I did not make up this practice, it is not mine, so I cannot take credit for it, but I heard about a Self-Compassionate Letter from a podcast (maybe Radio Lab or This American life?) and the practice has followed me since.
The letter instructions are included below the letter.
"You are not inadequate. The fact is, everyone feels scared at some point in their lives. Most people feel inadequate at times. That you experience these feelings daily, constantly, and that you can still show up for your family, community and for yourself, is a more accurate measure of who you are. People are not defined by their feelings or actions. But if you must know yourself as something, you should know that you are as deserving of feeling okay as anyone. You are as qualified to take credit for your life as anyone. Sure, you and your benefits and resources, even internal resources, are derived from the past efforts of others, so then say just that. Say to yourself and to those unfortunates who try to compliment you - thank you. You could have chosen differently.
You had a rough go, didn't get what you had coming to you regarding the care and security that affects you now and for the rest of your life. In understanding that, give yourself a break."
Do this for yourself:
Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: Once per week, or at least once per month. | Duration: 15 minutes.
How to do it
First, identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be something related to your personality, behavior, abilities, relationships, or any other part of your life.
Once you identify something, write it down and describe how it makes you feel. Sad? Embarrassed? Angry? Try to be as honest as possible, keeping in mind that only you will see what you write.
The next step is to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the part of yourself that you dislike.
As you write, follow these guidelines:
• Imagine that there is someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally for who you are. What would that person say to you about this part of yourself?
• Remind yourself that everyone has things about themselves that they don’t like, and that no one is without flaws. Think about how many other people in the world are struggling with the same thing that you’re struggling with.
• Consider the ways in which events that have happened in your life, the family environment you grew up in, or even your genes may have contributed to this negative aspect of yourself.
• In a compassionate way, ask yourself whether there are things that you could do to improve or better cope with this negative aspect. Focus on how constructive changes could make you feel happier, healthier, or more fulfilled, and avoid judging yourself.
• After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back to it later and read it again. It may be especially helpful to read it whenever you’re feeling bad about this aspect of yourself, as a reminder to be more self-compassionate.
#IfYouCouldSeeMe would love to hear your Self-Compassionate letter. Let us know how this exercise helps change the way you speak to and think about yourself.