Whenever I’m feeling bad about myself and that inner critical voice is tearing me down I turn to this exercise to try and develop greater self-compassion.
Imagine someone you love. It could be your significant other, someone in your family, or a friend. It could be someone you have a crush on or even be a fictional character. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how they make you feel. Thinking about them should fill you with an all-consuming empathy and compassion for them. It should be someone whom you would do anything for, anything to help and protect them, anything to comfort and console them when they need it. Imagine that person now. Imagine them being in trouble and needing your help. What would you do for them? Imagine them being afraid and alone. How would you protect them? Imagine them heartbroken. What would you say to them? Imagine that they have just failed at something important, or they’ve made a devastating mistake, or they have been greatly humiliated. Imagine how much you would still love them without judgment and how intensely you would want to comfort them, to stand by them and be there for them. Imagine what you would say to them.
Spend some time with this. Don’t just think about it briefly. This isn’t about thinking. It’s about feeling. Spend some time visualizing this person until your feelings grow in intensity. Close your eyes and do this now.
Imagine this person is going through whatever you might be going through at the moment. If something has just happened to you, then imagine it has happened to them. If it has hurt you, imagine it has hurt them. If it frightens you, imagine it frightens them. If you feel alone in it, imagine they feel alone in it. Imagine what it would be like for this person you love to be going through that. How does that make you feel? What does it make you want to do for them? Again spend some time with this until you feel an intense desire to help them. Now think about the love you have for them and what you would say to comfort them. Imagine yourself saying those words to them. Spend some time doing this right now.
Realize that your ability to love someone else so completely is a fundamental aspect of who you are and it is the one aspect of your humanity that above all others is worthy of love and admiration. This is your greatest virtue. Now put yourself in the place of that person. Imagine you are that person. All the things that you felt for them, all of the things that you would say to them, feel those things for yourself, say those things to yourself with the same depth of non-judgmental compassion, empathy and love you feel for them. Feel that same love for yourself. Let that comforting and reassuring voice of understanding, acceptance, empathy and compassion be the voice that speaks to you from the center of your own being. Do this regularly, and in time this voice will grow stronger in its acceptance and in its love for you. When the world fills you with fear, when it hurts you, when it betrays and abandons you, let this voice be the stronger voice that prevails. It is your voice. It is your power to prevail. And prevail you must because it is your power to heal and the world desperately needs that from you.
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