Let’s face it. We could all give ourselves a little more love. And as women who are constantly giving to others, our families, careers, and society, we deserve all the self-compassion we can get. But as our own worst critics and saboteurs, how can we show ourselves we matter? In this article, you’ll learn several self-compassion exercises for women that will teach you how to care for the most important relationship in your life – the one you have with yourself. Ready to change the narrative and celebrate YOU? Let’s get started.
What Is Self-Compassion and Why Is It Important?
Think about how you treat others, your best friend, family members, partner, colleagues, and those you interact with daily. It’s safe to say you’re probably kind, loving, and supportive. In fact, it’s fairly easy for us to develop compassion for those we love. Yet showing this same love to ourselves presents a challenge. And self-compassion is the process of showing ourselves the same compassion we give others. It includes three facets;
- Self-kindness instead of self-judgment
- Acknowledgment that we are not alone in our struggles; suffering is a part of the collective human experience
- Acceptance through mindfulness allows us to see our difficulties as they are without avoiding or identifying ourselves as part of their existence
When we combine all three elements, we increase our happiness and overall well-being. We learn to give ourselves a break and love the person we are despite our flaws rather than in spite of them. Therefore, self-compassion is one of the most important habits we can adopt – to love who we are and show ourselves the empathy, patience, love, and forgiveness we all deserve.
8 Self-Compassion Exercises for Women
1. Write yourself a love letter
This tip may be difficult to practice at first, especially if you’re not used to showering yourself with praise. But try to envision writing the letter from the perspective of someone who loves you. For example, if you have a strong relationship with your mother, write about how she sees you, about the love she has for you. Try to ignore the self-judgement and focus on writing about yourself through the eyes of someone who deeply cares about you. This exercise will help you connect to your natural space for self-compassion.
2. Practice gratitude
Often, when we look at our lives through the lens of lack or failure, we may question our self-worth. Society doesn’t help this connection either. It drives the message that our accomplishments equate to how enough we are. Yet practicing gratitude each day allows you to focus on the things you appreciate. And through this new lens, you learn to build compassion for yourself and your life. You learn to drown out the negative mental stories and ground yourself in the present moment. So, try to journal a few things you’re grateful for each day. Whether it’s a hug from a loved one, a tasty meal, or the sunshine, focus on what is present in your life.
3. Establish boundaries
One of the best self-compassion exercises for women is to establish boundaries. Indeed, setting limits for others to know how to behave towards you protects your overall well-being. For example, not allowing family members to share information about your marriage protects your right to privacy. Or telling co-workers to only email you during work hours protects your mental well-being. When establishing your boundaries, be mindful of what is meaningful and valuable to you. And always remember that no is a complete sentence. There is no need to explain any further.
4. Challenge your inner critic
Self-compassion, first and foremost, starts within the mind. While it’s not always easy, it starts with challenging intrusive thoughts and your inner critic. To do this, remember that your thoughts aren’t always true. They’re real, but they’re based on unhealed trauma, fears, negative past experiences, and societal influence. Therefore, when you hear a negative thought, acknowledge it by saying, “Oh, that’s my inner critic again. I hear you, but I don’t need you right now”. Simply acknowledging it and challenging its presence helps to deactivate your fear response and ground yourself in the present moment.
5. Identify what you want
Not surprisingly, we often make decisions based on the needs and feelings of others. And as such, we follow the shoulds of others. For example, “You should live here and accept that job”. Or “You should date that person”. These unsolicited opinions cause us to speak to ourselves similarly and prevent us from taking the action we want. So, rather than listening to the shoulds, ask yourself what you want. Imagine the person you want to become and make the necessary modifications to live that life, regardless of what anyone else thinks. It’s not their life – it’s yours.
6. Manage strong emotions
When we’re dealing with a painful experience or challenge, we worry we may feel this way forever. But the truth is emotions are temporary states. And as emotional beings, we move in and out of these states consistently throughout the day. While our emotions make us feel the contrary, here is a way to practice believing thoughts and feelings are fleeting;
- Retreat to a quiet place, get comfortable, and close your eyes
- Imagine you’re looking up into the sky
- It’s bright blue, and you see large clouds moving slowly from one edge of the sky to the other
- Now, become aware of the thoughts and feelings you have and imagine taking each one and placing it on a cloud
- Next, watch the clouds with your thoughts float by
- You may have to keep placing your thoughts on the clouds over and over again, and that’s okay
- The point is to become mindful of your thoughts and feelings and realize they’re temporary.
This exercise helps you become detached from your emotional states rather than identifying with them.
7. Take a self-compassion break
Sometimes all we need is a break, especially from our negative thoughts. Maybe you’re judging yourself too harshly over something out of your control. Or perhaps you’re being mean to yourself. Whatever the reason, taking a self-compassion break may help you break the chatter. To do so, follow one of the exercises from Kristen Neff, a leading self-compassion researcher. Her exercise will help you de-stress and find healthier ways to cope.
8. Practice self-forgiveness
We can be quite mean to ourselves when we’re holding onto a past mistake or grudge. Whether it’s someone who wronged us or something we haven’t forgiven ourselves for, forgiveness is necessary for self-compassion. And while you can’t change the past, you can take action. You can reflect on the mistake, learn from it, and use that information to move forward. So as challenging as it may be, forgive yourself, forgive others for yourself, and remember that we all make mistakes.
The self-compassion exercises for women on this list remind you of how beautiful, powerful, and wonderful you are. And how much you deserve to be loved, celebrated, and appreciated. Therefore, use this list as your guide to help you strengthen your relationship with yourself. You deserve every ounce of love in this world.
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