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How Compassionate are you with Yourself?

I was sitting with a friend recently who was going on about how terrible her complexion was and how awful her varicose-veined leg looked and how the skin on her tummy has never been the same since the babies were born. And while I didn't care about pimples I couldn't see and a leg that looked just fine and a tummy that was always hidden behind clothing, I did feel terrible for my friend. She was suffering. And bringing a lot of that suffering on herself. I sat and listened while she talked, and I said what I could to make her feel better about herself.

But then I thought about my own skin (not great) and my own varicose veins (pending surgery) and my own tummy skin (flappy) and I realized that I, too, was suffering the same way. She was just doing it out loud.

Compassion for other people can be fairly easy: I see someone suffering, and I feel for them (or with them). Whether the suffering is huge or small makes almost no difference. I see someone in pain and I want to help make it go away.

But when it comes to compassion for myself, I (like many others) struggle to give myself the attention and concern that comes so easily for others. Since this has been a long, sometimes arduous journey for me, I'd like to share some tips and tools to help you.

1) Take the compassion self-assessment

Dr. Kristin Neff is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion and has been studying and working with it for over 20 years. She and her team have put together an online self-compassion self-assessment that you can take to see how easy or hard you are on yourself.

2) Pay attention to your self-talk

When you chat with yourself, are you kind or cruel? Do you treat yourself like a friend or an enemy? Are you talking, or is your saboteur? Once you can notice your self-talk -- don't try to do anything about it at first other than simply noticing it -- then identify the areas in which you are the hardest on yourself, and some of the key language you use when you're not being compassionate so you can catch yourself more easily moving forward.

3) Imagine you're talking to a friend

Many moons ago, I was late for an appointment. And the self-talk going on inside me was INTENSE. But at some point, I asked myself if my friend Lisa was this late coming to meet me and was so hard on herself for it, would I want that for her? And the answer was a resounding no. If my friend Ashley were saying that her conversation topics were too boring for her husband, would I let her believe that? No! If Ann said she was a terrible mother because her kid ate too many carbs, would I support that? Absolutely not. And since I pick friends who are as fabulous as I am, it's easy to then make the switch from them to me.

4) Read a self-compassion book

While it's not specifically self-compassion-related, I'm re-reading an oldie but goodie, Taming Your Gremlin, which looks at ways to live with your saboteur (who is really the one not being compassionate to you). Also on the list is Good Morning, Monster, and Self-Compassion; the Proven Guide to Being Kind to Yourself.

5) Hire a Coach

I know a good one who has some understanding in this area, if you're looking...

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