How Self-Compassion and Forgiveness Can Help Deal With Procrastination

Many people struggle with procrastination, when they unnecessarily delay doing things such as completing assignments, dealing with household tasks, or working on passion projects. This can lead to various issues, such as worse performance, missed opportunities, and increased stress.

Because of these issues, it can be highly beneficial to reduce procrastination. The following article will help you with this, by showing how you can use self-compassion and forgiveness to reduce procrastination and mitigate some of the issues that are associated with it, such as stress.


What is self-compassion

Self-compassion involves extending sympathy to yourself, particularly when you struggle or suffer. It is comprised of three key components:

  • Self-kindness (as opposed to self-judgment). This involves being warm, gentle, and understanding toward yourself during tough times, and accepting that things don’t always work out, rather than being frustrated, engaging in harsh self-criticism, or trying to ignore or suppress your pain.
  • Common humanity (as opposed to isolation). This involves recognizing that suffering and imperfection are part of the shared human experience, which almost everyone experiences, rather than something that happens to you alone and isolates you from others.
  • Mindfulness (as opposed to over-identification). This involves paying attention to yourself and your environment as they are in the present moment, and accepting your thoughts and emotions in a non-reactive and non-judgmental manner as you’re experiencing them, rather than letting them overwhelm you.

In addition, when it comes to understanding self-compassion, it’s beneficial to understand what self-compassion is not:

  • Self-compassion is not self-pity. That is, self-compassion is not about wallowing in your problems, exaggerating them, or forgetting that others have similar problems. Rather, self-compassion is about adopting a balanced perspective that helps you deal with your problems, while focusing on the connections that you have with others when it comes to facing such problems.
  • Self-compassion is not self-indulgence. That is, self-compassion is not about letting yourself get away with negative behaviors such as procrastination. Rather, self-compassion is about facing your problems directly, and dealing with them in a mature and balanced way. Likewise, self-compassion generally doesn’t undermine people’s motivation, but rather enhances it. It also helps people move from negative forms of motivation, like fear of inadequacy, into positive forms of motivation, like intrinsic desire to improve one’s wellbeing.
  • Self-compassion is not self-esteem. That is, self-compassion is not about your perceived value of yourself. Rather, self-compassion should be extended to yourself in a consistent manner, regardless of your latest successes or failures, which encourages you to face, rather than avoid, your problems and shortcomings. Nevertheless, if your self-esteem is low, that’s also something that’s problematic and that you should likely work on, potentially by exercising self-compassion.
  • Self-compassion is not about experiencing only positive emotions. That is, self-compassion is not about suppressing negative emotions or trying to feel only positive ones. Rather, self-compassion is about accepting and dealing with negative emotions in an adaptive manner, that helps you cope with them and grow over time. This also means that when practicing self-compassion, the pain of negative emotions might increase at first as you directly deal with them and their causes, but this pain should decrease over time.

Self-compassion also isn’t about selfishness, and can actually improve connections with others, while also increasing the willingness and ability to help them.


Self-compassion can help with procrastination

Self-compassion has two key potential benefits when it comes to dealing with procrastination:

Self-compassion can achieve this through various mechanisms, such as helping people regulate their emotions in a positive way, which reduces negative emotions, including those that can lead to procrastination. As such, self-compassion is can be useful for dealing with procrastination cycles that revolve around negative emotions, and the benefits of self-compassion in this context are similar to those of related techniques, such as self-forgiveness for past procrastination.

In addition, the benefits of self-compassion mean that it’s also useful outside the context of procrastination, when it comes to improving the ability to deal with negative emotions and other struggles in general, so it can be beneficial even for people who aren’t procrastinators.


How to increase self-compassion

To increase self-compassion, you can use the following techniques:

  • Remind yourself that everyone struggles and makes mistakes. To help yourself internalize this, you can, for example, say to yourself “Yes, I’m struggling with procrastination right now, but many other people also struggle with it, and it’s perfectly normal”, or think about situations where other people that you think highly of made similar mistakes as you in the past.
  • Forgive yourself for past procrastination. For example, you can say “It’s true that I should have gotten started earlier, but the best thing to do now is forgive myself for delaying and focus on getting started as soon as possible, and also find a way to avoid making the same mistake again in the future”. In addition, you can remind yourself that messing up doesn’t necessarily mean you that won’t be able to change.
  • Think about how you would help a friend in a similar situation. For example, ask yourself how you would comfort a friend if they told you that they’re facing the same problems as you’re facing. Or, consider how you would react if someone spoke to your friend the way your inner voice is speaking to you now.
  • Change your critical self-talk. For example, you can try to actively notice when and how you engage in self-criticism, soften your self-critical voice with compassion (e.g., by saying “I know you’re worried about me, but the way you’re talking causes me unnecessary pain”), and reframe the observations made by your self-critical voice in a positive way (e.g., “I know that you’re angry at yourself for procrastinating, but the best thing to do now is move on and just get started”). When doing this, it can help to think about the ways you use self-criticism as a motivator, and then try to replace it with kinder and more positive ways to motivate yourself.
  • Take a self-compassion break. For example, stop for a moment to think about something that causes you stress, and then foster self-compassion, through mindfulness (e.g., by telling yourself “This is frustrating” or “This is stressful”), common humanity (e.g., by telling yourself “Other people also feel this way” or “I’m not alone”), and self-kindness (e.g., by saying “May I give myself the kindness that I need” or “May I forgive myself”).
  • Explore your self-compassion through writing. For example, try writing about an imperfection that makes you feel inadequate, and then write a letter to yourself from the perspective of an unconditionally loving friend, who is trying to help you cope with that imperfection. You can then set the letter aside and read it later when you feel that it will help.

When using self-compassion to deal with procrastination and related issues, remember that this concept involves taking responsibility for your actions to help you deal with issues, rather than avoiding responsibility and enabling yourself to keep engaging in the same problematic behaviors. As such, you should not allow your self-compassion and forgiveness to serve as a demotivating factor that prompts you to maintain a harmful status quo.

In addition, note that you can also use these techniques to help other people increase their self-compassion. You can do this in various ways, such as by telling them about self-compassion and these techniques, encouraging and helping them use these techniques, or implementing these techniques for them, for example by asking them guiding questions that foster their self-compassion. Furthermore, when doing this, you can also potentially help them by being compassionate toward them yourself, for example by being kind rather than judgmental.


How to tell if you’re being self-compassionate

To assess your self-compassion, you can use the following questionnaire:

Explanation: This questionnaire represent the Self-Compassion Scale Short Form. For each question, you should carefully consider how often you behave in the stated manner (from “almost never” to “almost always”). The less frequently you engage in the behaviors marked by (R) in the end, and the more frequently you engage in the behaviors not marked by (R), the more self-compassionate you are.


  1. When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy. (R)
  2. I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
  3. When something painful happens I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
  4. When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am. (R)
  5. I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
  6. When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
  7. When something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.
  8. When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure. (R)
  9. When I’m feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong. (R)
  10. When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
  11. I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies. (R)
  12. I’m intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like. (R)

The statements in this questionnaire can also help you understand common patterns of thoughts and behaviors that you should try to encourage in yourself (e.g., “I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.”) and ones that you should try to avoid (e.g., “I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.”).


Other ways to overcome procrastination

To reduce your procrastination, as well as associated issues such as stress, there are additional things you can do beyond engaging in self-compassion and self-forgiveness. Most notably, you can benefit from figuring out what causes you to procrastinate in the first place, and then using relevant anti-procrastination techniques to address those causes, for example by breaking large tasks into manageable steps if you’re feeling overwhelmed.