What is Self-Compassion and What is Self-Love?

happy girl - What is Self-Compassion and Self-Love? (Definition, Quotes + Books)You’ve probably heard about the importance of loving yourself, forgiving yourself, and treating yourself with compassion.

But is it really that vital? Can’t you get along just fine without all that mushy, touchy-feely self-love stuff?

As it turns out, you can get along just fine—but you will likely never thrive!

Read on to learn more about self-compassion, self-love, and the huge impact both of these concepts can have on our lives.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Self-Compassion Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will not only help you increase the compassion and kindness you show yourself but will also give you the tools to help your clients, students, or employees show more compassion to themselves.

What is the Meaning of Self-Compassion and Self-Love? (A Definition)

Self-compassion and self-love are two related, but distinct, concepts.

Self-compassion can be defined as being “kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings…” (Neff, n.d.). It means that you act the same way toward yourself when you are going through a tough time that you would act towards a dear friend: noticing the suffering, empathizing or “suffering with” yourself, and offering kindness and understanding.

On the other hand, self-love is “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth” (Khoshaba, 2012). It is about valuing yourself as a human being who is worthy of love and respect. Self-love is a more stable construct than self-compassion; while you can choose to be compassionate towards yourself in any moment, self-love is probably something that you will need to build up.

Self-Compassion vs. Self-Esteem and Confidence

If you’re wondering how self-compassion is different from other similar constructs like self-esteem, or self-confidence, wonder no more! Renowned expert and leading self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff explains how they differ.

“Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways. Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves… In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits…”

(Neff, n.d.).

Regarding self-confidence, it is missing a key component that self-compassion has:

“While self-confidence makes you feel better about your abilities, it can also lead you to vastly overestimate those abilities. Self-compassion, on the other hand, encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations, allowing you to look at yourself from a more objective and realistic point of view”

(Wong, 2017).

Self-Love vs. Narcissism

Although we can easily imagine self-love translating into narcissism if taken to the extreme, in reality, they are two vastly different concepts.

Self-love is about loving yourself without needing to make downward social comparisons, taking pride in your performance and your achievements, giving yourself the validation you need and recognizing that it’s okay to feel uncertain and doubt yourself now and then.

Narcissism is the opposite: narcissists compare themselves to others to feel better, obsess over “looking” like the real deal instead of becoming it, crave constant validation from others, and see things in black and white (Well, 2017).

Self-love is an honest and authentic appreciation for the self, while narcissism is all about proving that you’re better than everyone else and making sure others see you as you want to be seen. Self-love is self-focused, while narcissism is other-focused.

The Psychology of Self-Love and Self-Compassion

From decades of theorizing and exploring these concepts, we know that having love and compassion for oneself is not only not selfish, it’s actually a great way to make sure you’re doing the best you can and impacting others positively.

You’ve probably heard phrases like, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself” and “You can’t take care of anyone else until you’ve taken care of yourself.” These phrases are grounded in truth—it all starts with you! If you are not in a good place, characterized by balance, compassion, and inner peace, you are likely in no position to do your best work or be the best partner, parent, or friend that you can be.

We explore this further in The Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass©

5 Examples of Healthy Self-Love and Self-Compassion

So we know that self-love and self-compassion are important, but what do they look like? How does one go about loving oneself and showing compassion for oneself?

There are tons of examples all around us, including:

  • A generally high-achieving student who fails a test but tells herself, “It’s alright, we all fail sometimes. You’re still a pretty good student overall.”
  • A father who loses his temper and raises his voice to his child might tell himself, “You’re not a bad father, you just lost your temper. Everyone loses their temper once in a while. I’ll apologize to my child, forgive myself, and commit to doing better in the future.”
  • A wife who lets slip something insulting about her mother-in-law to her husband shows self-compassion by thinking, “Everyone makes mistakes. I made a mistake and I feel bad about it, but it doesn’t make me a bad person.”
  • A person who forgets about meeting up with a friend and feels terrible about it might show herself love by saying, “I can be forgetful sometimes, but I’m always forgiving when a friend forgets something, so I’m going to be forgiving to myself as well. I am still a good friend and I will plan to make it up to her.”
  • An employee who does not receive the promotion he was hoping for would show himself compassion by telling himself, “Getting this promotion does not define you. You are still a great person and a good worker, you just need to put some effort into improving your skills in a few areas. You’ll get it next time!”

These individuals are certainly not narcissists or cold-hearted, unfeeling people; they are simply treating themselves like they would treat a friend in a difficult time.

Research on Self-Compassion

girls heart hands - self-compassion and self-love theory examples

Research on the topic of self-compassion has discovered that there are three main components to self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. Common humanity
  3. Mindfulness (Neff & Dahm, 2015)

Self-kindness involves refraining from criticizing and castigating yourself for a mistake or a flaw and being understanding and supportive to ourselves. Common humanity refers to the recognition that everyone makes mistakes and fails once in a while and the acknowledgment that this is a simple fact of life as a human. Mindfulness is what allows us to become aware of our negative self-talk and identify our difficult feelings and thoughts in order to confront or address them with love and compassion for ourselves.

The main finding on the purpose of self-compassion is that it “enables people to suffer less while also helping them thrive” (Neff & Dahm, 2015). It turns out that self-compassion is a pretty important piece of a healthy and happy life, and it brings many benefits—but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Using Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy

Self-compassion can play a big role in effective psychotherapy. Aside from the form of therapy in which compassion takes center stage—Compassion-Focused Therapy—self-compassion can also be successfully integrated in all other forms of psychotherapy as well.

Therapist and author Tim Desmond (2016) describes the five ways he likes to inject self-compassion into the healing therapeutic process:

  1. Unlocking the client’s natural well of compassion by focusing first on a person, pet, or object that they care deeply for, then helping them expand it.
  2. Using compassion to transform the client’s suffering in the present by helping them accept their current struggle, giving themselves permission to feel how they feel, and offering themselves kindness, love, and understanding in the current moment.
  3. Using compassion to transform the client’s past suffering, by reflecting on the past, picturing themselves as a child, and offering the child love and compassion.
  4. Helping clients understand why they engage in self-criticism—whether that’s related to depression, anxiety, or simply the ever-present inner critic—and show them how they can overcome it—by bringing loving presence to their inner critic and bringing out their compassionate side.
  5. Practicing compassion for yourself as the therapist or counselor—an often-overlooked piece of helping clients build self-compassion is that you need to also build up your own self-compassion. Learning to accept your feelings, empathize with yourself, and offer yourself understanding and compassion can help prepare you to help others do the same.

Christopher Germer and Mindful Self-Compassion

Although mindfulness is mentioned in the three components of self-compassion, some researchers feel it should be at the forefront of self-compassion work, rather than one of three (or more) components.

Christopher Germer is one such researcher; he teaches mindfulness and compassion in his psychotherapy sessions and is co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion training program.

Germer noticed that mindfulness is often the first step toward self-compassion, and noted that mindfulness and self-compassion combined can take the benefits far beyond what simple mindfulness or self-compassion alone can bring. As we’ll go over in more detail later, Germer notes that self-compassion is strongly related to emotional wellbeing, coping, lower anxiety and depression, healthy lifestyle habits, and better relationships.

And best of all, it can be learned by anyone!

Kristin Neff and Self-Compassion.org

For more information and resources on self-compassion, check out Kristin Neff’s page at self-compassion.org. It’s got definitions, examples, exercises, and suggestions for further reading that can help you learn all there is to know about self-compassion.

Click here to see the research on self-compassion.

Why Is Self-Love Important for Wellbeing?

The research on self-love and self-compassion underscores the importance of showing ourselves some love; beyond the fact that it simply feels good and makes us happier when we love and forgive ourselves, there are a host of other benefits that we bring about by loving ourselves.

Self-Compassion and Depression

Self-compassion is a vital component of the factors that protect us against depression and the negative outcomes it brings with it. Research has shown that those with low self-compassion are at risk for greater avoidance of their problems, more rumination over their negative thoughts and feelings, and worse functioning (Krieger, Altenstein, Baettig, Doerig, & Holtforth, 2013).

In addition, self-compassion can act as a buffer between us and self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification—common issues in depression. Those with higher self-compassion are not only generally less troubled by these symptoms, but they are also better able to cope with them than those who do not show themselves as much compassion (Kӧrner, Coroiu, Copeland, Gomez-Garibello, Albani, Zenger, & Brӓhler, 2015).

9 Benefits of Having Self-Compassion

As we mentioned earlier, there are many, many benefits to self-compassion. It would take an entire article to chronicle all of the different ways that having compassion for yourself can benefit you, so instead we’ll list some of the most common and most significant benefits.

These benefits include:

  • Greater happiness
  • Higher optimism
  • More positive affect (good mood)
  • A greater sense of wisdom
  • More motivation and willingness to take initiative
  • Increased curiosity, learning, and exploration
  • Higher agreeableness
  • More conscientiousness
  • Greater extroversion (Firestone, 2016)

Not only does self-compassion benefit us greatly, it allows us to escape the negative outcomes associated with a lack of self-love and self-compassion.

Self-Love Deficit Disorder (Includes Pyramid)

Self-Love Deficit Disorder, or SLDD, sounds like a very official diagnosis, but in reality, it’s easy to describe and even easier to understand: it’s a sort of rebranded “codependency.”

It can be defined as the absence of self-love, such that the individual develops insecurities that inhibit them from practicing healthy boundary-setting behavior and dealing with narcissistic loved ones in a productive manner (Rosenberg, 2016).

These individuals generally have difficult and dysfunctional relationships—likely a string of them—because their problem cannot be solved by the love of others, only by the love they can give themselves.

If you’re not sure why there was a need to rethink “codependency” and articulate a new understanding of the issues underlying it, the self-love deficit pyramid can help you understand the importance of the new theory.

the self-love deficit pyramid

The pyramid shows exactly how individuals with SLDD develop the problems they struggle with. At the bottom is the root cause: attachment trauma. SLDD usually develops when a person grows up with a narcissistic parent—one who offers them only conditional and judgmental love instead of unconditional and unqualified love. They may repress their trauma to survive their environment, but it doesn’t go away and it doesn’t stay hidden; it simply encourages them to grow up feeling worthless and unlovable.

As the individual grows up, they develop a core sense of shame that gives them a distorted view of themselves. They may think thoughts like, “I am only as good as what I do for others” or “I am only lovable when I am invisible.” These thoughts stoke the flames of their distorted self-view and inner shame, which generally feed into pathological loneliness.

Sufferers of SLDD will isolate themselves and push others way, while at the same time feeling incredibly lonely and desperate for love and affection. A narcissist is uniquely suited to pick up on and take advantage of this state, and individuals with SLDD often find themselves in a relationship with one.

They may be happy to find someone to love them, at first, but they will soon find that the narcissist is a difficult and often impossible person to be in a healthy relationship with. Their narcissistic partner will manipulate and use them, but will also give them just enough love and affection to keep them in the relationship. This results in a sort of addiction to this unhealthy type of relationship.

The end result of all of this is SLDD, in which the individual attempts to control others into loving them. This illustrates the long path from childhood trauma to adult SLDD, but it also provides a perfect outline of what to work on in order to overcome SLDD: resolving the old trauma, addressing the core shame, and treating the pathological loneliness through improving their relationship skills and enhancing their ability to love themselves.

When they learn to love themselves, they will find that much of their pain, loneliness, and frustration melts away (Rosenberg, 2016).

Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Scale

If you’re interested in researching self-compassion, or simply finding out how much compassion you regularly practice for yourself, Kristin Neff’s scale is the most popular and frequently-used scale out there.

The Self-Compassion Scale, or SCS, is a scale made up of 26 items rated on a scale from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always). Respondents are instructed to rate the items based on how they typically act towards themselves during difficult times.

There are six components to the SCS:

  1. Self-kindness
    a. Example item: “When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.”
  2. Self-judgment
    a. Example item: “I’m intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.”
  3. Common Humanity
    a. Example item: “When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.”
  4. Isolation
    a. Example item: “When I think about my inadequacies, it tends to make me feel more separate and cut off from the rest of the world.”
  5. Mindfulness
    a. Example item: “When I’m feeling down I try to approach my feelings with curiosity and openness.”
  6. Over-identified/Overidentification
    a. Example item: “When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.”

To create a score for each subscale, simply add up all the items for self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness, but reverse-score the items for the other three subscales before adding them together to create a sub-score (i.e., 1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1). For an overall score, all you need to do is calculate the mean of all items. Higher scores represent higher self-compassion.

This scale is easy to administer and use, and Dr. Neff allows free use of her scale to any researchers or other interested parties. You can find the scale and the citation of the article in which it was originally developed here.

How to Practice Self-Love (and Acceptance)

The first step to working on your acceptance and self-love is to determine where you are on those fronts. You can use the scale above to assess your level of compassion toward yourself, but simply sitting and thinking about how you tend to feel about, think about, and talk to yourself can give you a pretty good idea.

Once you know where you are, you can figure out where you want to go and determine how best to get there. Use these tips to help you get from Point A (your current level of self-compassion/self-love) to Point B (your desired level of self-compassion/self-love).

Learn more by reading: 5 Steps to Develop Self-Compassion & Overcome Your Inner Critic and How to Practice Self-Compassion: 8 Techniques and Tips.

6 Tips for Practicing Self-Compassion and Self-Love

Self-love expert Margaret Paul (2014) has outlined 6 vital steps you can take to enhance your love for yourself.

Paul calls this process “inner bonding” and notes its powerful healing abilities–all you need to do is practice these six steps regularly to gradually enhance your ability to love yourself.

You can find his 6 tips here.

The Self-Compassion Letter and Mantra Techniques

Self-Compassionate Letter

man smiling - self-compassion and self-love exercises I hope you like writing because completing this exercise will make you your own favorite pen pal!

The Self-Compassionate Letter is a great way to inject some regular self-compassion into your life. Follow these steps to give it a try:

  1. Identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or just plain “not good enough.”
  2. Write it down and describe how it makes you feel; be sure to identify the emotion(s) it evokes.
  3. Write yourself a letter in which you show yourself compassion, understanding, and acceptance for this part of yourself that you dislike. Follow five important guidelines to make sure it’s a useful exercise:
    a. Imagine someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally, and try to think of what that person would say to you about the part of yourself that you don’t like.
    b. Remind yourself that everyone has flaws and that everyone struggles with similar issues.
    c. Consider how your nature (e.g., genes) and nurture (e.g., family, childhood environment) may have shaped your negative view of yourself.
    d. Ask yourself what you could to do improve or cope—but keep the focus on constructive changes to make yourself happier and healthier.
    e. After you finish the letter, put it away for a while. Come back to it later and read it again to get a little boost of self-compassion. This can be especially useful when you’re having a bad day (Greater Good Science Center, 2015).

Writing a compassionate letter to yourself will help you learn to treat yourself like you would treat a beloved family member or friend, and encourage the development of a healthy sense of self-compassion. Aim for writing a self-compassionate letter at least once a month. You can read more about it by clicking here.

Self-Compassion Mantra

Mantras are phrases or sentences that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day as needed to keep you focused on your goals, mindful of what is happening inside your head, and feeling calm and balanced.

You can use the phrases noted above as a mantra:
“This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a part of life.
May I be kind to myself.”

However, there is no reason why you must stick to this mantra—you can always create one that works best for you.

Follow these steps to create a good personalized mantra:

  1. Make sure the first phrase brings mindfulness to the fact that you’re in pain.
  2. Use the second phrase to remind yourself that this is a natural and inescapable part of being human.
  3. In the third phrase, make sure you bring a sense of care and concern to your present experience; show yourself some love!
  4. Finally, ensure that your final phrase sets an intention to be compassionate towards yourself.

To learn more about creating a self-compassion mantra, see this helpful handout from Kristin Neff’s Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Training Program.

6 More Exercises and Activities to Develop Self-Compassion

We have a few other great exercises on developing self-compassion, both from Dr. Neff and from other sources.

You can find these self-compassion exercises here.

11 Worksheets and Handouts for Training Self-Compassion (PDF)

If you like making lists, filling in the blanks, and answering in-depth questions, worksheets may be just the way for you to build your self-compassion. Check out these 5 popular worksheets below.

Self-Esteem versus Self-Compassion Handout

This handout is a great way to start diving into self-compassion. It outlines the differences between self-esteem and self-compassion on five different dimensions:

  1. Definition
  2. Problems associated with having too little
  3. Problems associated with having too much
  4. Relationship to others
  5. Stability/consistency

To get a good handle on what self-compassion is and how it differs from the related-yet-distinct concept of self-esteem, click here and download the handout.

Lovingkindness Meditation Tracking Worksheet

This worksheet is a simple one; all it requires is a pen and your commitment to practicing loving-kindness meditation and writing about it each day for a week.

The worksheet includes one table with the day of the week in the left column and the questions to ask yourself after practicing in the other column:

  • What happened during the practice?
  • Did I notice any changes as a result of the practice?
  • Did practicing seem to affect how my day went?

Note your experiences for each practice session for a week, then look back and reflect on what you have learned. Use these questions to guide your reflection:

  1. Did you encounter any difficulties in doing the LKM practice this week? Describe those below.
  2. Did you encounter anything that made doing LKM easier or more effective? Describe those below.
  3. Did/does your self-critic have anything to say about the lovingkindness practice? Does your critic say this practice is lazy, selfish, indulgent, or that you are doing it wrong or that you don’t deserve to do it? Or does your critic say anything else?
  4. What do you think you have to learn from LKM practice?

Completing this worksheet (and maintaining a regular lovingkindness meditation practice) is a great way to encourage yourself to be more loving and compassionate to yourself—as well as to others.

Click here to see this exercise and the relevant table (you’ll have to copy and paste the text into a worksheet if you’d like to complete it that way).

You can find 9 more worksheets on self-compassion here.

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

If you’re a fan of worksheets but find that these examples just aren’t enough, you may want to try the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.

This workbook was created by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer, the two biggest names in self-compassion research and application. The workbook touts itself as “A proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive.”

It approaches this goal through a collection of evidence-based exercises, techniques, practices, guided meditations, and case studies of people who have used them successfully. This workbook will help you capitalize on the inherent capacity you have for self-compassion and grow it into a thriving and healthy sense of self-compassion.

Click here to read more or purchase it for your own use.

6 Group Activities and Discussion Questions that Promote Self-Compassion

It’s great to work on self-compassion by yourself, but you may find it even more effective to work on building your compassion in a group. You can feed off of each other’s positivity, buffer out any negativity, and bounce ideas off one another.

Try leading or participating in these six group activities and discussion questions to give group work a shot.

Practicing Self-Compassion

This exercise will help you introduce the topic of self-compassion, help your listeners get a handle on what it is and how it helps, and give them a few methods to try building up further self-compassion.

First, you can provide some background on self-compassion; this information is found on page 1 of the PDF.

Next, have your group write down their answers to each of these four questions:

  1. Think about a time when a friend or family member was going through a hard time or felt bad about themselves. What did you do in that situation (how did you act, what did you say, what tone did you use)?
  2. Now think about a time when you were struggling or feeling bad. What did you do in that situation (how did you act, what did you say to yourself about the situation, were you self-critical or kind)?
  3. Is there a difference between how you treat a friend who is suffering and how you treat yourself? If so, why?
  4. How could you treat yourself more like you would treat a loved one the next time you are suffering or feel “not good enough”?

Once your group has written their responses to these questions, you can move on to the key points and discussion questions:

  1. Ask the group what they think self-compassion is. After they respond, share the definition and 3 components from page 1.
  2. Ask the group for their thoughts and feedback on the exercise.
  3. Does anyone feel they are already very good at self-compassion? Does anyone feel this is something they need to work on?
  4. Why do we tend to be so critical of ourselves?
  5. What are some other ways we could practice self-compassion?
  6. Talk about a time you felt inadequate or made a mistake and how you dealt with it. Then ask if any team members would like to share. Sharing experiences of human imperfection and struggle to help us see our common humanity and become more compassionate towards ourselves and each other.

This PDF, which was inspired by Kristin Neff’s “How Would You Treat a Friend?” exercise, can be downloaded by clicking here.

Self-Compassion Circle and Reflection

This activity is a great one for students, whether they are students in high school, college, or adult education classes.

Begin by introducing the idea of self-compassion and talking about the importance of self-compassion, as well as how it can be applied to meditation.

Break the group into pairs or small groups and encourage them to be on the lookout for good and helpful behavior in others.

Walk the students through a guided meditation like this one.

Next, begin the group activity:

  • Round 0: Break students up into groups of four, and assign students a partner within that group: Students 1 and 2 are partners and students 3 and 4 are partners.
  • Round 1: Student 1 tells student 2 about a time when they were self-critical or unkind. Student 2 just listens. After student 1 is finished, student 2 may ask student 1 a few clarifying questions but should avoid making statements. While Student 1 is telling his/her story to student 2, student 3 tells his/her story to student 4. Student 4 is the listener for student 3. This round should take 2-3 minutes.
    1. Storyteller
    2. Listener, asks questions
    3. Storyteller
    4. Listener, asks questions
  • Round 2: Student 2 becomes the storyteller. Student 2 tells student 1’s story but reframes the story “as a friend” (i.e., incorporating elements of self-compassion). Students 3 and 4 listen actively but silently. Student 1 may want to take notes on how their story is reframed. This round should take 2-3 minutes.
    1. Notetaker
    2. Storyteller (1’s story)
    3. Active Listener
    4. Active Listener
  • Round 3: Student 4 becomes the storyteller. Student 4 tells student 3’s story but reframes the story “as a friend” (i.e., incorporating elements of self-compassion). Students 1 and 2 listen actively but silently. Student 3 may want to take notes on how their story is reframed. This round should take 2-3 minutes.
    1. Active Listener
    2. Active Listener
    3. Notetaker
    4. Storyteller (3’s story)
  • Rounds 4, 5, and 6: Repeat rounds 1, 2, and 3, but switch original storyteller and listener (i.e., this time the students who listened and retold as friends are the storytellers, sharing a moment when they were self-critical). Each round should take 2-3 minutes. When round 6 is finished, each member of the group has shared a self-critical moment and heard it retold from a self-compassionate perspective.
  • Round 7: Assign an order to the group (clockwise or counterclockwise works). Each student will retell their original moment of self-criticism from a self-compassionate perspective. Encourage these final versions of the story to incorporate the kind words they heard from the retelling of their own or other’s stories in the course of the lesson.

Once all rounds have been completed, move on to the debrief with the following discussion and reflection questions:

  1. How did this experience help you find ways to be self-compassionate?
  2. What specific ways did your partners retell your story that helped you to be self-compassionate?
  3. Share in a few sentences your original self-critical moment and how you changed your thinking during the exercise.
  4. What is one thing that a group member did particularly well today?
    a. Examples: How did someone help you see something you didn’t see before? How vulnerable were your group members allowing themselves to be with their self-critical moments? What effective listening skills did you see? What were some effective strategies others used with retelling their partner’s story?

Four Extra Activities and Discussion Questions from “Conversations About Compassion”

This resource from the Fetzer Institute is an excellent way for you to learn more about self-compassion and how to implement it in your own life and encourage it in others.

On page 15, four activities and discussion questions are listed for groups to help them work on their self-compassion. These include:

  1. Ask whether group members are more familiar with self-esteem or self-compassion. What did group members learn to value as they were growing up?
  2. Discuss the three components of self-compassion: kindness, interconnectedness, and mindfulness. Which do people have the hardest time with?
  3. Have group members pair up and discuss their biggest stumbling block to practicing self-compassion. When the large group reconvenes, have anyone who wishes to describe their stumbling block and what they might do to cultivate more self-compassion.
  4. Have group members pair up and share how they currently practice self-compassion and what they can commit to practicing more often. When you ask individuals to share how they practice self-compassion, list their answers on a whiteboard or flipchart. Ask participants to write down their commitment to themselves.

Use these discussions to get your group more interested in self-compassion and more engaged in the idea of practicing it regularly for their own benefit.

The Self-Love Challenge and Campaign

woman happy - self-compassion and self-love worksheets

There are a lot of 30-Day “Challenges” you may have heard of—challenges to eat healthy, to practice yoga, to do a random act of kindness.

You may have already heard of it, but if not I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear there’s a 30-Day Challenge for self-love as well!

To learn more about the challenge, you can click here, but you probably already get the gist of it: self-love and self-care are important, and we flourish when we learn to forgive ourselves, so challenge yourself to show yourself love for 30 straight days!

The list of suggested self-love exercises is a good one, but feel free to replace, adapt, or otherwise change it as needed to make sure it fits you and the things that make you feel loved and cared for. This list includes:

  • List 5 reasons why you are grateful for today
  • Light a candle when you get home
  • Read 10 minutes before bed
  • Do a puzzle or creative activity
  • Stretch for 5 minutes
  • Spend 15 minutes electronic-free
  • Drink 60 ounces of water
  • Get 7 hours of consecutive sleep
  • Drink a cup of tea
  • Clean or organize something
  • List 5 things you are good at
  • Take a 20-minute bath
  • List 5 reasons why you are grateful for today
  • Drink 60 ounces of water
  • Spend 20 minutes electronic-free
  • Meditate for 5 minutes
  • Drink a cup of tea
  • Stretch for 5 minutes
  • Clean or organize something
  • Avoid sugary foods
  • Do a puzzle or creative activity
  • Light a candle when you get home
  • Get 7 hours of consecutive sleep
  • Journal about your day
  • Take a 20-minute bath
  • Read for 10 minutes before bed
  • List 5 reasons why you are grateful for today
  • Meditate for 5 minutes
  • Clean or organize something
  • Journal about something that you love and why you love it (Ghekiere, 2017).

Self-Compassion and Meditation

Self-compassion and meditation go hand-in-hand; one of the best ways to build up your compassion for yourself is to understand yourself better, enhance your awareness of what’s going on in your own head, and cultivate a sense of love and a feeling of goodwill to all—it just so happens that mindfulness meditation does exactly that!

Guided Meditations for Self-Love and Compassion

Check out the guided meditations if you’re interested in developing a self-compassion meditation practice.

Profound Guided Meditation for Self-Love & Restful Sleep from Lauren Ostrowski Fenton

10-Minute Guided Meditation for Self-Compassion from Live Sonima

Guided Meditation for Confidence, Self-Love, and a Better Self-Image from Joe T at Hypnotic Labs

Self-Love: Guided Meditation on Unconditionally Love You from Positive Magazine Meditation

Guided Meditation for Self-Compassion from Green Mountain at Fox Run

Self-Love Guided Meditation with Positive Affirmations from Great Meditation

3 Apps to Help Practice Self-Love

Simply Being – Guided Meditation for Relaxation and Presence

Simply BeingThis app offers meditation scheduling, guided meditations, and even music and nature sounds to help you get in the right frame of mind. Meditation is a great way to build your self-love and self-compassion, especially if you make it a habit.

Click here to download the app from the Apple store.


ShineThis happy app will send you “a daily text to help you thrive”—no download required! If you love getting a little boost of positivity every day to put you in the right frame of mind, this is the app for you.

Click here to sign up.

Insight Timer

InsightTimerThis app can help you learn how to meditate and turn it into a regular practice. It offers thousands of guided meditation options for several different contexts and purposes—including boosting your self-love and self-compassion.

Download the app today to start your loving-kindness meditation practice.

Popular Podcasts on Self-Compassion and Self-Love

  • Your Self-Love Adjustment by Mara Glatzel & Christie Inge (link)
  • The I Simply Am Podcast: Mindfulness, Self Love, Self Awareness by Josh Becker (link)
  • Fearless Self-Love by Andrea Catherine (link)
  • Self Love by GlamorouslyDope (link)
  • Love Me Project by Christine Burrell (link)
  • The Greater Good Podcast: The Power of Self-Compassion by Greater Good Science Center and Kristin Neff (link)
  • Self Love Journey 101 by Erica Shaunta Thompson (link)
  • Self Love University by Tim Bennett (link)

8 TED Talks and Inspirational YouTube Videos

If you’re more of a visual learner and like to see the speakers as you listen to them, you’re in luck—there are several great TED Talks and YouTube videos on the subject. Check out these videos to learn more about self-compassion:

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

The Components of Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

Imagine if You Were 10% More Compassionate Towards Yourself by Ronnie Grandell

Anger, Compassion, and What It Means to Be Strong by Russell Kolts

RAIN of Self-Compassion by Tara Brach

Dare to Rewire Your Brain for Self-Compassion by Weiyang Xie

Self-Compassion by The School of Life

Self-Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

By now you should know that Kristin Neff is a brilliant and passionate researcher who has taught us a ton about self-compassion; you should also know that she’s a great author and self-compassion trainer as well!

Her six-session training on boosting your self-compassion is called Self-Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and you can find this audiobook here, free with a trial of Audible.

This course will help you build a foundation in self-acceptance, self-love, and self-compassion through guided meditations, experiential practices, and on-the-spot techniques. Follow the path laid down by this book, and you will open yourself up to a transformative experience and give yourself the opportunity to lead a healthier life full of more love, joy, happiness, and fulfillment than ever before.

The Self-Love Experiment

If you’re more of a reader than a “watcher” or “listener,” don’t worry—we’ve got some recommendations for you too!

If you’re interested in boosting your self-love and self-compassion, you can’t go wrong with Shannon Kaiser’s book The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself.

This book’s tagline is inspiring and no-nonsense all at once: “Put a stop to self-sabotage and overcome your fears so that you can gain the confidence you need to reach your goals and become your own best friend.”

To check out this book and apply the 15 principles in your own life, click here.

9 Other Books on Self-Compassion and Self-Love

Kaiser’s book is a good one, but it’s certainly not the only one out there. Here are nine other highly recommended books and workbooks that can help you learn more about self-compassion and boost your love for yourself:

  • Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff (Amazon)
  • The 21-Day Self-Love Challenge: Learn How to Love Yourself Unconditionally, Cultivate Self-Worth, Self-Compassion and Confidence by 21 Day Challenges (Amazon)
  • Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant (Amazon)
  • The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts by Christopher K. Germer and Sharon Salzberg (Amazon)
  • Self-Compassion: I Don’t Have To Feel Better Than Others To Feel Good About Myself by Simeon Lindstrom (Amazon)
  • The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond (Workbook) (Amazon)
  • The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are by Karen Bluth and Kristin Neff (Workbook) (Amazon)
  • Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy: Mindfulness-Based Practices for Healing and Transformation by Tim Desmond (Amazon)
  • The Self-Compassion Deck: 50 Mindfulness-Based Practices by Christopher Willard, Mitch Abblett, and Tim Desmond (Amazon)

Self-Love is the Best Love: 7 Quotes and Affirmations on Self-Compassion

Everyone loves a good quote! Refer back to these self-acceptance quotes when you need a quick boost of inspiration to love yourself.

“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.”

Robert Morely

“Love yourself unconditionally, just as you love those closest to you despite their faults.”

Les Brown

“To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.”

Alan Cohen

“Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.”

Wilfred Peterson

If these quotes don’t give you a jolt of self-love and self-compassion, try adopting one of the following affirmations instead.

  • “I approve of myself. I love myself deeply and fully.”
  • “I am worthy of love and joy.”
  • “My life is a gift. I will use this gift with confidence, joy, and exuberance.”

Read about these and discover more sample affirmations.

A Take-Home Message

If you’ve stuck with me for this entire piece—thank you! I’m so glad you took this winding journey through the information, resources, and techniques for improving your self-love and self-compassion with me.

I hope you found the journey helpful and learned at least a few new things. If you did, I’d love to hear what helped. If you didn’t, I’d love to hear about that too! Leave us a comment about your experience practicing self-love and boosting your self-compassion.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Self Compassion Exercises for free.


  • Desmond, T. (2016). Five ways to put self-compassion into therapy. Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_to_put_self_compassion_into_therapy
  • Firestone, L. (2016). The many benefits of self-compassion. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201610/the-many-benefits-self-compassion
  • Germer, C. (n.d.). Mindful Self-Compassion (MSCTM). Chris Germer.com. Retrieved from https://chrisgermer.com/mindful-self-compassion-msctm/
  • Ghekiere, E. (2017). 30 days of self-love challenge. Jihi Elephant. Retrieved from https://www.jihielephant.com/self-love-challenge/
  • Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: Overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13, 353-379.
  • Greater Good Science Center. (2015). Self-compassionate letter. Greater Good in Action. Retrieved from https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/self_compassionate_letter#
  • Khoshaba, D. (2012). A seven-step prescription for self-love. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love
  • Kӧrner, A., Coroiu, A., Copeland, L., Gomez-Garibello, C., Albani, C., Zenger, M., & Brӓhler, E. (2015). The role of self-compassion in buffering symptoms of depression in the general population. PLoS One, 10.
  • Krieger, T., Altenstein, D., Baettig, I., Doerig, N., & Holtforth, M. G. (2013). Self-compassion in depression: Associations with depressive symptoms, rumination, and avoidance in depressed outpatients. Behavior Therapy, 44, 501-513.
  • Neff, K. (n.d.). Definition of self-compassion. Self-Compassion.org. Retrieved from http://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/
  • Neff, K., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. In B. D. Ostafin (Ed.), Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation (pp. 121-137). Springer.
  • Paul, M. (2014, September 18). How do you actually learn to love yourself? Mind Body Green. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15295/how-do-you-actually-learn-to-love-yourself.html.
  • Rosenberg, R. A. (2016). Reinventing codependency/recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder. The Huffington Post Blog. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ross-a-rosenberg/reinventing-codependency-_b_11036330.html
  • Well, T. (2017). Is self-love healthy or narcissistic? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-clarity/201702/is-self-love-healthy-or-narcissistic
  • Wong, K. (2017). Why self-compassion beats self-confidence. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/smarter-living/why-self-compassion-beats-self-confidence.html


What our readers think

  1. Robbie

    Love the work and appreciate the time and effort you put into this. Thank you!

  2. Tena

    hello i wanted a clarity, compassion itself is an action word, it means to feel for the other and willing to do something to relieve the sufferings.
    In such a definition, self- compassion should mean, not just acknowledging with my own negative feelings but also doing something in order to relieve myself from it and move towards higher energy state. Actions are in the form of self-love just because there is a word, otherwise self-compassion itself give the entire meaning.
    Would you agree?

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Tena,

      I would suggest that self-compassion may not always require that you take action. For instance, I might find myself feeling lethargic and unmotivated to act in any way at all. This might be due to any number of circumstances — I could be grieving, suffering from physical pain, or experiencing depression. If I’m to view myself with self-compassion, I would view myself with kindness and understanding, regardless of whether I ultimately took action, rather than beating myself, calling myself ‘bad’ for not doing all the things I should do, etc. That is, I would still know that I am worthy and deserving of love and kindness regardless by virtue of just ‘being’ rather than as a result of anything I am ‘doing’.

      And yes, self-love is about the specific actions that we take to show ourselves kindness. So, I’d say self-compassion can exist before or in the absence of action.

      Hopefully this is makes sense!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  3. Ashley Dover

    Wow this article is going to change my life. It was so informative with information for ALL different learners. It was not your typical article filled of words, words and more words. I love that there are great handouts, worksheets, tips, references quotes and much more.


    Very much informative information thank you

  5. Wiktoria

    Thank you , this was an amazing article , thank you for taking your time to write this !

  6. Hadil

    Thank you very Nice website article

  7. Lisa

    Thank you for this information. ??
    I found this article to be very informative, and easy to understand.

  8. Hubriana

    Wonderful insight!! Thanx!!

  9. John Omaha, Ph.D., MFT

    I did a search for “self compassion” and found your excellent article. Thank you. I am struggling. I am an adult child of emotionally immature parents. Father narcissist (physician). Mother controlling. I’ve recently turned 80 and retired from doing psychotherapy (MFT) and am working on a book. I’ve done two already. “Requiem for a Dying World.” I am dealing with depression. Sadness. Grief. My poor Little Johnny needs compassion and hopefully as I digest your article I can learn to give it to him.

    • Joe Magna

      Hello sir, how are you doing now? I hope you are much better, wish you the best.


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