Compassionate Leadership Practice Series: Note to a Dear Friend, a Self-Compassion Exercise

How kind is that voice in your head, toward YOU? When you make a mistake, or are struggling in a situation, or something really tough is happening in your life, how do you speak to yourself?

Our innate tendency is to bring out the inner critic, full of negative energy. In more cases than not, the voice is not only critical of the immediate issue, but it drags us into a whole spiral of worries and woes, isolating us, and digging deep into the dark recesses of our being. What was once a survival mechanism is now an obstacle to our well-being.

Most of us don’t even realize the inner critic is running our show, dictating how we respond to ourselves and to others. Fortunately, we can use self-compassion to shift into a more positive, loving, and connected state by learning to notice and then respond in a different way.

Whether you are new to compassion practices or an experienced practitioner, this is a short, simple, effective exercise that will offer you new awareness and a path towards self-kindness.

Time Commitment: 5 minutes


Identify a difficult situation in your life – not too hard, not too light. Think of a recent situation that is challenging or disturbing. Pick something that is not a major disaster, nor a little molehill. Consider the situation and reflect on how it makes you feel. Notice if there is any response to these feelings in your body, in addition to what is going on in your mind.


Write a note as if you were comforting a loved one or a dear friend who was facing the same difficult situation you identified in Step One. Write down what is in your heart and mind that you think would bring some comfort, consolation, or insight to your dear one.


Add two words to the top of the note: “Dear [your own name].” Read the note out loud to yourself with loving kindness. Let the reading of the note soak into your inner being. See how it feels to receive the words of kindness and support.


Notice if the kinder voice in your “Note to Self” is consistent with the way you usually talk to yourself. The more you practice using this kind voice, the more you will retrain your inner voice, transforming your inner critic to becoming your inner friend


If you would like to try another practice from the Center for Compassionate Leadership practice series – the “Just Like Me” practice – will help you open up your awareness to our common humanity.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.