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How to Develop Self-Compassion Using Creative Expression

Updated: May 13

A woman is putting a paintbrush into green paint. A blank paper is in front of her as she uses creative expression to develop self-compassion.

When we end one year and start another, there’s a felt sense that can be uncomfortable to talk about for many people since these topics can oftentimes activate feelings of anxiety, stress, guilt, or shame. Around this time of year, we could also be experiencing internal or external pressures to change, infringing on our self-perceptions of worthiness, which can even stir up feelings of uncertainty about the future or what we see for ourselves this year.

Let’s take a breath because that feels like a lot of weight to carry. Maybe, all we need right now is a little more self-compassion, and here’s how creative expression might be able to help. 

“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” — Bil Keane

It’s About Time

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 lockdown, many people have spoken of feeling almost frozen in time and still in shock to the reality that it has been around 4 years since our global community was impacted by this monumental event. Research from the National Institute of Health (NIH) has found that as a result of the pandemic, many people are struggling with the changes in their routines and increased feelings of uncertainty about the future. 

These significant changes in our work, community policies, and everyday life can sometimes make us feel helpless, emotionally numb, or like we’ve lost our spark. It is in these moments that it can be most helpful to develop a greater understanding and practice of self-compassion as we carry forward into the future in a way that feels right for you.

Meeting Ourselves with Self-Compassion

A woman holds up a piece of glass that enlarges her eye as she looks through it to show how we can meet ourselves when we develop self-compassion.

Self-compassion is the practice of loving yourself and celebrating yourself just the way you are. Whether you are having a good day or a bad day, self-compassion is the practice of offering understanding and care towards yourself in each of the unique experiences you face. Self-compassion can be achieved by exploring life experiences through a non-judgemental practice of self-discovery, along with the belief that your worthiness is not determined by your successes or failings. It is through self-compassion that we can notice patterns of dysregulation and develop a comfortable but intentional curiosity that cultivates space to reflect on thoughts or feelings safely and positively. 

Developing Self-Compassion Through Creative Expression

Try out this practice below to see how creative expression might help you explore and embrace more self-compassion this year.

Let’s start by trying something a little different: wherever you are right now reading this, take a moment to pause and look around your space. See if there is one thing that catches your eye or something you feel drawn towards. It could be an object nearby, a colour, or maybe an interesting shadow cast that intrigues you. 

What is it? Why did it stand out to you at this moment? 

A woman in a mustard yellow sweater is sitting outside with a notebook in her lap. She is doodling in the notebook as she uses creative expression to develop self-compassion.

Now let’s see if you can get a little more curious about your relationship to this object in a non-judgemental way. In this practice, we are beginning to notice where judgment comes up and shifting our attention to objectively observing our relationship to this one thing while also recognizing any thoughts or feelings that arise with more openness and curiosity.

As you continue this practice, you might even notice some restlessness or discomfort showing up in your body. We can take this as an opportunity to bring your full attention to what is happening in your body right now; first by connecting with your breath and then by listening to the signals from your body. Maybe you need to readjust your posture or stretch your arms, for some people, it might feel nice to ‘shake off’ any extra energy their bodies are holding, or sometimes we just need to embrace the stillness. What is your body telling you it needs right now?

Lastly, I’d like to invite you to put together these different parts of the practice in the act of an expression. Maybe there’s a feeling you would want to explore as a gesture or a thought you could observe as an artwork. Expressing our thoughts or feelings can be accessed through so many different creative outlets that can all play a vital role in healing and growth.

Self-compassion is about valuing yourself as a human being who is not only worthy of love and respect, but also someone with gifts, wisdom, and innate healing capacities.

Finding a music or art psychotherapist can help you achieve your goals in a fun, effective way.

If you enjoyed this practice and would like to learn more about how creative expression can help you develop self-compassion, book your free 15-minute consultation with any of the creative psychotherapists on the CreativePsych team!

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