Students are introduced to the concept of self-compassion.


Students will be able to:

  1. Define self-compassion, including what self-compassion is not
  2. Identify an experience when they have not demonstrated self-compassion and reframe
  3. Demonstrate their understanding of and ability to apply self-compassion through a role play


Computer and projector, TED Talk: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion; Optional: printouts of reflection questions, “If” statements, role play scenarios


Time Activity Notes
5 mins

Depending on the needs of the class, you can open with a journal prompt, short reading, guided meditation, or icebreaker.

Refer to Dr. Kristin Neff’s web site for definitions and more information on self-compassion
20 mins
Framing Video + TED Talk

Introduce Dr. Kristin Neff’s video on self-compassion.

  • Frame that students should be watching for definition of self-compassion as well as what self-compassion is not.

Video total runtime is 19 minutes.

Consider cutting video to show core ideas if short of time. Additionally, you can cut some of the video and use more time for role plays at the end of the lesson.
5 mins
Video Debrief

Guide students in a quick debrief of the big ideas of the video. Suggested discussion questions:

  • What does self-compassion mean to you?
  • What does Dr. Neff say self-compassion is not?
  • Why do we treat our friends better than we treat ourselves sometimes?
  • What are some benefits of having self-compassion?
See Neff’s web site for more exercises
3 mins
Identifying the Unkind/Self-Critical Moment

Ask students to spend 3 silent minutes identifying a time that they have been self-critical or unkind to themselves.

Be sure to narrate that students can identify a period of time or a way in which they are commonly self-critical, if they do not have a single time.

Additionally, create a safe space for students by assuring them that they will not be required to share these ideas, as they are personal.

5 mins
Practice Applying Self-Compassion

After students have identified a time or times in which they have been self-critical, have them choose one (or more) of the following questions and [or have them follow Dr. Neff’s steps] apply self-compassion to that moment:

  • How can I reinterpret this moment to be more supportive to myself?
  • How can I reframe a persistent problem in my life, instead of believing I’m the problem?
  • What would I say to someone I deeply care about who was struggling with the same issue I am?
  • What would my parent/guardian/role model/mentor say to me in this moment?
  • What is stopping me from being kind to myself?
  • What is one tiny step I can take to chip away at this obstacle?

After students think through one or more of the questions above, have them complete this prompt:

If I were practicing self-compassion, I would…

Questions selected from this site

You can choose to have students complete these anonymously and hang them in the room, or collect them for credit.

2 mins
Pair Share

Have students share their “If” statements in pairs. (Optional: Invite students to share their “If” statement with the whole class, if they feel comfortable doing so.”)

10 mins
Role Play

In closing, give students a scenario in which a person is not practicing self-compassion. Have students brainstorm a way in which this person can practice self-compassion and create a more positive outcome. Role plays can be acted out in groups of 2 or more.

Suggested Scenarios:

  • You fail a test and begin to beat yourself up about it, saying that you are not smart and will never pass this class.
  • You forget to call your friend back after he or she left you an urgent message. Instead of calling, you avoid the situation and tell yourself you are a bad friend.
  • You are unhappy about some part of the way you look. You think to yourself, “I hate [insert part of your appearance].”
Note: It may be common for students to create this scenario with a peer encouraging the person to be self-compassionate. This suggests that we need someone else to be present to remind us to practice self-compassion. Encourage student role plays to “think aloud” in such a way as to show how the person who was being unkind to themselves now is showing self-compassion.

Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment

In the role plays, students will:

  • Demonstrate a correct interpretation of self-compassion (i.e., not making excuses or blaming others, but rather practicing self-forgiveness, understanding, and empathy)
  • Express 1 or more statements that demonstrate self-compassion
  • Participate actively, thoughtfully, and respectfully in the role play exercise