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Self-Compassion Break

The Self-Compassion Break by Kristin Neff is a wonderful tool that you can use to support yourself in moments of struggle.

The aim of self-compassion is to replace self-critical language, actions and behaviours with language, actions and behaviours that encourage you to be kind to yourself. A self-compassion practice can be incredibly beneficial in increasing confidence, motivation and overall well-being, while decreasing anxiety and shame. Read more about self-compassion in Kristin Neff's book.

The Self-Compassion Break goes like this:

Acknowledge: "This is a moment of suffering. I am not alone in this feeling. May I be kind to myself in this moment".

This practice puts in place the three central tenants of a self-compassion practice:

  1. Mindfulness (being aware of the moment)

  2. Common Humanity (everyone struggles sometimes)

  3. Kindness (offering kindness to self)

The other day, I had an opportunity to practice supporting myself in this way.

Here's what self-compassion looks like in practice:

When I arrived home the other night, I realized that I had left my house keys at work. In this moment, I might have become critical of myself: “How stupid to not make sure your keys were in your bag before you left”, or begun to panic “What am I going to do, I can’t get in my house!!”.

Instead, I chose to practice self-compassion, reminding myself that I made a mistake and everyone makes mistakes (common humanity). I focused on the moment, how nice it felt to be outside in the cool breeze (mindfulness). Then I was kind to myself: “Aren’t I so smart to have given out keys to friends for exactly this situation? Go me!” (kindness). Notice how different this language is from the self-criticism language?

And you know what happened? I was able to make a plan and move forward with my day, without feeling guilty, or self-critical or anxious. I got on the bus and grabbed a spare key from my friend. I walked home and reveled in how nice it felt to be outside. I was reminded of how I am held and supported in my community and neighbourhood. Those few moments of being kind to myself changed the trajectory of my evening, and I came out of the experience feeling grateful.

So, next time you're in a hard moment, stop for a few moments to practice self-compassion. It might be just what you need to get through it and come out the other side happier.


Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes and is not therapy or medical care.

Find a counsellor in your area on Psychology Today or Counselling Match.

If you are interested in working together therapeutically, book a discovery session with Elspeth.



Neff, K. (2015). Self-Compassion: the Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. William Morrow Paperbacks.

Visit Dr. Kristin Neff's website here:



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