Practicing Self Compassion

Practicing Self Compassion
A problem seems small,
If you cut it some slack.
You can choose to forgive,
And how you react.

Have you ever even thought about self compassion? Most people would answer no. We all know it is important to strive to be compassionate but rarely do we turn this kindness inward.

Self compassion should not be confused with self-indulgence. Self-compassion is about not belittling yourself for making a mistake or for falling behind. It’s about recognizing that life has ups and downs, good days and bad.

Self-compassion doesn’t always come easily when in the midst of difficult situations. As we have grown from child to adult, we’ve been given few tools, few examples and few lessons in self compassion. In fact quite the opposite.

Once kids reach elementary school, where they spend most of their waking hours, their days consist of one judgement after another. Their every effort is scrutinized and evaluated, competition and ranking are built in, deadlines are hard and fast. Sure teachers can, and do, show compassion, but the system does little to allow a child to show themselves compassion. There are so many messages in the school day that urge the child to be self-critical. Do these messages improve performance? Maybe. Do they improve feelings of self-worth? No.

School Yard Smiley

School Yard Smiley

There are so many messages in our adult lives that urge us to be self-critical. Take a minute to remember your life as a child. Your age meant others controlled and felt free to criticize so many aspects of your life. You could hardly tell a teacher before a math test “life has ups and downs, good days and bad.” Instead the voice in your head was angry at yourself for not trying harder, or not being more prepared, or even not being smart enough.

Does this work for you as an adult? Does being a meanie to yourself motivate you?: I didn’t get to all of my To Do’s because I’m so disorganized, I’m overweight because I’m lazy and have no will power, I’m going to be so late! Why didn’t I think about how long it would take to park!?.

Parking Lot Smiley

Seems to me that talking to yourself with that criticizing voice is the complete opposite of motivating. Our culture says be hard on yourself and you’ll succeed. I disagree. I think be hard on yourself, and you feel stuck and hopeless.

Whenever you feel badly about something take a minute to ask: What have I just been saying to myself. Much of our interpretation of a situation is colored by the voice in our head. It’s a hard habit to break, this being hard on yourself. But like breaking any habit you have to actively, intentionally work at making change.

I recommend saying out loud the words of your inner voice. Out loud you hear how mean you are being to yourself. You’d never be so hard on anyone else. With intention try to come up with a kinder evaluation, a kinder narration for your life. By saying supportive, self compassionate things out loud you not only work to change the chatter in your head, turning it into supportive pep talk, but you model the practice for your children.

Smile. Be Happy.


P.S.: Here’s a wonderful little secret: no one hears the voice in your head but you. That means you can be as sweet and lovey towards your delicate vulnerable self as you deserve. How nice.


Ruth Kaiser

Ruth Kaiser is a preschool teacher, TED Talk speaker, children's author, AND the creator of the popular online art project where thousands of people find, photograph and share Smiley Faces they find in everyday objects.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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