MSC – Mindful Self Compassion: How to practice being kind with ourselves

10. December 2021

Most of us learn as children the importance of being kind and compassionate with others. However, we are seldom made aware that we have to do this with ourselves first in order to really live it authentically with others. Later in life as an adult, a lack of self-compassion often manifests in over-the-top expectations towards ourselves and a loud and harsh inner critic.

What is Mindful Self Compassion?

It is a scientifically proven concept by Dr. Kristin Neff, which brings mindfulness and compassion together. Self-compassion means treating ourselves in difficult times in the same supportive and understanding way as we would with a good friend. Difficult times do not necessarily mean really intense situations, but simply when we fail, face challenges, experience negative emotions, or notice something about us that we don’t like.

Instead of using our thoughts and speech to critize ourselves harshly in these situations or swallowing our own pain with clenched teeth, we take a moment to acknowledge and allow that “it is difficult right now” and ask ourselves: “How can I support myself in this moment? “.

Self-compassion is not to be confused with self-pity: Self-pity often means that we take an egocentric view that puts us and our suffering at the center and often leads to completely emersing into our problem. While this is perfectly okay for a while, it often isolates us from others because we feel alone with our feelings or experiences. Self-compassion makes it possible to gain a little distance from the situation and to develop a perspective that allows us to be mindful of our feelings and to strengthen ourselves from within. Instead of judging ourselves harshly and wishing we were someone else or the situation were different, we can allow ourselves to accept and appreciate the fact, that we are human. And human means imperfection.

The three dimensions of mindful self-compassion

The following three dimensions are part of the concept of mindful self-compassion (also abbreviated as MSC):

1) mindfulness
This describes an awareness of our inner processes . In a difficult situation we are able to perceive our emotions and thoughts without getting lost in them. In doing so, we neither press down nor increase negative feelings. We also allow ourselves to admit that something is difficult for us.
2) Human connectedness
We realize that it is part of the human experience that things don’t always go as we want them to. “Suffering” on a small and large scale connects us humans with one another.
3) Kindness to ourselves
We learn to develop friendly and understanding thoughts towards ourselves and consciously stop criticizing ourselves. This is really about talking to and about us like a good friend would do.

Doesn’t mindful self-compassion just make us lazy?

Mindful self-compassion enables us to build up an inner strength and a safety net independently of others, giving us support in challenging moments. When people come across the concept, they often worry that too much compassion will make them lazy, or “too soft”. In fact, the reason behind self-sabotaging behavior, such as procrastination (the continuous postponement of an activity into the future) is that we basically believe too little in ourselves or are afraid of failure. This, in turn, is based on the inability to deal with negative emotions. When we know that we can take care of ourselves even in the event of a really difficult situation including the intense inner experience, we are resilient inside and trust ourselves more. Bringing in new ideas, standing up for yourself, taking risks or actively shaping your life requires inner strength and kindness towards yourself – this is exactly what we can strengthen with mindful self-compassion.

How can I learn that?

Even if you were to say of yourself right now that you are your own worst critic, the good news is, mindful self-compassion is a learnable skill.

Mindfulness, the foundation of MSC, can be strengthened through a regular meditation practice. You can think of meditation as training your mind. I’ll link you a classic breathing meditation here, if you just want to try this out.

The technique of journaling is also recommended to strengthen self-awareness and to reflect on how you deal with yourself. To do this, just take a piece of paper and a pen and write down your experience. The goal is to be able to simply write down what is going on inside you. Everything you write down is only for you and should not / need not be shared with anyone. This creates a space for you to express yourself fully.

Here I would like to show you another journaling exercise that you can use to practice the three dimensions of mindful self-compassion. I recommend this especially at the end of a day.
Mindful Self Compassion Journaling
Reflect on your day and write down everything that made you feel bad: situations that were difficult, moments in which, in retrospect, you might have liked to act differently. Then find a situation which you would like to apply mindful self-compassion to.

Mindfulness : write down any feelings associated with the situation. how did you feel? Be understanding and do not judge the feelings.

Human connectedness : Write down in what way your experience was just human. How your reaction made sense based on what came before. Let some gentleness flow into it.

Kindness to yourself : Write down a few empathic, kind words. Imagine you are your very best friend, you only want what is best for you – how would you react?

I hope you enjoy trying it out and I have linked a meditation for mindful self-compassion for you here .

Mindful self-compassion is part of my Mindful Empowerment 8 week program , which leads your team step by step through the most efficient mindfulness practices, reduces stress and significantly increases focus, creativity and general well-being in just 8 weeks.

All the best,
Sophie Bachmann