12 Journaling prompts for developing self-compassion


September 19, 2017

By Jordan Pickell

Journaling is a practice of self-compassion. It requires showing up, taking space, and having a certain level of vulnerability. In order to let the words flow freely, you must embrace imperfection.

As you prepare to write, your inner critic may start going: You don’t have anything to say. You are a terrible writer. You’re going to do it wrong. You don’t have enough time/energy/focus/creativity to do that. Use the inner critic’s words to your advantage in your writing. You’re already developing awareness about what might be one of your blocks to self-compassion.

Guidelines for exploration

Here are a few suggestions for working with these prompts:

1. Pick 1 prompt and set aside a small amount of time between 3 and 8 minutes to write. This is doable, and contained. You don’t want to dive so deep that you are then overwhelmed and discouraged from free-writing in the future.

2. Keep writing for the entire time. If you run out of things to say in response to the prompt, write about what is coming up in your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.

3. Do not edit or worry about spelling and grammar. If you are focused on things like sentence structure, you aren’t focused on what is coming up for you in that moment. Embrace vague and fragmented writing. You can write single words or bullet points. It can read more like poetry. It doesn’t matter. This is about the process.

4. Be honest. No one else will read what you write. Free writing is most useful when you aren’t censoring yourself. Include things you could never say out loud. Use all the f-bombs you want.

That being said…

5. Don’t write out details of overwhelming experiences. We want to gain clarity and understanding. We don’t want to re-live traumatic events.

If you find the exercise does bring up difficult feelings for you…

6. Talk about what comes up with a supportive person like a counsellor. Of course, journaling is something you can do completely on your own, but you can deepen your learning when you talk about it with someone.

So, grab something to write with and something to write on and let’s get to it.

Journaling prompts for self-compassion

  • Write out a “conversation” between you and your inner critic.
  • In what ways are you too hard on yourself?
  • When you were a kid, what were you like? What were you really good at? What did you think about?
  • Think about the time in your life when you were starting to be aware of fitting in, of social and societal pressures. Maybe you were 12 or 13. What kind of advice and encouragement would you offer them?
  • Think about a regret you have where you compromised your values. What made you did that?
  • Imagine caring for yourself as a little child. What would you like to say to this child? What would you have wanted to hear as a kid?
  • Imagine you are much, much older towards the end of your life. What would you say to the self in the year 2017? What insights and encouragement would you offer?
  • What is something you said that you wish you could take back? What made you say that in that moment?
  • What is the kindest thing someone ever said to you? What made it so meaningful?
  • Think about a decision point in your life. What would your life be like if you made a different decision? What would you be like?
  • I’m afraid if I make a mistake…

There you have it. If this brought up stuff for you, reach out to someone like a counsellor for support and further exploration. I hope this inspires you to continue putting yourself out there, even when it’s scary. I wish you to hold yourself with kindness and patience. Create space for forgiveness when you make a mistake. You are imperfect. You are doing the best that you can. You are human.


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