What’s Your Self-Care Style?

Do you put others needs ahead of your own? Do you feel guilty if you take time out for yourself? Do you think you don’t deserve self-care?

mindful_selfcompassion_bookChristopher Germer, Ph.D., author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion and a leading researcher in the field, describes 12 personality styles that impact how we take care of ourselves. Most people will recognize themselves in more than one of these styles, and the styles themselves overlap some. Knowing more about yourself will help you become more skilled at giving yourself exactly what you truly need, at exactly the right time.

Below, answer the questions under each style. The more questions you relate to and are saying “Yes, that’s me!”, the more likely that style fits you.

Try to approach this with curiosity (not self-judgment). Germer writes:

Our personalities are built primarily around the need to survive rather than to be happy, so rest assured that some aspects of your personality will run counter to emotional well-being and the practice of self-kindness.



Do you minimize your struggles, thinking other people have it much worse than you do?

Do you worry a lot about your loved ones? (If I worry enough, he or she will be safe.)

Do you offer a lot of support to others, but perhaps get attached to a specific outcome?

Do you feel selfish for taking care of your own needs?

Self-Care Tips for the Caregiver: 

  • Remember, you have to put your oxygen mask on first, before you can help anyone else.
  • Taking care of yourself will put you in a better position to take care of others effectively.
  • Realize you may not know the best outcome; it’s tough, but letting go of control is often what’s needed. 


Do you get stuck in your head? 

Do you obsess a lot?

Do you try to solve problems using rational thought?

Self-Care Tips for the Intellectual: 

  • Realize that not everything can be solved; some things just are.
  • Emotions can be difficult and messy, but they can be great sources of information and a pathway to healing.


Do you feel like you’re never good enough?

Do you feel inadequate?

Do you tend to criticize yourself?

Self-Care Tips for the Perfectionist: 

  • To be human is to be imperfect; we are all in the same boat.
  • Forgive yourself for any mistakes you’ve made (or think you’ve made). 
  • There’s no perfect way to do self-care!


Do you have trouble sharing your feelings?

Do you value being strong and in control?

Do you pride yourself on being self-reliant?

Self-Care Tips for the Individualist:

  • Consider how good you feel when you help others; give this same opportunity to others and reach out for help.
  • Know that it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for support. It’s often a sign of strength.


Do you feel you don’t deserve love and attention?

Do you feel badly about yourself, therefore you think you are bad?

When you start to be kind to yourself, do you experience intense and unpredictable feelings?

Do you tend to shut down emotionally, even when feeling good?

Self-Care Tips for the Survivor:

  • Give yourself permission to practice self-care and self-compassion in small doses at first.
  • “Shutting down” can be a survival method you’ve learned; reassure yourself that you’re safe now.
  • Self-criticism is common if you’ve heard negative messages repeatedly as a child. Realize that these “voices” are from long ago.


Do you have trouble slowing down?

Are you constantly working?

Are you frequently in the “doing” mode versus the “being” mode?

Self-Care Tips for the Workhorse:

  • There will never be the perfect time to take care of yourself. Something will always get in the way if you let it.
  • Watch out for turning your self-care practice into just another thing to check off your to-do list.


Do you easily grow tired of things?

Do you have difficulty following through with projects?

Do you tend to jump from one thing to another?

Do you have trouble with consistency?

Self-Care Tips for the Butterfly:

  • Consider the true cost of jumping from one activity to another (you never get the full benefit of one particular practice).
  • Utilize the support of others to help you stick to one thing (for example, meeting a friend for a yoga class).

Do you feel like you don’t fit in?

Do you feel invisible?

Do you feel disconnected, not whole?

Self-Care Tips for the Outsider:

  • Notice the circumstances when you most feel you don’t fit in.
  • Allow yourself to experience your feelings with as much tenderness as possible.
  • Remember that it’s okay to be different. Many of our great works of art and music, for example, were created by unique souls who may not have fit into conventional society.
  • In other words, it’s okay to be weird!


Do you live in the moment?

Do you have trouble committing yourself to one thing?

Do others describe you as easy-going, even detached?

Do you have trouble making decisions?

Self-Care Tips for the Floater:

  • Watch out for “easy-going-ness” turning into passivity or avoidance.
  • Ask yourself, “What matters most?” to help guide you in your self-care and compassion practice.


Do you become easily indignant with people when they behave badly?

Do you have a strict sense of right and wrong?

Do you feel surprised when people don’t behave as you think they should?

Do you feel disillusioned by others?

Do you avoid taking care of yourself because it feels self-indulgent?

Self-Care Tips for the Moralist:

  • Ask yourself whether your preoccupation with other’s behavior leads to suffering for yourself?
  • All of us have the seeds of bad behavior within us; if we acknowledge this fact, we’re more likely to be compassionate to ourselves when we make mistakes.

Introvert and Extravert

Are you energized by your inner life? Are you energized by time alone? If so, you’re likely an introvert.

Are you energized by being around other people? If so, you’re likely an extravert.

Self-care tips for the Introvert and Extravert:

  • Find a healthy balance between solitude and time with others.
  • No two people will have the exact same ratio of alone time to people time, and that’s okay.
  • You may need different things (alone time/time with others) depending on the day and the circumstance.

Which of these personality styles predominate in your own life? 

How have your predominant styles helped with taking care of your self?

How have your predominant styles hindered your taking care of yourself?

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Photo via flickr.


Let It Be Easy

photo by Greg Markway

As I’ve been tuning in to my self-talk over these past few weeks, I keep hearing the word, “pressure.”  I think I need to do things on a certain timetable and with a certain level of quality. And then that pressured feeling turns into procrastination. In talking with the insightful Beth Beulow of The Introvert Entrepreneur, she suggested something along the lines of, maybe if I loosened the screws a little bit that feeling of pressure would morph into inspiration. I’m not sure if those were her exact words, but I definitely heard “Loosen the Screws!” (What? Me a little uptight?)

There’s a certain paradox in this self-compassion “project.” How do I not turn it into one more thing to stress over?

The other night I couldn’t sleep, and instead of getting all worked up like I usually do, a phrase kept running through my mind: “Let it be easy.” As I said in my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, so I don’t know if I’d just read this (I can’t find it anywhere now), or heard it in one of the guided meditations I’ve been listening to, or just maybe, my “unconscious” knew what I needed to hear. “Let it be easy” is not something I’m used to doing. I typically make things more complicated than they probably need to be.

But in the spirit of self-compassion, I’m going to try to hold this project gently and lightly, like you’d hold a butterfly in your hand. What does that mean?

First of all, I’m going to ease up on any expectation of outcome. For example, I’m constantly saying things to myself such as, “Will this post be helpful?” or “Will this resonate with people?” Originally, I’d thought that one of my guiding principles of this blog was going to be, “If I help even one person, the blog is not in vain.” Yeah, I’m a helper through and through. And that’s a good thing for a psychologist. But there are pitfalls, too. In The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Christopher Germer says that “attachment” is a danger for helpers. I think he means attachment in the sense of wanting things to go a certain way. He gently reminds us helpers that everyone is responsible for their own happiness. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if this blog speaks to someone, great. But if I only help myself through this process of blogging, that’s more than enough.  (After all, he also says “Self-compassion is the foundation of compassion for others.”)

Second, although I had the intention of this being a one-year project, similar to The Happiness Project and The Shyness Project (it’s popular to have a project these days), I’ve noticed I’m already feeling pressure about time. “Oh no! It’s almost February and what have I accomplished? I’m still just laying the groundwork.” Deadlines are definitely good in that they help with accountability, cut down on procrastination (sometimes), and can enhance productivity. But in my case, I think the most compassionate thing to do is the realize that this has been my Issue for almost 50 years. There is no reason to think that in one year, poof, I will be completely self-compassionate and this will be something I can cross off my to-do list. To quote Germer again, “The path to happiness and well-being never ends. Just when we’ve arrived, a new challenge presents itself and we begin again.” So I’m going to quit worrying about time and simply see where this flows.

Speaking of time, it’s a week until my 50th birthday. I’m excited about an easier year ahead!

Self-Compassion Rock Stars

My son took this at a concert. I love how she looks so free.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-compassion the past few weeks, and I thought I’d share the major resources I’m using for my project. I already owned all of these books, but I have a habit of buying books with the hope they’ll somehow seep into my system without actually digging in and doing the exercises. So for the most part, these books have just looked pretty on a shelf until now. (And if you read my last post, you know how I like things to be pretty.)

This time around, I’ve got the books scattered on end tables by the couch and on the kitchen table, with paper and pen nearby to take notes and actually do the exercises. I’ve also got my iPod loaded with guided meditations, and have been listening to these. I hope to, in time, phase out the iPod and be able to do the meditations on my own. For now, though, I need the structure of someone’s voice leading me.

These are in no particular order. I hope you have a chance to check some of them out, and let me know what you think.

Christopher Germer, Ph.D., is a leader in the field of self-compassion. He’s a psychologist, writer, and researcher. His site is full of handouts, articles, and free meditation downloads. You can find his website here. I’m also reading and doing the exercises his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. It’s very user friendly.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is another pioneer in the field. Her website is here and her book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, is an excellent resource. She weaves her personal story throughout the book, which I really appreciate. She has a son with autism and credits her self-compassion skills with getting her through a lot of rough times.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is quite simply, amazing! She talks about being vulnerable, and she walks the talk. You have to visit her website (which is about the prettiest website I’ve ever seen!) and watch her TED talk.

Sharon Salzberg, author of the classic Lovingkindness, is a true meditation guru and spiritual teacher.  Her newest book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation offers a 28-day program and comes with a CD of guided meditations. Her site is here.

Tara Brach, Ph.D. is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. I love this book, and I also have some of her guided meditations. Her voice is very soothing. Her site is also loaded with podcasts (called “Tara Talks”), meditation downloads, articles and many other resources. Her new book is True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.

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