Have a little compassion, starting with you

By Vicki L. Flaherty & Katiuscia Berretta

Image: Kruja, Albania (Photo by Vicki Flaherty)

The mind has a tendency to set very high standards, holding ourselves and others to perfectionistic expectations. The voice of the mind judges and evaluates our every thought and action. Activated by fear, this voice takes action when it senses danger. Our response might be to fight – criticize or belittle ourselves; to take flight – distract ourselves; to freeze – stay stuck and ruminate; or to submit – resign ourselves and end up feeling unworthy or ashamed.

Practicing self-compassion breaks the patterns of the harsh critic of our mind. By understanding what we want, recognizing our feelings, and letting go of self-judgment, we begin to move away from fear. Exercising such loving-kindness for ourselves, we are better able to offer it to others.

Consistently try one or all of these 3 mindful practices and note any shifts in your attention, awareness, and judgment.

Exploring What You Want

“We betray our true selves when we do not follow the heart’s desire, For what the heart is attracted to, is your destiny.” ~Leon Brown

 At least once a day, pause and explore one of these questions: “What do I want?” “What do I value?” “What is my heart’s desire?” You might start with the ‘stuff’ you want (a warm or cool room to sleep in, a meal of your favorite food) and then after getting used to considering what you want on this level, look underneath for insights into why these things are important to you (to treat yourself well, to celebrate an accomplishment).

Digging Underneath the Feeling

“Suffering is due to our disconnection with our inner soul.Meditation is establishing that connection. ~Amit Ray

Find a place where you can reflect for a few minutes. Remember a time when you felt very angry. Go back to that experience. Recall how you felt the anger in your body, and in your mind.

  1. What physical sensations did you experience? What thoughts were you having?
  2. What tender feeling might the anger might be hiding? What is not being seen, listened to, recognized, or loved?
  3. What would you tell a dear friend if they were feeling this? What words and tone would you share? What gestures would you display?

Letting Go of Self Judgment

“Our self judgement is the biggest barrier to our friendship…with ourselves.” ~Tsunyota Kohe’t

Next time you notice your inner critic at work, invite it to take a little break with you.

  1. Acknowledge the critic (e.g., “I notice that I am feeling inadequate.”).
  2. Accept the feeling (e.g., “Feeling insecure is a natural human response.”)
  3. Just sit with the feeling for 90 seconds, focusing on your breathing.
  4. Check in and see if see if there is some space for more choices about how you respond to the critic.

You might combine these practices with focused breathing, gratitude practice, and mini-habits to understand better why mindfulness matters.


Content authored by Vicki Flaherty and Katiuscia Berretta

Vicki Flahert


Vicki Flaherty is responsible for executive leadership development and leads the Mindfulness@IBM community. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and over at her Leading with Intention blog.



KatiusciaKatiuscia  works at IBM Software Rome Lab in the development of workload automation products. She is also involved in co-creating and leading Mindfulness Interventions in the Mindfulness@IBM community. She is a long term practitioner and a mindfulness teacher trained at the Center For Mindfulness – UMASS Medical School. She leads Mindfulness-based programs, events and retreats and holds seminars in different professional contexts


We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on.

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