A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method – by Leo Babauta

self kindnessWhen we’re frustrated with others, or feeling bad about ourselves … we often turn toward habits that comfort us:

  • distractions
  • food
  • shopping
  • smoking
  • drugs/alcohol

These don’t often work, because they tend to make us feel worse in the long run. We become unhappier, more stressed, and then need to seek comfort in these things again … and the cycle continues. These are sometimes the only ways we know of comforting ourselves! I know this because for a long time I always turned to all of the above for comfort when I was feeling stressed or bad about myself. It made me very unhealthy and it took a long time to change my patterns. Today I’d like to suggest a method of self-compassion that I’ve been learning, that has worked wonders.

The Self-Compassion Method

Try this now if you’re feeling stressed, frustrated, in pain, disappointed, angry, anxious, worried, or depressed:

  1. Notice. Take a moment to turn inward and notice your pain in this moment. Now notice where it is in your body, and how it feels. Describe the pain to yourself in physical terms, in terms of quality, in terms of color or shape or motion.
  2. Accept. Now tell yourself that it’s OK to have this pain. It’s perfectly OK to feel bad about yourself, to feel bad about your body, to feel frustrated with someone else. Let yourself feel the pain.
  3. Comfort. Now treat this pain with compassion, like you would with a friend who is suffering, or your child who is in pain. Be gentle with it, kind to it, like a suffering child. Comfort it. How would you comfort your friend whose parent just died?
  4. Smile. Finally, try wishing your pain well, wish it happiness. Give it love. Smile at your pain in compassion.

This method takes a lot of practice, for sure. I’m still learning it myself, and I don’t claim to be an expert at self-compassion. But I’ve found it to be truly amazing, because we very rarely do this for ourselves. We’re good at being kind to others when they’re having a difficult time, perhaps, but not always with ourselves.

And it can be trans-formative. If you practice compassion with your pain, it becomes less of a burden. You realize that it’s temporary, you feel less bad about being frustrated. And you feel loved — by yourself.

Leo BabautaZen Habits is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. It also happens to be one of the Top 25 blogs and Top 50 websites in the world, with more than a million monthly readers, and is uncopyrighted. Zen Habits features a couple powerful articles a week on: simplicity, health & fitness, motivation and inspiration, frugality, family life, happiness, goals, getting great things done, and living in the moment. My name is Leo Babauta, and I’m the creator and writer. I’m married with six kids, I live in San Francisco (previously on Guam), I’m a writer and a runner and a vegan.


  1. This is a great idea 🙂

    I try and avoid distracting myself when I’m feeling negative. I bought a few books earlier this year on mindfulness and they’ve been really helpful but it’s definitely not an easy transition from distracting myself to trying to focus and embrace my feelings.

    Most of us have been trained by our peers and our society that things like “retail therapy” will make us feel better and so weaning ourselves off of that habit can feel really difficult but it’s worth the effort.
    I like the self compassion method. Clear and simply stated steps. Will give it a try next time!

    All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. I propose a variation on Lorde’s quote at the top of this post: when I am selfish, then caring for myself is self-indulgent. When my life benefits others, then caring for myself is part of my gift to them. Thanks for inspiring this idea in me. I need it!

    Your Self-Compassion Method is a great reminder for me. I’m working hard to implement it. The more that I run away from my pain, the more it roils up in me. I’d like to add one item to your 4th Step of Smile: gratitude. My pain is has an important message. I am transformed when I remember this, and thank it for its attempt to improve a situation. Eventually, this makes me smile.


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