DIY Self-Compassion Practice Worksheets

June 2, 2021

Struggling with your inner critic?

Self-compassion worksheets are here to help!

Are you your own worst critic? You’re definitely not alone here. Sometimes, our inner critics can be more harmful than helpful, which is why I’d like to share a few self-compassion exercises with you. Self-compassion can help soothe the inner critic and give you a sense of personal power!

What is self-compassion?

Simply put, self-compassion is the practice of caring for yourself when you’re hurting. It is loving ourselves and treating ourselves with the same care and respect we would give a good friend. This blog post is inspired by the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading self-compassion researcher and teacher in the behavioral health field. In a nutshell, Dr. Kristin Neff’s findings suggest that self-compassion consists of three main components, which she refers to as mindfulness (vs. overidentifying with our experience), common humanity (vs. isolation) and self-kindness (vs. self-judgment). Moreover, it is said that self-compassion is a key skill for a more joyful and fulfilling life.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

Self-compassion practice: Cultivating care for others

The strange thing about self-compassion is that it often feels counter-intuitive. If you’re finding it difficult to cultivate a feeling of care for yourself, you’re not alone and this is actually very normal. If you’re noticing negative self-talk, such as thoughts that you are not smart, not lovable or not good enough, it can be especially difficult to even allow yourself to open up to your worthiness. This is why cultivating compassion for others can be a useful exercise. If you can hold compassion for others, you’re on your way to holding compassion for yourself! Here’s how you can practice this right now:

  1. Imagine someone you care about, perhaps a close friend or family member, experiencing the difficulty that you are experiencing. Imagine what you (at your best) would say to them and how you would treat them when they’re struggling with something.
  2. Then, notice your own thoughts or self-talk. Do you notice any differences between how you talk to yourself versus how you talk to others? If so, what is different and what are your thoughts on that?
  3. What would happen if you talked to yourself the way you would talk to a loved one or a close friend?

Self-compassion practice: Reframing the inner critic

The first step is to start logging the self-critical voice within you. Some people prefer to simply take a mental note, but I highly suggest keeping a list or log of some sort to track this over time if you’re willing to do so. The first step in this practice is to start noticing how you are talking to yourself. If you notice you’re feeling upset, slow down and ask yourself, “okay, what is going through my mind right now?” You’ll get better with this practice as you continue working on it. Most people struggle with this, especially if you’ve never tried it before or if you haven’t done it often – so perhaps even starting with that could be helpful. What does your inner critic say to you when you’re trying to learn a new skill?

The second part of this exercise is to reflect on what your inner critic is actually trying to do for you. It may seem counter-intuitive to approach your inner critic, especially when they’re raging, in this gentle way. However, remember that the way you talk back to your inner critic is ultimately also talking back to yourself. What does your inner critic need? What are they trying to protect you from? Is there a more compassionate and loving way that your inner critic could give you this message, so that you can get your needs met?

Self-compassion practice: Debunking tough love

The third and final self-compassion practice that I’d like to share with you today goes hand in hand with the previous one on acknowledging your inner critic. This one is what I like to call debunking tough love. Many people have learned to use self-criticism as a way to cope with difficult experiences. On the surface, the concept of “tough love” seems to make sense as a way to motivate ourselves and/or others to change for the better. However, this kind of criticism causes increased harm and suffering – it’s not effective. Here’s how to squash tough love and practice unconditional love instead:

  1. Reflect on when you’ve been hard on yourself, in hopes that it’ll help you change. Perhaps you have told yourself that you’re too fat, too lazy, too stupid or too sensitive. Perhaps you’ve told yourself all of those things (I know I have) in an effort to become the opposite of those things. Are you willing to make contact with how that feels; to be called fat, lazy, stupid, too sensitive, etc.? what does it feel like to be treated that way?
  2. And then think of what you are actually trying to accomplish by being so hard on yourself. Perhaps you want to get fit? Maybe you want to eat a more nutritious or balanced diet? Do you want to get better grades, be able to keep up better with your household chores? Whatever it is, ask yourself if your self-talk is actually effectively helping you to accomplish your goals. If it isn’t, perhaps it’s time to try a different approach to how you motivate yourself. How can you use a more loving approach to encourage yourself to make these changes? Perhaps even more importantly, how can you appreciate and care for yourself just as you are right now, in this moment?

A side note on tough love and self-help:

As a recovering perfectionist, I definitely have to be careful when it comes to using therapy skills. I have noticed a strong tendency to suppress my hurt under the guise of gratitude and productivity (both toxic positivity and toxic productivity are real things), making self-compassion an ongoing reflective practice to prevent using it only to make myself feel better.

This is precisely why debunking tough love has been so helpful for me personally. Over time, I have learned that self-compassion – and therapeutic skills in general – work best when we include all of our experiences – not just the feel good ones. This is why the culture of toxic positivity in a large part of the self-help community can be so problematic. On the surface, it looks good and positive and motivating. However, when we debunk tough love, we can see that covering pain with gratitude or positivity without acknowledging the struggle is ultimately invalidating and harmful. Your inner critic needs your acknowledgment, too!

We also have inherent/innate value simply for being, so a large part of self-compassion work also includes true worth and an honest appreciation for the entire journey; including the here and now – even if you’re not where (or who) you want to be in this moment. This is a situation in which it is absolutely appropriate to “be a fixer” since you’re ultimately working on helping yourself, but consider Dr. Kristin Neff’s wise words, “If you really want to motivate yourself, love is more powerful than fear.” (Remember though, if someone else is abusing you, that’s a different situation entirely. Perhaps they, too, need to love their inner critic, but that’s not your responsibility. It’s theirs.)


Creating your own Self-compassion worksheet

Okay, now that you have an idea of what self-compassion is and what it might look like to start practicing, if you’re still with me, I assume you could also benefit from using self-compassion practice worksheets!

All you truly need is something to write on and something to write with, but feel free to gather your favorite art supplies if you’d also like to decorate it.

defining the purpose of your worksheet

The first order of business is to decide on the purpose of your worksheet. why are you creating a worksheet for self-compassion? When do you plan to use it? When you’re feeling stressed out? Lonely? Disappointed? Afraid? The first step is to get clear on when you need to practice self-compassion the most.

If you’re feeling unsure of the purpose of your worksheet, that’s completely okay and very normal. As you slow down to listen to yourself and work on self-compassion practices more regularly, you will naturally start to notice patterns in the content of your thoughts and which emotions are especially difficult for you to hold. For now, I would suggest starting with a purpose to simply increase self-compassion practices in general. Later on in your journey, you can create a more focused or targeted worksheet if you notice a desire to. You can always download the self-compassion pages I’ve already created by clicking here. They’re a wonderful way to move through the fear and uncertainty of starting – and feel free to make them your own as you learn more about how you personally prefer to practice self-compassion.

choose your favorite prompts (and/or create your own!)

The second step is to write out your journaling prompts or self-compassion practice questions. Make sure you give yourself plenty of space to write and explore.

I’d like to encourage you to continue with additional research and review the different exercises you may wish to include in your worksheet. You can adjust your worksheet the more you practice, the more you get to know which exercises you actually find helpful and which exercises you want your worksheet to remind you to practice more.

Once again, I highly suggest taking a look at Dr. Kristin Neff’s website, self-compassion.org for more self-compassion practice ideas. I’ve also created categories of different journaling prompts in order to help you make contact with your difficult experiences and practice caring for yourself through them. You can find that post here.

Conclusion

Self-compassion is an incredibly useful practice for overall wellbeing. It gets easier to access with time and practice, although you can benefit today from starting your practice right now! Are you creating your own self-compassion worksheet? Which exercise are you most drawn to at the moment?

Is there anything else you’d like to see on the blog? I welcome all constructive feedback, questions, content suggestions, etc. I also just love hearing your stories; so please feel free to connect with me via YouTube comments, Instagram or email.

References and Resources:

Dr. Kristin Neff at self-compassion.org

Dr. Neff’s Self-Compassion Exercises

If you’d like to practice alongside me today, please join me in this follow along video course!

Carrot cake caramels chocolate tiramisu donut chocolate cake. Marzipan gummi bears caramels.

Sugar plum soufflé candy canes cheesecake pudding jelly.