How to Be Kinder to Yourself

We all tend to think the worst of ourselves when under a lot of stress. The next time you feel like you're being too hard on yourself, try this simple practice to foster self-compassion.

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Being kind to yourself doesn’t always come naturally. The phrase “you are your own worst critic” rings true for a reason. In this animation from the Greater Good Science Center, psychiatrist Elizabeth Guinto takes a self-compassion break with these easy steps.

A Mindfulness Practice: Be Kinder to Yourself

1. Think of a situation in your life that is difficult and causing you stress.

This might mean a difficult relationship, a challenge at work or school, concern you’re feeling for the pain of a loved one, or anything else that comes to mind. It’s usually best to go with the first thing your thoughts land on.

2. With the situation in mind, recognize if you feel the stress in your body.

This can be different for everyone. Check a few of the common areas where stress and emotional discomfort are felt in the body. According to the American Institute of Stress, this includes headache, neck ache, back pain, muscle spasm, and jaw tension.

3. Say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.”

Take this moment to notice how you feel without judgment. There’s no need to label your experience as good or bad. Instead, simply let yourself acknowledge pain or stress.

4. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life.”

Remember that, unpleasant as it is right now, navigating difficult situations is a common experience that connects you to the rest of humanity. You can also choose to say, “Other people feel this way,” “I’m not alone,” or “We all struggle in our lives.”

5. Put your hands over your heart and say, “May I be kind to myself.”

Be aware of the warmth of your hands on your chest and tune in to the feeling of self-kindness. You might also try saying one of the phrases below to start. Then, feel free to change the phrase to whatever you need to hear right now.

“May I give myself the compassion that I need.”

“May I learn to accept myself as I am.”

“May I forgive myself”

“May I be strong.”

You can flow through these five steps any time you are carrying difficult emotions, and this practice will remind you that you are worthy of compassion no matter how you’re feeling. To read more about being kind to yourself, check out this excerpt from Radical Compassion by Tara Brach.

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