How To Make Changes With Self-Compassion

By Jourdan Bartels, LPC Associate

Supervised by: Jennifer Buffalo, LPC-S, LMFT

Often, when we begin to identify that we’d like to change one or more aspects of our life, whether that’s our habits, our coping mechanisms, or external circumstances, we tend to do so through a critical lens. We think of our current state as “bad” or “unhealthy,” and therefore needing to change or be removed completely. This can leave us with a subtle or explicit view of our current or past selves as “bad,” “unhealthy,” or unworthy of compassion and care. 

I’d like to suggest an alternative approach to creating change: doing so with compassion for where you’re at now, and at all the steps along the way. You’re worthy of compassion and care no matter what your habits are, how you cope, or what your current circumstances are in your life. 

Let’s break down how you can make changes with gentleness, intention, and compassion:

  1. Get curious about where you’re at now    

Before you make changes, reflect on how this has been working for you. What have you gained from doing things the way you’re doing them currently? How can you appreciate the ways this has kept you safe, brought you joy, helped you cope, etc. 

For example: Sarah notices that she watches hours of Netflix at night to relax, but ends up staying up later than she’d like to in order to have energy the next day. Rather than labeling this routine as “lazy,” Sarah might be able to recognize that she is able to escape from her stresses as she engages in the world of her favorite TV shows. While escapism isn’t a sustainable coping tool, it brings her a certain amount of relief and enjoyment in the evenings. 

           2.Identify the goal

You need clarity on what you’re working on and why before anything else. If you could wave a magic wand and this issue was resolved, what would be different? What would be the same? Why is this important to you? 

For example: Sarah identifies that she wants to change this behavior in order to have more energy in the mornings, and feel more present in the evenings. She enjoys and values her job and personal life, and feels as if having a different routine in the evenings would add value to both of these aspects of her life.

           3.Break it down

What are the smaller stepping stones between where you’re at, and where you want to be? Focus on going from A to B, then B to C, rather than from A to Z. 

For example: Let’s say Sarah’s long-term goal is to only watch Netflix on weekend nights. At first, she might identify other activities that can provide the relief and relaxation that watching TV brings her (i.e. reading a book, knitting, listening to music, taking a walk). After identifying these alternatives, she can integrate them into her evenings. Maybe she starts with watching one episode, and then engaging in an alternative activity for an hour. Maybe she sets a goal to watch Netlflix on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and chooses another winding-down activity for Mondays and Wednesdays. (Pssst: there are no rules here, and there are many ways to work up to your goals).

               4.Be gentle with yourself 

Throughout the process of making small changes, it’s not unlikely that you’ll encounter some struggles or inconsistency. Don’t panic! You’re doing this for you – there’s no need to add an additional layer of difficulty by beating yourself up along the way. You’re taking the initiative to make changes in your life. What a beautiful act of self-care, and something to be proud of. Implement gentleness and self-compassion as you move forward. See our blog on Self-Compassion here for more guidance. 

Did something you read resonate with you? Reach out to us at to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a licensed therapist.

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