What is Self-Empathy?
Self-empathy is a process of self-reflection, where we tune into our current experience, listening to our minds and hearts; we strive to identify and describe our thoughts, feelings and needs alive in the moment (this can also be seen as a “personal inventory”). Self-empathy is usually an individual process, but it can also be assisted by a trained facilitator. I find it helpful to write down what comes out of the process, so that I can review it and learn from it.
“What is happening or what am I telling myself about what’s happening?” is a helpful start to listing any thoughts/beliefs/judgments which are symptomatic of a deeper experience—sometimes these thoughts are part of the cause of our emotional experience. Either way, it is helpful to identify the feelings and needs associated with the thoughts. Oftentimes, we have many thoughts stimulated in the moment—it is helpful to acknowledge each and find the feelings and needs for each.
There are many processes for self-empathy, which are best learned through workshops, or from an NVC facilitator. (Here is a worksheet which I have found to be helpful — you may want to download and print it).
- At the top left is a list of feelings for needs met, and at the top right is a list of feelings when needs are not met.
- Find the feelings that best describe your experience, and circle them.
- For each feeling circled, identify the need that is associated with the feeling. Circle the need, and draw a line between the feelings and needs pairs.
- After done identifying feelings and needs, hold space for the needs identified. Savor the beauty of each need, listening for what they may be telling you about your current life experience.
- Listen for any strategies and solutions that may present themselves; write down whatever shows up for you without editing them.
After we have given ourselves enough empathy, we begin to feel lighter, more relaxed, compassionate and curious about life — we are in a state of self-connection, self-awareness and wholeness. At this point, we are present to our life experience, and could be present for others – we could offer empathy to others, especially because we have something to give as a result of our self-empathy process.