Let students know that understanding self-compassion and practicing self-compassion when they’re in a positive mindset, is much different from practicing self-compassion during a challenge or when they’re in a negative mindset. Let students know that, when it comes to self-compassion, it’s not enough to talk the talk. Students also need to walk the talk by actively applying their knowledge.
Explain that, when students are feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, angry, isolated, or stressed, they’ll likely find it hard to muster up the additional energy needed to change habits of negative thought or uncompassionate behaviour. Before explaining the activity, ask students if they can relate to this statement. Then, tell students that they will be writing letters to their future selves, which they can read during challenging moments or when they’re in a negative mindset, to spark self-compassion.
Give students the next 45 minutes to write a letter to their future selves identifying:
- The three components of self-compassion and each component’s function
- Why they need to practice self-compassion in a challenging moment
- Specific phrases that they can tell themselves or behaviours that they can engage in to practice self-compassion.
In the future, this letter can be used as a tool to motivate and guide students’ self-compassion practice. Tell students that, in the midst of a challenging situation when they feel themselves slipping into self-criticism, they can read this letter to break the narrative negativity and become more compassionate.
Each student should get a copy of the “Dear Future Me, This is Self-Compassion” letter template, which includes a brief description of self-compassion, as well as the instructions for this activity. This worksheet has space for students to brainstorm ideas, but they will need to use lined paper to actually write the letter.
Dear Future Me this is self-compassion worksheet is available in this page's download section.
When you return the letters to students after marking them, ask students to keep the letters in a safe space where they will be able to reread them during challenging times. Students may even choose to seal their letters in an envelope that can be opened at a later time.
Isn’t it selfish to think positively about myself?
Not at all. In fact, the way you treat yourself heavily influences how you treat others. Studies have shown that the more positive we are with ourselves, the more positive we are about with others. We also know that people who have more self-compassion are known to provide more social support to their friends and have stronger, trusting relationships.
Won’t I become unmotivated if I’m always being easy on myself?
Studies have actually found the opposite! Right now, your motivation likely stems from self-criticism. When you use self-criticism to motivate yourself, you are driven to succeed to avoid the judgment and shame that accompanies failure. Unfortunately, this ends up taking a toll in the long run because it’s impossible to avoid failure unless you aren’t challenging yourself, in which case you are not growing, learning or succeeding in the first place. Self-compassion is a gentler form of motivation that results in approach-oriented behaviours. Self-compassionate people strive to succeed because they want to be their best selves, not because they fear failure. What this means is that, when you practice self-compassion, you’re less likely to avoid challenges because you’re not scared of your own wrath when you don’t succeed.