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Episode 76: The Importance of Self-Compassion

More than ever before, we need a reliable tool to manage our inner critic, judgement, negative thinking and the opinions of others. This is self-compassion, and here’s how to start using it.

In case you have been living under a rock, I wanted to let you know that we are living in a very hyper critical time.

We have become addicted to the internet with all it’s catastrophizing news headlines, controversial click-bait and it’s social forums and soapboxes. 

Of course there are plenty of great things on the internet too.


But these great things are book ended by the extremes – beautiful people trying to outdo each other, and the dark corners where bullies, trolls and critics lurk.

As it turns out, even the most resilient amongst us can get sucked into the extreme ends of the internet in just a few clicks.

We can start questioning ourselves, doubting ourselves, or even judging ourselves.

I want to be clear with you – all of this happens in real life too.

But on the internet it happens faster, more broadly, and 24 hours per day.

That’s why now, more than ever, I think self compassion is so important. It’s a tool we can all use and benefit from, and it is a powerful antidote to the mental curveballs that we experience in our daily lives.

I want to walk you through the three elements of self-compassion today; discuss why it’s important, help you work out how self-compassionate you are and take some simple steps to bolster your resilience.

If it doesn’t feel good, then why do we criticize ourselves?

We humans are a lot like dogs in the way we behave and our social hierarchy.

Some dogs are aggressive and want to be the alpha dog. Other dogs are less confident and they roll over to expose their belly.

So self-criticism is a way of fitting in, even if it’s at the bottom of the pecking order.

When we criticize ourselves, it’s actually a submissive, safety behaviour that helps us to be accepted in social circles.

If we are submissive and self-critical, it might appease the bully or garner sympathy so that someone will tell us that we’re not as bad as we think we are. 

When we are being self-critical, we are simply saying – ‘I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned.’ We are trying to save ourselves.

But as you can hear, this is a pretty unhealthy and uncomfortable way of dealing with internal and external criticism.

Luckily there is another, healthier option that makes way more sense – self-compassion.

What is self-compassion?

Psychologist Kristen Neff has done most of the work into self-compassion – a powerful tool for emotional resilience, helping us to cope with the good and bad around us. 

There are three main parts to self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness (instead of self-judgement)
  2. Common humanity (instead of withdrawal and isolation)
  3. Mindfulness (instead of overthinking).

It is essentially a process to help you stop judging and evaluating yourself altogether.

It’s a way to stop labeling yourself and the things you do as good or bad – and to simply accept things with an open heart. 

It means we can show ourselves the kindness that we would show a good friend, and to treat ourselves with more respect and acknowledgement.

I want to explain these concepts by exploring why self compassion is important – especially right now. 

Why is self-compassion important?

At this time more than any other, you are being constantly bombarded by conflict and catastrophizing and many other things that cause you to have an emotional response.

Back in the old days you were only exposed to the people you saw each day, and printed advertising and TV.

Now we have an added layer – the 24/7 barrage of the internet.

When we are being self-critical, we are simply saying – ‘I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned.’ We are trying to save ourselves.

We get sucked in by intriguing headlines like these few I found online today:

“Mum’s baby ‘mistake’ angers” 

“Belle Gibson’s sob story in a letter” or even

Trump Sparks Outrage by Quoting Emerson to Refer to Himself as “the King”

The intrigue ropes you in, and then you enticed into getting emotional – into having an opinion at the least, or making a judgement and taking sides at the most – even better – to comment at the bottom of the story and add your 2c worth.

After all, Google ranking, right? That’s the online newspaper’s agenda – readership and reaction.

But how does that leave you feeling? Happy? Light? Resilient?


The fact is, more than ever before there is a buffet of triggers for negative thoughts and feelings, comparison and self judgement on the internet.

But you don’t have to get sucked into ANY this stuff.

Managing your exposure is obviously important. You can choose which media you follow and how often, and that’s a discipline worth having.

In addition, you can learn the skills of self-compassion for those times that you get drawn into emotionally challenging situations.

You can learn to be more gentle with yourself, more accepting of others, and understanding that the only person you can control is yourself (what a relief!).

You can notice that others feel like you do, too. You are not alone. There is that common experience that somehow eases the suffering.

And you can dial down catastrophizing and overthinking so you can be present, mindful and more at peace, calmer and more resilient.

To be self-compassionate, we must first realise that negative emotions are part of the human experience and to know that we can have authority over them.

When you can notice and accept negative emotions with kindness and be open to feeling them and letting go, you will experience many benefits.

More emotional stability.

More rational thinking. 

More love. 

Better relationships. 

Better decision making. 

Better coping skills. 

Less stress and anxiety. 

More resilience.

Imagine how your life would be different if you were more self-compassionate.

Imagine how much less drama there would be, less second-guessing and insecurity.

Imagine how much more self-confident you’d feel.

How other people’s stuff would roll off you like water off a duck’s back.

How you would have more empathy for others, more energy for your loved ones, more joy, and a greater sense of satisfaction, meaningful connection and self-love.

That’s what self-compassion can create.

How self-compassionate are you?

Kristen Neff has a free self-compassion test on her website.

You can take that test, but for now I will ask you six of the questions from this test.

  1. How often are you disapproving and judgemental about your flaws and inadequacies?
  2. When you’re feeling down, how often do you approach your feelings with curiosity and openness?
  3. How often are you intolerant toward your own personality traits that you think are negative?
  4. When you fail at something important to you, how often do you try to keep things in perspective?
  5. When something painful happens, how often do you blow the incident out of proportion?
  6. When you’re suffering, how often are you kind to yourself?

How did you go?

In an ideal situation, your scores for the positively worded questions were higher, and your scores for the negatively worded questions were lower.

The online test goes into more detail and gives you ratings in specific areas of self-kindness, self-judgement, common humanity, isolation, mindfulness, over-identification and an overall score. 

Whether you take the test or not, maybe you want to build more self compassion!

Here are three easy ways.

Three easy ways to build


1. Loving kindness meditation is a way of connecting to yourself in a loving and kind way.

Taking just 10 minutes once or twice per week for guided loving kindness meditation can help you build a resilience bank that you can draw on when you are feeling low.

Being proactive about this exercise can help to train your brain with more positive messaging as a default position.

2. Journalling or self coaching is an easy way to get your thoughts and feelings out on paper.

When we see what we are thinking and feeling, it’s easier to stand back from that and be empathetic. 

It’s easy to note the exaggeration and to pull back from that, to notice and re-frame faulty or unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs.

3. Ask yourself some powerful questions.

I am a firm believer that the way to solve any problem is by asking a question.

When the chips are down, you can ask yourself – How could I shift into compassion? 

What might I say to a friend who feels like this? 

What would that feel like? 

How would that change things?

Questions trigger the logical, factual parts of your brain, so they are a useful way to pull back from the emotional heat of the moment and to start thinking more rationally and objectively.

Questions are a powerful way to solve the inner critic. It can be useful to have some questions written down in advance, so that you can refer to it in such a moment.


Our modern lives are busy and we are surrounded by catastrophe, judgement and bullying, which can affect even the most resilient people.

Those unfortunate situations can bring out the worst in us, in both feelings and behaviours.

But we can rather create better relationships, connections, emotional balance, resilience, peace and joy in our lives through the use of self-compassion.

The three elements are:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. Common humanity, and
  3. Mindfulness

You can take Dr Neff’s online test to measure your own levels of self-compassion.

We can show ourselves the kindness that we would show a good friend, and to treat ourselves with more respect and acknowledgement.

Three practices to increase self-compassion include:

  1. Loving kindness meditation
  2. Journalling, and
  3. Powerful questioning.

If you would like to study self-compassion with me in March 2020, please visit to sign up for the Habitology Membership.

Ready to be more self compassionate?

You’ll love the benefits it will bring into your life! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 70: Self-Discipline Without Guilt

If you want to be more self-disciplined and feel less guilty, you need to learn to manage your thinking patterns and emotions. Here are 6 guilt-reducing skills and 5 self-discipline building strategies to help you do that.

My Habitology members and I are studying self discipline this month and I figured that it would be useful to talk about guilt as part of that.

That was Podcast #68 – Cultivating Self Discipline and Self Regulation. You may want to go back and listen to that first.

Here’s a quick recap – self-discipline is defined as resisting an urge in the moment.

It’s resisting the urge to eat the doughnut you just got a whiff of. It’s resisting the urge to skip your exercise session.

Thinking of these examples, it’s easy to see how someone might make themselves feel guilty at giving in to an urge.

I see this a lot in my coaching clients.

And I think there could be two main reasons people beat themselves up and feel guilty about such lapses.

Firstly, we have trained ourselves to punish failure rather than learn from it.

Secondly, many of us have high expectations for ourselves, and subsequently a sense of guilt if we are not able to live up to those expectations. In other words, our rational minds tell us that we ‘should’ be able to do something, and therefore, we are somehow not good enough or a failure if we don’t do it.

So let’s have this important conversation about understanding guilt, so that we can create self-discipline without guilt.

What is Guilt?

Guilt is a feeling you create in your own mind, with your own thought patterns, when you do something that is not aligned with your values. 

It’s really important to recognise that you create guilt with your own thoughts and therefore, you can also get rid of guilt with your own thoughts too.

Guilt is the sense that you have done something bad, or wrong, against someone else or against your own moral code.

And while guilt is designed to help us act with integrity, in line with our moral compass. But many of us take it too far, to our own detriment.

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say that you planned to go to the gym three times this week and you wanted to be really self disciplined about that. But something got in the way and you are only able to do one of those three exercise sessions. 

Would you admonish yourself and make yourself feel guilty?

Would you become self-critical?

Would you challenge your own capacity to take action, or your worthiness?

If you answer yes to these types of questions, you may be an overly guilty person. Notice that it is your own thought patterns that create that unnecessary guilt.

There are two things I want to say about guilt.

Firstly, guilt cannot change the past. Once you have said or done something – or not said or done them – you can’t take it back. It’s over. It’s gone.

Secondly, guilt doesn’t make you feel good. Guilt is not an enjoyable motivator, and it may decrease your self-discipline in the long term. That’s because negative self talk weakens your resolve, self-confidence, motivation and self-belief over time, so it ends up being counter-productive.

What I want to offer is that guilt is unhelpful most of the time, and it can sabotage your attempts to build self discipline.

How to Be Guilt-Free and Self-Disciplined 

If you agree that guilt can be detrimental to your self esteem and goals, then let’s talk about how to be guilt-free AND self-disciplined at the same time.

Both of these things require you to manage your thoughts and feelings, so the primary skills you need to learn to be guilt-free and self-disciplined are managing your thinking patterns, feelings and actions.

You could think of learning to be guilt-free and learning to be self-disciplined as much like driving a car, or playing the piano, or any other skill you could be learning.

They take time, patience and practice.

Let’s start with the skills of being guilt-free.

The Skills of Being Guilt-Free

We must first recognise that guilt is an emotion that keeps you in check with your values, morals and ethics.

When I am talking about being guilt-free, I am specifically talking about excessive, unhelpful guilt that sabotages your ability to change.

There are some character skills you can learn to become guilt-free, which I will touch on briefly now.

Guilt cannot change the past. Once you have said or done something – or not said or done them – you can’t take it back. It’s over. It’s gone.

When I am talking about being guilt-free, I am specifically talking about excessive, unhelpful guilt that sabotages your ability to change.

There are some character skills you can learn to become guilt-free, which I will touch on briefly now.

The way to develop these skills is to pick one to start with and practice it as often as possible. 

That means making time in your week to do some thinking about the skill, or writing about it, or speaking to a coach about it.

Here are six skills that I think will help you to stop feeling so guilty all the time.

  1. Empathy – for yourself as someone learning how to do something differently.
  2. Self-awareness – of what you did, or your behaviour patterns.
  3. Mindfulness – of how you felt in that moment, in your body and mind.
  4. Reflection – on how you interpreted and responded to those mind and body sensations.
  5. Self-compassion – to accept without judgement and move on from any slip ups. 
  6. Decision making – for getting clear on what to do next.

Now, here are the steps you can take to help you be self-disciplined.

The Steps (and Skills) to Developing Self-Discipline

Here are the key things you need to do so that you can develop self-discipline.

1. Define realistic standards

Firstly you need to decide on some realistic standards for the area you’re trying to change. 

For example, it’s no use committing a standard of five x 1 hour sessions of exercise each week if you can only realistically fit in three.

Having unrealistic standards or expectations is a recipe for failure, and subsequently, guilt.

So you’ll have to do some learning about what can fit into your life style realistically.

As a coach, I often notice this is hard for a lot of people to do. It feels more logical or perhaps easier to set a goal around taking action, but looking at the big picture of what’s actually possible is the most important thing that will increase your chance of successfully achieving what you set out to achieve.

You might look at setting standards for yourself at the start of every year, or perhaps every six months. 

It may help you to think of these standards as behavioural goals – that is – to define the thinking or doing habits you would like to be doing regularly.

2. Discover what motivates you

When you know what motivates you, you will more likely succeed at taking action. 

For example, even if you have the time, you may not feel motivated to go to the gym in the moment. 

But if you are really clear on how good you will feel when you are 20% stronger, or 5kg lighter, those images will help you to get there and do a workout regardless of how you feel.

3. Use your strengths

All of us have character strengths – that is, things we are good at and enjoy doing or being.

When you know what your strengths are, you can use them to help you to maintain self-discipline. 

For example, if you’re a great planner, then you’ll probably find it easy to choose exercise timeslots where you are most likely to be energised for going to the gym.

Or, if honesty is one of your strengths, then being very honest with yourself about the doughnut, the gym or working too late will probably help you to make a healthier choice that you feel good about.

4. Learning to say no (or yes)

There’s another skill that most people need to learn when it comes to self discipline. And that is the skill of saying no. 

We all have responsibilities in our lives – to ourselves and to other people. And the skill of saying no as an important part of that.

Consider this. Let’s say it’s a Tuesday afternoon and as you’re finishing work, your mum phones and asks you over for a cup of tea because she hasn’t seen you in a while – in the exact time slot that you are planning to go to the gym. 

What do you do? 

Who do you say no to? 

Yourself or your mum?

A lot of people feel guilty about letting other people down and that is greater guilt than what they may feel around not doing their own personal habit.

Having your standards in place (point 1) will help you to make decisions at times like these.

So will planning.

If you have a clear plan in place and Plan B, C and even a Plan D to do your exercise, it may be easier to make allowances around other people.

Alternatively, you can stick with your original plan and let your mum know you will show up at another time – and book that in with her so she knows it’s important to you.

5. Learning, not failing

Finally, it’s important to get rid of the idea of failing – or at least, that it is a bad thing. Every time something doesn‘t go to plan, there is a lesson to be learned.

When you have the emotional skills you need to get rid of unnecessary guilt, it will be easier to step back and see the facts, problem solve and discover the valuable lessons that failure has given you, so you can do things differently next time.


Self-discipline is the act of being able to resist urges, but for a lot of people there is often guilt attached.

If you want to be more self-disciplined and feel less guilty, you need to learn to manage your thinking patterns and emotions.

There are six skills you can learn to reduce guilt and start being kinder to yourself.

Every time something doesn‘t go to plan, there is a lesson to be learned.

And, there are five steps and skills you can learn to develop more self-discipline.

As you can tell, it’s helpful to work with a coach on these things in tandem, so you can get the empathy and professional support and accountability you need to develop your own self-accountability, confidence and success.

If you would like to find out about working with a coach, visit and visit my contact page. Shoot me an email to enquire about coaching.

Ready to take control of your thinking patterns?

I can help you to develop your own self-accountability, confidence and success! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here: