change our self-talk to make it work for us rather than against us.

To begin, try interrupting negative thoughts and replacing them with positive, affirming ones.

This will be hard at first, but keep going – it’ll pay off in the long run.

Exercise 5: Identifying What We Really Want 

Once your mind is free of self-criticism, you’re free to think about what you really want.

This is an empowering process that gets excellent results after the self-guilt and doubtful, inner voice has gone.

Exercise 6: Guided Meditation 

You can try several of these self-compassion exercises one after the other in an individualized program of guided meditation. 

Wrapping Up

Self-compassion is a unique therapeutic procedure, where you’re in charge of the outcome.

This empowering process nurtures your true self and treats it with kindness.

Practicing self-compassion makes you more at peace with yourself and resilient enough to cope with whatever curveball life throws.

[1] Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-Compassion Increases Self-Improvement Motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133–1143.

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