3 Tips for Self-Compassion

A popular quote on social media is “Learn to love yourself” – but what does that really mean? We may align this with self-care because we know it’s important for our well-being, particularly on bad days.

But it can feel trite to talk about self-love as if it’s something we can just add to our to-do list, though there is something in the science that says being gentler with ourselves is better than beating ourselves up, especially when things aren’t going so well. It’s important we make space for our fears and our emotions when things are not ok, and feeling able to approach safely how we feel and what we need.

‘”Be there for others but don’t leave yourself behind.”


The work of researchers like Paul Gilbert, Kristen Neff and Chris Germer has identified that compassion itself is very much about recognising pain and setting an intention to alleviate it. Yet we often find it easier to show that compassion elsewhere than towards ourselves.

Many of us will have been socialised to be care givers – to people please and be there for others and meet their needs. But in order to be there for those we care about, even those we work with, we have to take care of ourselves. It’s not selfish to consider our needs, and yet so many people feel guilty even thinking about making their own well-being a priority. And so ironically, as a result, we suffer more.

Self-compassion is about showing ourselves the kindness we so often give to others, and learning over time to treat ourselves like we would a good friend. It’s not saying “me first”, it’s saying “me included’. This won’t always come easy, perhaps because of what we’ve endured in life, and so we may need to consider counselling to help us find our way, or create a vision for the future that includes our own needs. But in the meantime, here’s three things that might help

  1. Set the intention. Do you tend to put yourself down or call yourself names, especially when things are difficult? You could instead, set an intention to be more compassionate towards yourself, remembering none of us is perfect and we won’t always get things right. In self-compassion, this concept is known as Common Humanity – the shared experience of what it means to be human. For example, other people often feel frustrated with themselves like we do (even if not for the same reasons) and make mistakes just like us. You might say “Just for today, I promise to be kind to myself. If you then mess up at work, like missed a deadline, remind yourself of your self-compassionate intention and try something more gentler like “Ok, I got that wrong, and I’ll do that differently next time”. See if you can get in to the habit of doing this regularly and you might find it gets easier over time.
  2. Tune in. We live in a world where we are bombarded and influenced by social media, other people’s opinions and daily news articles about “rightness and wrongness”. It can leave us confused about which way is up and steal our mojo. You might decide to take a social media break, and perhaps learn mindfulness practices that help you tune in to your body so you know when you’re not ok and what you need. Your body is speaking to you all the time, but we often tune out or numb out (for example with chocolate or scrolling) so we don’t have to feel. But those feelings just stay there anyway, whether we pay attention to them or not, so it makes sense to pay attention to what they might be trying to say, when it feels safe to do so. This can also help you make a plan for when you’re not ok; if you can recognise your early warning signs, you can get ahead of unhealthy coping mechanisms that might not work for you. You might find the embodiment practice below helpful, especially in a tense moment.
  3. Start small. Remember the more embedded a habit, the harder it is to break but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you’ve been beating yourself up for a while change might seem slow, but stick with it. Perhaps start with little things that help you move towards being more self-compassionate. You could focus on small daily restorative acts of self-care, like making time to prepare a healthy meal or have a warm bath, or reducing how often you’re hard on yourself. Maybe make yourself a brew, put your feet up for five minutes and take time to just sit and be. If you find the guilt kicking in or feel anxious whenever you make space for yourself, you could try a mantra or affirmation like “In this moment, I deserve to relax”. And, if it’s helpful, think about what you’re trying to achieve and what changes will help you to get there. It’s ok to make a plan that makes your well-being a priority, especially if it means being kinder to yourself.

You might also like: The Sparkle Repair Kit™ that comes with Monday Mojo™ when you subscribe subject to availability .Monday Mojo™ is my weekly newsletter that aims to help you find your mojo and get your sparkle back.  It suggests an intention for the week ahead, and subscribers receive additional insight to their inbox every Monday.  You can subscribe here.

Delphi is the author of Answers In The Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal, out now. on Amazon and Hive

© Copyright Delphi Ellis 2023

Published by Delphi

Delphi is a counsellor, speaker and author of Answers In The Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal, out now on Amazon and Hive © All rights reserved.

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