When I write about self-compassion, I often get feedback from readers and editors that sample language is incredibly helpful. Therefore, I've compiled some simple self-compassionate phrases here.
Self-compassion is particularly useful if you're prone to anxiety. Why? Anxious people often try to prevent their worries from occurring by being extremely hard on themselves.
Sample Language for Being Self-Compassionate
- Practice makes improvement. (Alternate: Practice makes progress.) Explanation: This is far healthier than saying practice makes perfect.
- Not every flaw or weakness I see in myself, or every problem, needs to be solved right now. There's no immediate danger to me. It's safe to relax right now and to chip away gradually at anything that still feels like a big problem when I'm not as on edge.
- I would prefer to be flawless. I'm not, but I can succeed without being perfect. Explanation: Therapists teach people to sub in the word "prefer" instead of should, could, or must.
- The emotions I'm feeling of [frustration, anxiety, sadness, etc.] hurt. Regardless of why I'm feeling them, they still hurt. I'm sorry I'm having these emotions. Explanation: You can say "I'm sorry" to yourself as you'd say it to someone else. Think: "I'm sorry that happened to you" or "I'm sorry you've got so much to deal with right now." I don't mean it in the sense of an apology.
- Everyone makes mistakes. To err is human. I would prefer not to make mistakes, but I do, and will do in the future.
- Trying to avoid all mistakes is costly. I would hesitate too much if I did that and would allocate too much energy to it. That would get in the way of what's most important to me. Small mistakes (like getting a small late fee) aren't dangerous.
- It's human to... Explanation: Insert anything you like here. For example, "It's human to repeat mistakes."
- I'm going to give myself the love, kindness, and support I'm craving right now. I'm going to hold my own hand.
- It's normal for life to be bumpy, for things to go wrong. I feel frustrated by that and wish it weren't so. I will give myself kindness for when the bumps feel jarring. (For more, see this post.)
- What's the best thing I can do right now, regardless of what's gone before? Explanation: Gives you permission to do what's best now, including care for yourself, regardless of your role in why you've ended up feeling crappy and how your mistakes and imperfections might've contributed to that.
- Tomorrow is a new day. Explanation: A mentor introduced me to this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.” Sometimes it helps to have a longer sentiment in mind, but have a shorter phrase you can use that triggers thinking about the longer version.
- You're doing the best you can. (You can add "...and so are most other people.") Explanation: This can help reduce your frustration with yourself and others.
- What do I need most right now? Explanation: The best course of action is situation-dependent. Sometimes it's cocooning yourself, sometimes it isn't.
- Self-compassion is part art and part science. Tweak any of these wordings to whatever soothes you best. Especially, try to simplify them.
- If you need concrete reminders, try making these into posters or notes, and deposit those around your physical environment. Put them places you'll occasionally see them, rather than spots you'll see them every day. This will make you less likely to just become blind to the reminders when you do see them.
- If you have kids, try adapting these into versions you can use with them. You'll get more practice with the phrases that way, and it will make it feel more natural to use them yourself. You can do the same if you have employees, students, friends, or others you're supporting, as appropriate. Releasing more compassion into the world is a very good thing.
- Try recording yourself saying these and replaying the recording back, like a meditation for yourself.
- Someone else's compassionate language won't necessarily feel spot-on for you. It can take some experimentation to find the language and tone that will hit the spot for you. You'll know when you have because you'll feel instant relief.
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Here's a free printable with just the phrases, and not the explanations.