I talk a lot about self-compassion because I believe it has a ton of benefits. Self-compassion enhances us, and it is just plain good for our brains. But the one thing I hear a lot these days is, “I know it is important, but I just am unable to give it to myself”. Or “It is hard for me to be that way with myself”. It has been a pretty common theme that people recognize that self-compassion enhances us, and it is important. Though it seems it is difficult for many to embrace self-compassion practices. And just why is that?


There are a lot of extreme perfectionist behaviors that are at odds with self-compassion. It is never being satisfied with the work that you do. It can even make you feel anxious since your expectation is that everything has to be perfect. Having the expectation that something needs to be perfect is unrealistic since we are by nature flawed imperfect beings. It is what makes us human.

It has a high cost as well. There is the loss of being open to trying new things. Loss of time with the people we love. For example, we can get so caught up in making the perfect birthday party for our child that we can actually miss out on spending time with them. It is the loss of connection. It sucks our time when we get stuck with wanting everything to be perfect.

Harsh Self-Talk

Most people are familiar with the self-critic or the harsh self-talk. Many people struggle with that harsh part or voice. It sounds odd but we do have to make friends with our critic. And it goes back to the same reason we develop perfectionist tendencies. It is a protective response to keep us safe and our critic has the same purpose.

When we accept that many of the dysfunctional things that we do come out of a need to protect ourselves, it makes us a bit less judgmental toward that part and ourselves. Once we befriend those parts, then we can really approach it with compassion and curiosity. Recognizing it has good motives though it is a bit misguided. And in some cases, quite harmful to us.

Taming the Unhelpful

How do we tame that inner voice and those perfectionist tendencies? It always starts with awareness. We cannot change what we do not notice. We have to start with paying attention. How are we feeling? What are those thoughts that are coming up for us? With awareness we can start changing those automatic reactions.

When you notice those self-critical patterns, take a moment and pause. Stay open and notice what is coming up for you. What are the emotions, sensations and thoughts? It is the beginning of change. Stay in curiosity and open awareness. With mindfulness it will help us recognize our unhelpful responses. And then we can lean in and bring awareness and openness to what we are experiencing. It can be very helpful to see it separate from your true self because it is.

We will get better at noticing but of course it takes practices. And we will still sometimes just react. Don’t worry, we will always have another opportunity and chance to practice. Try to stay present and open up. Start noticing what thoughts, feelings/emotions and sensations are coming up. Stay curious, compassionate, and see what you are noticing.

We will begin building that relationship with our different parts. And we need to build a relationship with all our different parts including our harsh critical part. We also have to recognize we need to change the relationship we have with these parts since it is not really us but parts that develop from difficult childhood experiences and traumas to help keep us safe. But the time comes when we have to renegotiate the role since it is no longer serving us.

Steps to Self-Compassion Practices

What do you do if you know it would be good for you but just can’t take those steps? It could start with a simple practice of doing a loving kindness meditation. There are a variety of different ones. You can do a formal meditation which you can find on apps such as Insight Timer (I will list a few links at the end you can try). Or just come up with something you do daily for yourself and create your own. You can start with something very simple, such as:

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live in peace. May my heart be filled with love and kindness.

You can start with yourself and spread it to those you love and even all living creatures. Adapt to whatever you would like. You can make it into a simpler mantra if that makes it easier for you to start with.

Next Step

By noticing when those patterns or critical parts show up, it is the beginning of changing it. Being able to start changing those patterns and expectations. It can be pretty powerful when we recognize this self-critic voice is not accurate and is pretty distorted with how it views the world.

You can do some reframing of those thoughts. For example, the inner critic says, “You are a screw up.” which can be changed into a more realistic one. Such as “I’m human, everyone sometimes makes mistakes”.  Remember not every thought is true. It is reasonable to question those thoughts. If we can remain curious, and compassionate with that harsh critic. We can also start changing it too. Pause, observe and notice with openness.

Embracing Self-Compassion

It really is taking the 3 components which include kindness, mindfulness and common humanity. Being kind with yourself. Befriending yourself. Be mindful or present in the moment without judgement. Recognizing what you are feeling and thinking without being taken over by those thoughts/emotions. But staying present with them. The final component is understanding we share something with every other human being which is life can be hard; we all make mistakes and sometimes things do not work out. We are not the only one who struggles. And we certainly aren’t the only one who makes mistakes.


Many of those behaviors come out of not feeling worthy. Or believing you need to be perfect to be more lovable. Or staying so busy you never have to stop and address the elephant in the room. Worthiness is not tied to activities or proving something. Our self-esteem can certainly be tied to our achievements and accomplishments. It can be fluid at times. But somehow our worthiness got tied to this, but it is separate.

“Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”

  Brené Brown

It is about accepting that simple truth. This is where awareness comes and adjusting our mindset. It might have to start with forgiveness and acceptance though. If you are holding on to past mistakes, it is time to let go of the blaming. Acceptance as we are today. Not what we hope to be or working towards but now. If you have had a lot of trauma or struggling, please seek professional assistance. It can be extremely helpful to have someone assist us with making changes.

You Are Worthy

It is recognizing we are all worthy and deserving. We are worthy just because. You have to unpack the belief it is out of what you do or how much you do. It comes out of authenticity and our ability to accept ourselves as is. This does not mean we should stop growing and improving ourselves, but we don’t have to be perfect, busy all the time or get to some end point to prove something to ourselves or someone else.

“What is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves.”

Brené Brown

My Final Thoughts

What is amazing about self-compassion is it allows us space to keep growing. Much of that unworthiness comes out of childhood experiences. But recognizing that you are a worthy human being is an important step. It is a process of trying to make changes, but it cannot happen if you don’t start. It starts with accepting ourselves for who we are. And forgiving all of our missteps along the way.

We all have to accept that some people will not see our true self. But if we stay authentic and true to ourselves, we can continue to grow and nourish ourselves with a lot of self-compassion and mindful curiosity and openness. Then we can continue to do our work on ourselves and move through our personal journeys. Remember to embrace who you are.

Being self-compassionate with ourselves will help us through our struggles and moving forward. When we avoid difficult situation or repress our thoughts/emotions we will find it usually doesn’t work. A much better strategy is to open up to mindful awareness. Take it one step at a time. You deserve all of your kindness, love and compassion. Stay true to yourself and embrace all your uniqueness.

“Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, magical person that you are.”

Mandy Hale

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About the Author: Karen Gentilman
I’m a license clinical social worker in Idaho. I have my master’s degree in social work which I received in 1992 from California University of Long Beach. I have over 20 years working with individuals with different neurological conditions, chronic illnesses, and different medical conditions, including brain injury, strokes, and spinal cord injuries. I have continued to work in Neuro Rehab. I also do private practice (Illumination Counseling Service).

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