Finding Self-Compassion

Small changes seem to bring BIG changes if we can just persist and practice enough…

It is amazing to me when things start settling in – first we understand a concept with our minds, and then over time as we practice,  we understand it deeply with our hearts – and then the real change happens…   In my experience real change happens faster when we involve the right side of our brain and our subconscious and art journal / sketch / doodle responses and bring in visualisations / meditations.  Slowly for me have I been learning self-compassion…


I’ve been lucky this year to do Brene Brown’s Gifts Of Imperfection Art Journalling course and Kristin Neff & Brene Brown’s Self-Compassion course- both online: and Tara Brach & Jack Kornfiled’s incredibly in depth Power Of Awareness online mindfulness course where self-compassion is a key component…

We all have that inner critic, that war within ourselves…sometimes without us even being aware of it. The expectations we place on ourselves can be unrealistic and unachievable and we can be constantly beating ourselves up for not being better, perfect…

When I find myself getting highly critical of my loved ones then I know I’m being even more critical of myself!  Kristin Neff talks about how we are so much kinder and more compassionate to a best friend or child than we are to ourselves in the same situation yet it is very hard to express authentic compassion to others if we cannot express it to ourselves.

For me the journey of reducing this intense self-criticism began when I first became a Mum almost 18 years ago and had post natal depression.   I needed to let go of the ‘perfect’ should messages and give myself permission to have a messy house, look messy and have a messy garden and be tired and grumpy sometimes!   Since then it’s like I’ve needed to peel back the layers – uncovering other aspects of being too harsh on myself that I didn’t even know were there!

In the Gifts Of Imperfection Art Journalling course a powerful exercise is to find photos of your younger self and write down messages of self-compassion…it was very healing to find teenage photos and remember all of the angst and instead write with empathy, understanding, kindness and gentleness…as you would to your own child who is struggling.

Then in Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion course I learned that there are 3 core components to self-compassion:

  1. Mindfully notice that you are at war with yourself
  2. Realise our common humanity – we are ALL imperfect, we are all struggling on some level, we are all on a journey
  3. Offer words of kindness, and explore how to actively nurture yourself…

If you think about it this is what we would offer a friend or a child – we would

  1. Notice they are struggling
  2. Empathise and offer that reassurance – ‘it can be difficult’
  3. Offer words of kindness and give a little nurturing

As Brene Brown puts it when we are truly compassionate for another human being it brings out our best selves – yet often the same scenario for ourselves and we treat ourselves worse than anyone else!!  We would never say to someone else what can go through our own minds!

So I have been art journaling and reading and meditating on this topic for a few months now…practicing….and then just recently I was at war with myself.   I had good intentions to change my life for the better but my inner critic was LOUDLY saying ‘give up, it’s not worth it, you don’t have the will power, you’re not strong enough’ And the debate in my head was so unpleasant I wanted to give up JUST to silence the inner critic.

But then I remembered – self-compassion! I noticed and labelled what was going on….’I’m at war with myself’ – just doing that made it a little easier to breathe…then I was able to place my hand over my heart and breathe into the feeling and recognise…’gee it’s tough sometimes to be human, to have all these choices, to make a change for better’….then I remembered times in my past where it has taken at least a year to make one small change to the point that I can easily do it daily … and I was able to offer some kind reassuring words…

And just that small moment – resonated through my life to be a BIG shift – all week it was easier to make the change, all week I was kinder to myself…  So it took awhile for the info to go from head level to heart level but when it did – it was a beautiful moment!

I’m wondering if you have experienced something similar?  Or if you would like more self-compassion in your life?

I’m excited that we’ll be reading and discussing Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff as part of our online Mindfulness Book Club in February 2017.   We’ll also practice some self-compassion exercises and if you live in Port Macquarie then we’ll meet in person to discuss and practice… I’m really looking forward to it!


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Mindful Writing / Sketching / Journalling & GOLDEN MOMENTS

humpback whale 2
I have just finished reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong – I love what that woman has found in her research!!! Brene found that if you write about your experiences, or sketch about it or create something around it (e.g. art journal) then you are more likely to work through the experience in a positive, wholehearted way and to feel better – to be healthier and have more wellbeing…
Brene quotes Dr Pennebaker’s research about using expressive writing to help people get over traumatic experiences by writing about their experiences every day for I think 4 days?? (here’s more info in this video If you were to do this around a traumatic experience I would recommend you do it under the guidance of a mental health professional. But if you were to do this to process events from your week – how beneficial could it be for you??
I have kept a journal since leaving home at 18 and traditionally used it to process all my negative feelings for the day so I could sleep…it really helped! But then once I started doing mindfulness and learning more about parenting 5 years ago – I began to ALSO use it as a tool to record what I am grateful for and those…..
GOLDEN MOMENTS….. those magic moments where you feel joy in your heart – they may be fleeting but they are what life is really all about (e.g. seeing a whale breach or the moon rise)- and so often we forget them in the course of our busy days! So often we can judge a day as negative when really there were many OK and some good moments in there – it is human nature to focus on the negative…….Writing or sketching our golden moments or capturing them in a photo can help our brains to rewire to notice more of the good stuff in our lives as they happen!! Brene’s calm down strategy in Rising Strong for herself is go out and take one photo!
Since August last year I have been doing stream of consciousness writing and keeping an art journal as I work through the book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron – and it is making a HUGE difference to my day – clearing out the negative self talk, helping me set a mindful intention for the day, recording the golden moments and just being more present to what is as I write about it / or sketch about it! I also find if I’m sketching or creating then I am in the flow and there’s no way I can worry or be anxious….
What do you think? Is this something you could do – weekly or when you need to or daily??
One of my most favourite mindful activities is to do a Mindful Walk in nature with a sketch book and take time to write / sketch my experience! It might only be 45 minutes once a week – but it is where I feel the most peace! Somehow writing or sketching as I walk – REALLY helps me to relish and be in the present moment!
That is why I have organised the Mindfulness In May Peace Walk – where we will walk mindfully – and then sketch our messages of peace in the sand, take photos and upload and share on facebook! I hope, wherever you are, you can join us!!!! 🙂   You can find us at:
Happy Sketching / Writing or Journalling or Taking Photos,  Cheers, Sara 🙂