How to be your own friend: a self-compassion exercise


lotus flower“I’m only as hard on others as I am on myself”  – Brené Brown.

As you may have gathered from my last post, I’m having a bit of a rough time here. My main source of frustration right now is my body. It’s a recurrent theme and it boils down to feeling inadequate. I think if my shape, proportions and tissues were different, I’d be a much happier person. If only I were someone else, things would be better. 

In my endeavor to understand what is going on with the “monsters” that keep coming at me, I’ve discovered the compelling findings of of Dr. Kristine Neff on the topic of self-esteem and self-compassion. According to Dr. Neff, negative self-talk is fueled by attaching our sense of self-worth to our achievements. When we measure ourselves against an outcome, failure to achieve that goal will inevitably lead to dejection. Neff says that the way to reverse this is by practicing self-compassion.

Neff explains that our current education system has focused on boosting self-esteem through competition and goal-setting, with grave consequences to our sense of worthiness. On her website, she offers some useful tools to help us develop a self-compassion practice. I find these resources extremely valuable and I’ve outlined my favorite exercise below. I like it because it is practical and can be used on the spot, right when you most need it. 

Step 1: “This hurts!”

Acknowledge the pain you are feeling right now. It’s ok to admit that  this moment is hard, uncomfortable and challenging. You can place a hand over your chest, face or belly while you say this to yourself.

Step 2: “I am not alone.”

Suffering is a very normal human experience. We are imperfect, we make mistakes, things don’t always go the way we plan. There are lots of people out there who have experienced something similar to what we’re going through.

*It helps me to name the people I know who are struggling with my same/similar issues. I’ve even started to list those people’s names in my journal, so I can send them good thoughts. It helps me to feel connected and it also helps me keep things in perspective.

Step 3: “What do I need to hear?”

This question it is a great antidote to “What’s wrong with me?!”  Wracking my brain in search of a solution while I’m experiencing inner turmoil isn’t helpful. In fact, it usually makes things worse. 

Dr. Neff even suggests writing out a script you can refer to later on, in an emergency. My script is:

  • I forgive myself for not meeting my expectations.
  • Showing up is good enough.
  • Trying is good enough.
  • I am ok just the way I am.

These are self-care thoughts. This is being my own friend. After all, we are only as kind to others as we are to ourselves.

PS: Watch this video, it’s really good!

This article was written by
Julia Zatta

Julia is a yoga anatomy teacher and bodyworker based in Barcelona, Spain.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Avatar
    nora at 13:56

    Thanks for writing Jules. I’ve been noticing my self talk lately and how habitually hard I am on me. It’s time to go easy. I love the suggestion to acknowledge that it hurts, than I’m in pain. love you girl.

    • Julia Zatta
      Julia Zatta Author at 23:49

      Hi Nora! It’s so good to hear from you! I’m thrilled you found this article useful.
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience of self-talk. It can be quite brutal at times and we often don’t even know it’s happening. Writing about this made mea realize that I really need to tune into my self-talk and aknowledge what is really going on. Otherwise my re-actions are driven by aggression, this undermines my efforts and kinda sets me up for failure… Hope that makes sense. Big hug!

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