“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” ~Carl Rogers
When was the last time you stopped trying to improve something about yourself or your life?
Some people spend a lot of their life chasing goals.
There’s nothing wrong with setting and accomplishing goals but some people are not just goal setters. They are perpetually unsatisfied goal setters. No matter what they do, or how much they tell themselves they are engaging in “healthy striving” as Brené Brown writes, it’s never enough.
For these people, what if instead of wanting to be something more, it would be more beneficial to create more tenderness? Could you be grateful and give yourself permission to find nourishment instead of judgment?
What if you could notice self-compassion instead of self-improvement?
What if acceptance, transformation, and progress have nothing to do with self-improvement?
What if true acceptance of the present moment and long-term transformation were actually powered by the process of nurturing yourself with the nourishment of love and kindness?
“Build inner strength instead of outer dependencies.” ~Danielle LaPorte
So often we think about compassion as something we need to have for others, but what about ourselves? We can be good at taking care of everyone else, but somewhere along the way, we can forgot that your heart and soul need the same gift of understanding and compassion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We all have desires. Those are not going away (nor should they).
But desire should not be our compass for daily life. Our values and life’s purpose are vastly more powerful navigational tools.
So if not desire or self-improvement, then what?
Imagine for a moment what it would feel like to go to bed tonight believing that you’d nourished and nurtured your mind, body, and spirit with the simple acknowledgment that you are exactly where you need to be in this moment.
How would your day be different if you gave yourself permission to be as you are, replacing judgment or labels with awareness and presence?
4 Steps to Practice Nurturing and Nourishing Yourself with Self-Compassion
1. Tune into your awareness.
No, I’m not going to add to the number of articles that you’ve read that says you need to meditate. But deepening your connection to yourself means becoming aware of the physical sensations and emotions that you feel each day instead of letting the millions of thoughts that travel through your mind each day take over.
It can be as simple as pausing at the end of a task or activity. Notice how your body feels without rushing to label what you are sensing as good or bad. This might take practice, and it might be subtle at first. Invite your body to be a benevolent messenger of information even for sensations that feel less than delicious.
2. Ask yourself: What is going right in this moment?
This gratitude practice helps you move from noticing the gaps toward the celebration of wins big and small.
A client I met with recently went surfing. She said her instructor encouraged her to make a big fist pump after every wave we “caught” regardless of how long she rode the wave of energy or whether she stayed on her belly or popped up. Noticing the victories—no matter the size or magnitude—sends a message that the journey is more important than the final destination.
3. Check in with your truth: Is your day full of “have to’s” or “want to’s”?
This is a big one. Making a list of priorities and things to do can be a great tool to stay focused, except when everything on that list is out of alignment with your values.
Sure, there are some things in life that just have to get done. Maybe you can ask for help with tasks that bring up intuitive flags, or maybe you can find some aspect of the task to get excited about and change the perspective. Or maybe, you can simply let that task go.
Recently, a friend asked me if I’d be at one of our favorite exercise classes. As much as I wanted to see my friend, I noticed a gentle tug in my heart and I took a moment to get quiet and check in with my truth.
That class felt like a should, based on a belief that I needed to keep up with the practice that I’d depended on to build physical and mental strength. But what I was really craving was something quieter. So I said no and cherished a nurturing and nourishing home practice, knowing that I could make plans to see my friend another time.
4. Make a list of what feels delicious to your heart, mind, and body and then let yourself PLAY.
Do you love coffee? Find a lovely new cafe for a midday treat.
Does paddleboarding light you up? Rent one or take a class.
Play—even quiet activities like going for an evening walk, taking a bath, or spending an evening reading—nourishes the heart and mind. In fact, play helps inspire creativity and often makes us more productive, even when we’ve taken time off to engage in the activity.
Can it really be that easy? Four steps to cultivate self-compassion as the ultimate tool for living the life you really crave?
Well, no. These practices are never easy. It is a practice for a reason, mainly that it takes daily effort. But believing that you have everything you need already inside you offers a transformational opportunity to nurture, nourish, and accept the reflection that you see in the mirror as this moment’s best version of you.