9 ways you can show yourself more self-compassion, according to psychology

Practicing self-compassion is like flossing your teeth. It’s one of those things that we all know we should do regularly but don’t, either out of laziness or because we underestimate how important it actually is. 

Take this from a former workaholic: it’s hard to accomplish anything of significance without self-compassion.

Because of hustle culture, we value hard work and perseverance to the absolute extreme. Room for nuance—much less self-care—is often non-existent.

If you have a hard time showing yourself some kindness, here are 9 ways you can show yourself more self-compassion, according to psychology.

1) Allow yourself to make mistakes

You’re human.

Repeat until you get sick of hearing it. 

Unfortunately, too many people dehumanize themselves by not letting themselves make mistakes. They punish themselves for anything short of complete perfection, thinking that it’s necessary to achieve success or to reach their full potential.

In fact, here’s the thing: making mistakes is not only unavoidable but also necessary. Making mistakes is how you gain experience and learn important lessons.

So if you don’t make mistakes, you actually won’t achieve the success you’re looking for. 

Go out there and take risks. It’s okay. You’ll make mistakes, sure. But treat them as opportunities for learning and growth, not as life-ending failures.

2) Learn to not rely on external validation

Human beings are social creatures. We can’t fully let go of our desire to be validated and appreciated by other people.

But it’s one thing to enjoy external validation and it’s another thing to be reliant on it.

While external validation can feel nice, relying on it too much is a recipe for disaster for your self-esteem. 

At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. For every person who thinks you’re doing great, you’ll have another one saying you’re doing it all wrong.

So it’s crucial to not put too much weight on other people’s words—positive or negative.

3) Connect with other people

While it’s important to not rely on external validation, fostering close relationships with other people is still essential to a happy life.

It’s sad that we often get so caught up in the everyday grind of work that we forget to cherish our loved ones.

The feeling of deep comfort and connectedness we get from spending time with our loved ones is one of the best things we can do for our mental and emotional health.

When you talk to them, you’ll be reminded of how loved you are. In turn, you’ll be moved to love yourself even more, too.

4) Talk to yourself

No, really. 

Talk to yourself in the mirror. Or if that feels too weird and cheesy, write yourself a letter.

Not many people do this because they think it’s silly.

What’s the difference between thinking in your head and talking to yourself?

But actually, verbalizing your thoughts helps you process your thoughts and emotions. Giving it materiality makes it easier to handle, allowing you to move through them more healthily.

So don’t bottle it up, okay?

5) Imagine caring for yourself as caring for a friend

One of the best ways to start being understanding and empathetic towards yourself is to always imagine yourself as a loved one.

When a friend is grieving, regretting a mistake, or feeling sad, what do you do? 

You offer them support. A listening ear. A shoulder to lean on. A pat on the back or a hug.

You don’t tell them to just suck it all up and get back to work, do you? That’s what too many people do to themselves.

So if you have a hard time being soft and loving to yourself, just imagine yourself as a loved one. This tip was a game-changer for me, personally.

6) Tell yourself “releasing statements”

Never liked positive affirmations? Maybe they just feel a bit too awkward for you or you’re just too skeptical.

That’s okay. Instead, what you can do is use “releasing statements” instead of positive affirmations. Think of them as the halfway mark between outright negativity and the outright positivity of positive affirmations.

Releasing statements are observations made from an objective, detached, and non-judgemental perspective. As the wording implies, it aims to release you from judging an emotion you’re currently experiencing.

For example, if you feel guilty about feeling upset about something, you can tell yourself, “It’s okay for me to feel upset as long as I don’t do anything wrong because of it.”

By validating your own emotions, you are able to show yourself kindness, feel that emotion in the moment, and let it pass on its own.

7) Remind yourself of your strengths

The human mind is a peculiar thing. Research has shown that we are far more likely to remember negative experiences than positive ones.

In the same vein, people can get overly self-conscious about their supposed flaws. In the process, they forget their strengths or the good things they’ve done.

When you feel like you’re worthless, remind yourself of the achievements you’ve made—whether big or small—and that you have more room to improve.

8) Practice mindfulness

When we get overwhelmed during a busy day, it can be beneficial to retreat into a state of mindfulness.

Exercises like yoga can be amazing for this. Or if yoga isn’t your thing, even just spending a few minutes for a few deep breaths can help you re-center yourself amid a hard day.

People may think this a waste of time. But being fully aware of your physical, emotional, and mental state allows you to recharge to better tackle whatever lies ahead.

In fact, without mindfulness, there can be no self-compassion. You need to know yourself in order to be kind to yourself, after all.

9) Don’t judge yourself

Whenever we make a mistake, some people slide down the slippery slope and judge their entire character.

Did you do poorly on a project at work? I’m useless, and I should be fired.

Weren’t super helpful to a friend? I’m a bad friend.

Telling yourself things like this isn’t only unkind, but it’s also illogical and counterproductive. Worse, it can make you act worse and turn the whole situation into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So be kind to yourself, both by not berating yourself and by ensuring that you don’t spiral down a path of self-destruction in the future.

What does it mean to have self-compassion?

Having self-compassion is all about treating yourself with kindness. People with low self-compassion, for example, may treat their friends better than they treat themselves.

If their friends make a mistake, they’ll be forgiving towards them. But if they make a mistake, they’ll constantly self-flagellate. 

Is it the same as self-esteem?

Many people think that they’re synonymous or that one stems from the other. While there’s a lot of overlap, there are also key differences.

To put it simply, self-esteem is about perceiving oneself positively. Self-compassion is about showing kindness to oneself.

Research shows that having high self-compassion is easier to maintain than having high self-esteem. It’s a more consistent thing to have. After all, self-esteem is unavoidably affected by our relationships with other people.

On the other hand, the decision to be kind to oneself is mostly a solitary one. Regardless of external factors, someone can always choose to be kind to themselves by accepting one’s flaws and forgiving one’s mistakes.

Current psychological research about self-compassion

Self-compassion in people is often measured using the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS). It evaluates a person’s thoughts and behaviors and associates them with the different facets of self-compassion.

There are two main versions of the SCS. The full 26-item one and a shorter 12-item short form self-compassion scale (SCS-SF). While the former is more comprehensive, the 12-item is almost just as effective despite having less than half the questions.

Questions on the scale will you ask about things like:

  • How kind you are to yourself;
  • How judgemental you are;
  • Questions about common humanity;
  • How mindful you are;
  • Other miscellaneous isolation questions.

The scores are then tallied and scored to generate an evaluation. Wonder if you have good self-compassion levels? Maybe you should take the SCS!

On the other hand, Hermanto and Zuroff (2018) tested the social mentality theory’s view of self-compassion. According to the social mentality theory, one’s ability for self-compassion relies on how effectively one can both give and seek care.

It makes sense on the surface. If you don’t know how to both give or seek care, you either won’t seek care for yourself or you won’t give yourself the care. Or worse, both.

They tested 195 students and found the social mentality theory to be true. Those who are more able to seek and give care had higher self-compassion scores than those who are less able to.

The lesson of the story? Being kind to others makes it easier to be kind to yourself—and vice-versa.

So just be kind in general, yeah?

The simple takeaway

Being kind is good. Who knew?

Unfortunately, we tend to forget to be kind to ourselves too. When we think of the word kindness or compassion, we always envision it as something we do for other people.

Self-compassion isn’t just about making yourself feel good. It’s absolutely vital for your mental health, personal relationships, and even career success! 

If you have trouble practicing self-compassion, you can start small with any of the nine steps we explored in this article.

Anna Dovbysh

With 8 years of writing experience and a deep interest in psychology, relationship advice, and spirituality, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting self-development topics and share some life advice. She's got a Master's Degree in International Information and is a life-long learner of writing and storytelling. In the past, she worked on a radio station and a TV channel as a journalist and even tought English in Cambodia to local kids. Currently, she's freelancing and traveling around the globe, exploring new places, and getting inspired by the people she meets and the stories they tell. Subscribe to her posts and get in touch with her on her social media:
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