Self-acceptance and self-compassion exercises and strategies

In the moment

Hand-on-heart exercise (compassion to self)

Close your eyes (if you can) as you reflect on your moral injury. Give yourself a few beats to gently observe the pain of this experience and the effect it’s had on your life.

Take a deep breath in. On the exhale, place your right hand over your heart and your left hand on top. 

Next, breathing normally, notice:

  1. The sensation of your hands on your heart.
  2. The warmth flowing from your hands on your chest.
  3. The gentle pressure.
  4. The soothing sensation, peacefulness, or a sense of warmth and loving-kindness.

Keeping your hands in place, send warmth, caring, and compassion into your chest. As if reaching out to a loved one in pain, reach into yourself with the desire to relieve suffering.

Spend a few more minutes here. There is no hurry and no limit to the amount of compassion you can send and receive.

Remember, you can practice compassion through this exercise whenever or wherever you are, including at work. Simply placing your hand over your heart for a few seconds can help soothe your moral pain in the moment.

Reflection and growth


  1. Think of a potentially morally injurious event (PMIE) that really bothered you. Now imagine it in the form of a monster. Describe its physical shape.
  2. Imagine yourself guarding everything that is important to you from this monster. Describe some of the emotions this brings up.
  3. Imagine yourself connected to the monster by a rope.
  4. Now imagine letting go of that rope, and the monster falling away. Describe and embrace what that feels like to you.
  5. Give yourself a moment to acknowledge and write down how difficult this PMIE has been for you.
  6. Offer yourself self-compassion by placing your hands on your heart and comforting yourself.

The Matrix


As we describe in this program’s appendix, it’s possible to get stuck in a loop on the Away side of the Matrix. This can happen when your moral pain leads you to behaviours that soothe you in the short term, but don’t move you to the Toward side in the long term.

Even if you somehow free yourself of all the difficult thoughts, feelings, and memories on the Away side of the Matrix, that doesn’t guarantee you will find yourself on the Toward side. And you should know that you can make Toward moves even in the presence of yucky internal experiences on the Away side. On the Matrix, you’re just trying to help yourself spend more time on the Toward side than you did before. We all make Away moves! 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Rather than focusing on what not to do (“Do not make Away moves”), focus on what you can do (“Do make Toward moves”) to move yourself closer to what matters to you.

Fill out the chart using the following prompts. Start in the lower-right quadrant and go clockwise.

Remember you don’t have to decide if the thoughts and feelings on the Away side are true or false. Once you have finished the four quadrants, look to the centre of the Matrix and notice (with kindness and curiosity) how your responses show whether you are moving toward or away from what matters to you.