Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you would show to a good friend. It is the desire to alleviate suffering within yourself with gentleness, care, and empathy. In Western culture, there is more emphasis on being kind to others rather than to ourselves. We often talk to ourselves with harsh words and critical language. By embracing compassion and empathy, you surround yourself with acceptance instead of criticalness. Instead of comparing yourself with others, self-compassion allows you to simply care.
Greater self-compassion has been linked to less anxiety and depression, improved mental health, enhanced relationships with others, positive coping, the capacity to frame your situation within the larger human perspective, the ability to seek and accept social support, and improved overall well-being (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012; Neff & Dahm, 2015).

  • How can you nurture self-compassion?
  • How can you approach uncomfortable and painful feelings with an attitude of kindness and a sense of shared humanity?
  • How can you learn to affirm your emotions, appreciate what you have already done to cope, and harness the passion of your feelings, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, to empower you to thrive?

Practice Exercise: Solution-Focused Reflections on the Three Components of Self-Compassion

Drawing on the writings of Buddhist teachers, Neff (2003) has described self-compassion as consisting of three main elements: Kindness, Common Humanity, and Mindfulness.

1. Solution-Focused Reflections on Self-Kindness

  • What does self-kindness mean to you?
  • What have you done and said to yourself that is kind and nurturing?
  • Who would notice when you are being kind to yourself?
  • What would they notice you doing?
  • What else would they notice you doing?
  • Supposing you were writing a letter to a close friend in distress, what do you know would be kind actions and words to appreciate how they are doing the best they can given their situation?

2. Solution-Focused Reflections on A Shared Common Humanity

  • What does a shared common humanity mean to you?
  • What do you most appreciate about our shared human experiences?
  • What have you noticed you do when you recognize your common shared humanity with others?
  • What else have you done?
  • Consider how we are all imperfect, experience setbacks, mistakes, pain, grief, fear, love, loneliness, connection, and joy. What are common human experiences that you share with others? What else?

3. Solution-Focused Reflections on Mindfulness

  • What does mindfulness mean to you?
  • What do you know has helped you remain open to the present moment without judgment?
  • How have you been able to approach uncomfortable thoughts and emotions with acceptance and self-compassion? How else?

Practice Exercise: Creating Your Compassionate Choice Point Map

Many of you may have endured dark times over which you had no control. Children and adults who were physically or sexually abused, neglected, experienced homelessness, food insecurity, racism, suicidal thoughts, and severe substance abuse. I am so inspired by my clients’ courage and strength to do their best to forge on despite the traumas they have endured. There was a woman I had the privilege of working with who suffered severe physical and sexual abuse and was the child of her grandfather and mother. She sustained broken bones and terror growing up as a child and now was coping with severe depression and anxiety. During our conversations, I asked her about several decisions that I noticed she had recently made that were compassionate choice points in her life. She finally got herself a primary care provider and was seeing a physical therapist to assist her with the back pain she had endured since childhood after being pushed down the stairs by her mother. She had found a therapist she could connect with. She began a small container garden on her porch. She was enjoying the relationships with the children she was helping through her volunteer work at the local community center. She acknowledged that these recent decisions over the past few months were very different and helpful for her. We discussed how she decided to make these choices and surround herself with activities and relationships that were reciprocal and generative for her. She acknowledged that this was the first time she had considered her needs and comfort rather than pleasing others. We began to map out other compassionate choice points, and she made a visual map of these important moments in her life. This led to her intentionally choosing to make more decisions that nourished herself with care and compassion. She began to notice her severe anxiety had become more tolerable, and her depression decreased.

Solution-Focused Compassionate Choice Point Mapping

We all have decisions and choices we have made in our lives. Reflect on your past decisions.

  • What decisions did you make that nurtured self-compassion, kindness, and care for you?
  • Were those decisions helpful for you?
  • How were they helpful for you?
  • How did you decide to make them?
  • Consider creating a map of your uniquely personalized compassionate choice points that you decided to make.
  • How did your decisions cultivate nurturing and generative relationships, joy, and a sense of calm in your life?

Solution-focused Gifts to Nourish Self-Compassion

Nourishing yourself with self-compassion is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Each of you gives and receives gifts in your unique way. Think about some of the most meaningful gifts you have both given and received. It is often the most intangible gifts, such as a kind word, a meaningful conversation in which you felt deeply listened to, the joy of laughter, and a loving glance, that are most treasured.

Gift-giving and receiving can present challenges for many people. Accepting a gift is to be open to nurturing and love from another. If you have trouble receiving gifts, it may reflect difficulties accepting your need for support and care. When we present a gift to another, we often say, “This gift is for you.” The receiver of the gift may say “for me”? “You didn’t need to do that.” “ You shouldn’t have.” There are often good reasons that accepting gifts may be difficult for you. Receiving gifts may protect you from greater intimacy, and the connection you fear may be lost. When accepting a gift, you may feel vulnerable, selfish, undeserving, and in someone’s debt. You may feel uncomfortable receiving gifts if strings were attached growing up, and you may have only received compliments when you accomplished outward achievements. You are worthy and deserve to relish and enjoy one of life’s most important gifts, the gift of self-compassion. Below are three solution-focused gifts to nurture self-compassion.

  1. The Language of Empathy: “For you” and “For me” statements
  2. The Indirect Compliment: The linguistic vehicle to enhance your agency
  3. Solution-Focused 10-Minute Time

The Language of Empathy: “For you” and “For me” statements

A solution-focused language technique that can help you speak compassionately with yourself is to integrate the words “for you” within statements and questions. These two simple words can help to validate and affirm your intense emotions. For example, it must be exhausting for you to manage anxiety and depression while trying to get your children off to school. It must be frustrating for you that your partner does not understand how depression affects you.

Practice Exercise: “For You” statements

For many, it can be easier to provide “for you” statements to others rather than ourselves. Reflect on a recent intense emotional experience. Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of a caring and nurturing friend. Write as many kind and loving “for you” statements from the perspective of your friend to you. 

For example, consider a single mother coping with the stressors of providing for her two children while learning that her mother was just diagnosed with cancer. She has been trying to keep herself together at work but recently lost her patience with her supervisor, who knew what she was going through yet continued to micromanage and criticize her work. What “for you” statements could you give to her?

  • It must be so exhausting for you to sustain the mental load of caring and providing for your children and navigating your mother’s needs and newly diagnosed cancer.
  • It must be so frustrating for you to have a boss that does not appreciate your work despite all your efforts to do a good job while knowing what you have been going through. 

Practice Exercise: “For Me” statements

A corollary of the empathic gift of “for you” statements is “for me” statements. Saying “for me” out loud may feel like you are being selfish and entitled, but this is not the case. You are valuing yourself as a fellow sentient being among your shared humanity.  

For example, consider a middle-aged man who discovered that his company is downsizing and he may no longer have a job. He and his partner have both been working to barely make ends meet to pay their rent and food and continue to work on paying off their student loans. He began experiencing unpredictable panic episodes,  depression, and difficulties sleeping. His partner noticed an increase in his irritability, which only compounded the stress in their home. What for me statements could he give to himself?

  • It is scary for me to be thinking about how our family will be able to manage without a dual income just to get by.
  • It has been exhausting for me not sleeping, getting through the daily grind, and not knowing how we will manage if I lose my job.
  • It has been hard for me to stay calm and positive through all this stress.

The Indirect Compliment: The Linguistic Vehicle to Enhance Agency

In the solution-focused approach, the gift of “for you” and “for me” responses are paired with compliments. Compliments are the solution-focused linguistic tool to enhance your agency. Compliments provide clues to potential solutions that are already working in your life. In the solution-focused approach, there are two types of compliments, direct and indirect. Direct compliments are an explicit expression of praise, appreciation, or admiration. Most of you are fluent in what is known as the direct compliment. Direct compliments may include commending individuals on their coping abilities, congratulating their achievements, and acknowledging their skills at work, perseverance, passion, honesty, and determination. Examples include: I am impressed with how you reached out for help instead of isolating yourself at home. It’s impressive how you managed to cope with your immense challenges while still caring for your loved ones.

Indirect compliments are in the form of the following question: How did you do it? Most people are less familiar and fluent with the indirect, implicit compliment. It takes practice to build fluency in using indirect compliments. Notice the question is not “Did you do it?” Instead, “How did you do it?” The word “how” communicates in what manner and by what means? The verb did (past tense) conveys that you have done it before and thus can do it again. The second verb to do (accomplish, perform, manage, endure, stop, think, decide, choose) highlights the actions you have already taken to achieve your goals.

Solution-Focused 10-Minute Time

Reflect on when you experienced a situation that felt barely tolerable for you. It can be helpful to remind yourself that emotions are temporary and that change is the only constant in life. Shrinking the time increments of coping strategies to brief moments can help make things more bearable for you. Sometimes tolerable or bearable is good enough. For many people, 10 minutes is a tolerable time frame. For others, it may be 30 minutes or 5 minutes.

  • What do you know is a time frame that is tolerable for you when reflecting on difficult and uncomfortable situations that you have experienced? Ask yourself the following questions.

PAST 10-minute time:

  • What do you know helped make things even a little more tolerable or bearable for you in the past 10 minutes? What else?
  • What were you doing that helped make things a little more bearable for you? What else were you doing?
  • Who would notice when things are a little bit more bearable for you?
  • What would they notice you doing when things are a little bit more tolerable for you? What else would they notice you doing?

FUTURE 10-minute time:

  • What do you know you need to make things even a little bit more tolerable or bearable for you in the next 10 minutes? What else?
  • What would you be doing in the next 10 minutes that would make things even a little bit more tolerable for you? What else would you be doing?
  • Who would notice when things are a little bit more bearable for you?
  • What would they notice you doing when things are a little bit more tolerable for you? What else would they notice you doing?

SCALING your confidence

  • Supposing ten is you are very confident that you can do something to address your needs that would make things even a little bit more tolerable, and one is the opposite; where would you say you are now?
  • What would be a good enough number?
  • What have you been doing that keeps the number from being lower? What else?
  • What would you be doing when the number goes up by one point? What else would you be doing?


Buranasompob, P., Chantagul, N., & Mohanan, S. A. (2020). The efficacy of integrated SFBT intervention on self-compassion, self-determination, and solution-focused mindset among high school students in Bangkok, Thailand. Scholar: Human Sciences, 12(1), 144-144.

Ewert, C., Vater, A., & Schröder-Abé, M. (2021). Self-compassion and coping: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 12, 1063-1077.

Goetz, J. L., Keltner, D., & Simon-Thomas, E. (2010). Compassion: an evolutionary analysis and empirical review. Psychological bulletin, 136(3), 351.

MacBeth, A., & Gumley, A. (2012). Exploring compassion: A meta-analysis of the association between self-compassion and psychopathology. Clinical psychology review, 32(6), 545-552.

Neff, K. D., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation, 121-137.