As I wrote in this piece on journaling prompts for self-reflection and self-discovery, part of building a healthy relationship with ourselves is keeping an open and honest dialogue. It’s continually asking ourselves questions and welcoming the answers. It’s getting to know ourselves, at our core.

Another part of building a healthy relationship is cultivating self-compassion. But I know that for many of us this is hard. Really hard. Being kind feels foreign, and unnatural. Instead, after many years, our automatic reaction may be to bash, berate and bully ourselves.

That’s OK, because self-compassion is a skill. It’s a skill you can learn and practice. Self-compassion is everything from speaking kindly to ourselves and identifying our needs and responding to them to exploring our dreams to surrounding ourselves with supportive people.

My approach is to start small. I’m a big believer in taking tiny steps. Over time, these tiny steps add up to long distances and maybe, eventually, even great leaps.

Here’s a list of 25 questions to help you take small steps in being kinder to yourself.

  1. How would I like to feel today?
  2. What’s one small step I can take to cultivate this feeling?
  3. What do I need right now?
  4. Who are the people in my life who are nonjudgmental, trustworthy and genuinely have my heart in mind?
  5. How can I spend more time with these individuals?
  6. What is one healthy thing I can do to support myself when I’m sad or stressed out?
  7. What are several physical activities that I actually enjoy?
  8. What are the stories that are regularly playing in my head?
  9. What is one story that doesn’t support me, which I can reinterpret?
  10. How can I externalize a persistent problem in my life, instead of believing I’m the problem (which boosts self-bashing and doesn’t get me anywhere, anyway)?
  11. What is one feeling I’ve been having a hard time feeling?
  12. What is a new habit I can adopt in helping me feel more joy or calm in my life?
  13. What do I need to feel loved from my partner or close friend?
  14. What makes my heart sing?
  15. What would I say to someone I deeply care about who was struggling with the same issue I am?
  16. How can I be a nurturing parent to myself?
  17. What is stopping me from being kind to myself?
  18. What is one tiny step I can take to chip away at this obstacle?
  19. What is one kind statement I feel comfortable saying to myself when I need support?
  20. What is something interesting I’d like to explore this week?
  21. If I loved myself fully, how would I treat myself every day?
  22. What’s one small way I can start doing that today?
  23. What’s a lesson I can learn from a recent mistake?
  24. What are my greatest qualities?
  25. “How can I support myself in making choices from my heart?” (This is a beautiful question from Jennifer Louden in her book The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year.)

Being compassionate to yourself may feel very unfamiliar. Consider picking a question that feels easy to reflect on. Start there.

Begin with one pebble. Over time, you never know the mountain you may build.