Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


8 Key Techniques to Empower Self-Empathy

Discover how to stop beating yourself up and care for yourself instead.

Key points

  • Self-empathy is crucial for improving people's health and well-being, but it may seem elusive.
  • People may be quicker to blame themselves and feel guilty than give themselves grace when things go wrong.
  • Accepting imperfections and practicing a simple affirmation can help with self-empathy.
Source: Shamblen Studios / Unsplash
Source: Shamblen Studios / Unsplash

How you treat yourself profoundly affects your health and well-being.

What is self-empathy? Why can it seem so elusive when it is so good for us? It often seems so much easier to have empathy for others than yourself.

Self-empathy is a commitment to being caring rather than shaming or punishing yourself, especially if you’ve made a mistake. Maybe your first impulse is to push too hard or get impatient with your progress. Or you might beat yourself up for falling short at work or when communicating with a loved one. Or you might be too quick to hate or blame yourself. Without self-empathy, these are no-win situations. That’s why self-empathy is so vital to becoming a healthy, empowered, empathic person.

Because of the absolute importance of this subject, I’ve devoted a complete chapter to it in my book The Genius of Empathy. Please review this information in the chapter to get a sense of why I’m framing self-empathy as a healing force in your life. Here are eight tips to begin practicing self-empathy.

8 Tips to Build Self-Empathy

  1. Treat yourself with as much kindness as you treat others.
  2. Honor your own needs rather than always putting everyone else first.
  3. Have self-compassion for yourself during hard times rather than blaming and shaming.
  4. Set respectful boundaries with unhealthy behavior.
  5. Give yourself permission to be around supportive, positive people.
  6. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake.
  7. Allow yourself to receive other people’s caring, help, and love.
  8. Be happy with yourself when you do things well.

Healing affirmations are another way to access self-empathy, promote healing, and stop blaming and punishing yourself for what is outside your control. Here is one that I recommend to my patients. During the day, keep repeating it to lessen stress or simply to feel good.

I breathe deeply. My body is relaxed. I am moving forward toward wellness and ease.

Self-empathy means accepting that you are human and can learn and grow. Of course, you will make mistakes or have regrets. You may move forward, slip backward, then move ahead again. You are not perfect. None of us are. Thank goodness. Perfection is so boring!

I love the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which sees imperfections as beautiful and interesting. We are all messy and extraordinary at the same time. Self-empathy starts with being willing to accept your less-than-best qualities as well as your stellar ones.


Neff K. D. (2009). The Role of Self-Compassion in Development: A Healthier Way to Relate to Oneself. Human development, 52(4), 211–214.

Bluth, K., & Blanton, P. W. (2015). The influence of self-compassion on emotional well-being among early and older adolescent males and females. The journal of positive psychology, 10(3), 219–230.

More from Judith Orloff M.D.
More from Psychology Today