5 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion

Self-criticism can be a healthy motivator or an opportunity for learning.  But too often we go overboard, lashing ourselves with insults and magnifying our faults. How to rebalance?  Enter self-compassion: rather than judging yourself when things go wrong, you comfort and care for yourself. This week on the podcast, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, aka the Savvy Psychologist, offers 5 ways to practice self-compassion.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #76

Tip #3: Treat yourself like a good friend.  We say things to ourselves we wouldn’t dare say to anyone else: “Good one.”  “You idiot.” “How could I be so stupid?” “What’s wrong with me?”  None of these are motivating; all of them are soul-sucking.

So, let go of the double standard. Instead of flogging yourself with insults when things don’t go your way, treat yourself as you would treat a good friend after a bad day: with gentle concern, some reassurance, and maybe even a little pep talk.

Tip #4: Make healthy choices.  Part of taking care of yourself is making healthy choices. Self-compassion isn’t the same as indulgence or selfishness.  For instance, self-compassion isn’t splurging on jewelry you can’t afford “because I deserve it” or dumping work on your colleagues “because I need some me-time.”

In addition, self-compassion includes being good to your body.  Choosing to eat well, get enough rest, and allow time for exercise are all self-compassionate. Binging on cookie dough ice cream after a bad day? Not so much, though it happens to the best of us and you can practice self-compassion next time you find yourself with brain freeze and an empty container.

Tip #5: Be good to others. Letting up on your judgment of others will help you lighten up on judging yourself.  Call it open-mindedness, tolerance, or just plain old courtesy--being compassionate to others will give you great practice in being compassionate to yourself.

A great guiding question is, “Are they hurting anyone?” If no one is physically or emotionally suffering, then live and let live. So even though your neighbor takes her cat for walks in a stroller, your brother still collects Pokemon cards, and your teenager colors his hair green right before school picture day, when held to the standard of, “Are they hurting anyone?” the answer will lower your judgment (and your blood pressure).  

To wrap up, it goes both ways.  When you stop crushing yourself under the heel of harsh criticism, you’ll have more reserves to offer others.  So build a virtuous circle: be kind to yourself and you’ll find yourself able to be kind to others, who in turn will be kind to you. With self-compassion, everyone wins.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets.