When people evaluate their lives in terms of satisfaction or happiness, they oft


When people evaluate their lives in terms of satisfaction or happiness, they often compare themselves with other people. Many people have the mistaken impression that other people don’t have problems, they are always happy, or their lives are totally fulfilling at all times. A common consequence of making these unrealistic comparisons with others is that people blame themselves for not living the ceaselessly wonderful life they imagine others live. Trust us when we say that everyone has problems, everyone has bad days, and everyone has difficulties in life that are challenging. On the other hand, self-acceptance is simply recognizing who you are with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies and then stopping being so hard on yourself.
You may wonder what this has to do with happiness. Actually, the path to self-acceptance is very important to happiness because we can’t be authentically happy unless we allow ourselves to accept ourselves. Otherwise, we put on a “happy face” partially so we can hide our unacceptable parts from ourselves and from others. The path toward self-acceptance may actually lead through self-compassion. The activity presented here come from the website of Dr. Kristin Neff who has focused her research on self-compassion (http://self-compassion.org (Links to an external site.)). If you wish to explore this area further, please take a look at her work. This particular activity is called the “Letter to an Imaginary Friend.” It works like this:
Think about an imaginary friend who unconditionally loves you and who is accepting, kind, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and all your weaknesses. Reflect on what this friend feels toward you and how you are loved and accepted exactly as you are, with all your very human imperfections. This friend recognizes the limits of human nature and is kind and forgiving toward you. In his or her great wisdom this friend understands your life history and the millions of things that have happened in your life to create you as you are in this moment.
Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend. What would this friend say to you about your flaws from the perspective of unlimited compassion? How would this friend convey the deep compassion he or she feels for you, especially for the pain you feel when you judge yourself harshly? What would this friend write in order to remind you that you are only human, that all people have both strengths and weaknesses? And if you think this friend would suggest possible changes you should make, how would these suggestions embody feelings of unconditional understanding and compassion? As you write to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend, try to infuse your letter with a strong sense of his or her acceptance, kindness, caring, and desire for your health and happiness.


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