LifeWays Blog

Practicing Self-Compassion

February 10, 2021

Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness when you make a mistake, fail, or experience a setback. Speaking to yourself harshly, won’t motivate you to do better. In fact, studies show it tends to have the opposite effect.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Personality found that self-compassion contributes to more consistent confidence.[7] Thinking, “Everyone messes up sometimes,” as opposed to, “I’m so stupid. I ruined everything,” is an example of having self-compassion and can help you feel good even if when you don’t perform as well as you hoped.

Self-Compassion Exercise

There are a variety of exercises that can help a person learn the practice of self-compassion:

  • Imagine how you would talk to a friend. We can often extend kind words, hope and encouragement to friends or loved ones. When going through a difficult time, take a moment to consider how you might respond to a close friend if they were going through a similar situation and treat yourself with the same level of compassion.
  • Become an observer. During times when we feel challenged or are struggling emotionally, it can feel like we are simply reacting and trying to emotionally survive the moment. By slowing down, we can take a small step back to observe our experience before we react. Looking at the bigger picture can help us keep things in perspective and help us see important information that may have been missed otherwise.
  • Change your self-talk. Notice how you talk to yourself in moments when you are experiencing negative emotion. Work to reframe your self-statements to be more positive and nurturing. This new tone may sound more like a mentor or advocate, rather than a critic or judge.
  • Keep a journal and write it out. Take time each day to write out some of the challenges you are experiencing. Note the moments your mind tends to wander into critical statements or you begin to feel alone in your experiences. As you would with self-talk, intentionally reframe any critical statements with a softer, more understanding tone to see how it might feel different.
  • Become clear about what you want. As you practice ways to reframe critical thoughts into more nurturing self-talk, you can start uncovering clues as to what you are needing and wanting. Take a moment to consider what you want, need, or long for in your life. Clarifying these needs will help you focus on where you want to go and what you are working toward, helping to increase motivation and happiness.
  • Care for yourself. Sometimes we take care of others and overlook, or completely ignore, the need to take care of ourselves. When practicing self-compassion you are recognizing that you have needs to be met as well and are worthy of engaging in those self-care behaviors. The ability to establish self-care practices can help lessen the desire to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors when faced with challenges and stress.

At some point everyone will experience struggles with self-confidence. But if your self-confidence struggles interfere with your work, social life, or education, you should consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

Sometimes, low self-confidence stems from a bigger issue, like a traumatic event from the past. At other times, it might be a symptom of a mental health challenge.

If you or a loved one are struggling with self-confidence,  LifeWays is here 24/7. The first step is to call our Access/Crisis Phoneline at 1 (800) 284-8288.

Hope and help begin at LifeWays.

For related self-confidence boosting articles, see our Boost Your Self-Confidence post.  


[7] Neff KD, Vonk R. Self-compassion versus global self-esteem: two different ways of relating to oneselfJ Pers. 2009;77(1):23-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00537.x

Verywell mind  Amy Morin, LCSW  5 Ways to Build Your Self-Confidence. 01-11-2021

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