How can I practice mindful self-compassion? Keep cool and be kind to yourself. 3 things you can start doing today to live more mindfully and compassionate
A birthday gift
“When my birthday came, my husband asked me what I wanted to have as a gift”, Emilie shared. “You can buy me small decoration stuff, I love it. That’s an easy gift. But there’s a gift I really want, but it’s more difficult. Do you want to hear”? Her husband was afraid of hearing that, so Emilie never told him. Her “difficult gift”, was the following. “On my birthday, I don’t need to do anything. During one whole day, I can rest”.
She was extremely tired at that time, to the point that her only wish was to be able to rest for one day. Without knowing, she lost connection to herself and her beloved ones. Because she was not compassionate enough to herself.
How can I practice mindful self-compassion? Changing myself!
Yes, practicing mindful self-compassion starts first with being mindful about our thinking and behaviors, and change them.
Ever felt tired of this world, of work, of family chores, of responsibilities? Many of us fall again and again in a living lifestyle that is consuming us. We seem to never really get out of the circle. Changing other things that surround us are our biggest concern. These will help us feel better, we think. Work regime, medication, holiday time, partner, children…
But if we want to practice mindful self-compassion, and get out of the circle, only one thing we should change.
Will we be able to change our attitude? Mentally be able to give ourselves permission to be self-compassionate? To be mindful and take care of whatever sufferings we are under?
When I started to learn how to see the goodness in others, I saw myself changed. When I started to learn how to be compassionate with myself, I saw others changed.
Self-compassion is a quality that supports mindful living
On her birthday, Emilie continued to work. Was it her husband’s fault that she couldn’t rest? Perhaps. But she wished she could come back to talk to herself at that moment. “It’s you who can permit yourself to rest. Practice self-compassion”.
Self-compassion is a great quality to support our mindful living. It is not an inborn character. It’s a capacity, a skill, that is learnable. We can learn to replace our inner voice telling us that we are responsible for everything. Refuse the ideas that that we are indispensable. That we must understand and care for others. Yes, we can permit ourselves to be mindful of our own sufferings, to be able to be fully present for others.
How can I practice mindful self-compassion? Do these 3 things
The potential benefits of self-compassion are undeniable in many domains. Kristin Neff is a pioneering researcher and author of the appreciated book Self-Compassion. She found through her researches that “people who practice self-compassion experience fewer negative emotions and stay emotionally balanced in difficult situations” (Greater Good Magazine).
Sounds good. But what are the three things that prove you have self-compassion? And how to learn to have one?
#1. You treat yourself as you do to a good friend
Neff says that the first component of self-compassion is self-kindness, or treating ourselves with the same care we would give a loved one.
Emilie realized that she didn’t do it for years. She could have made time to listen to herself. Sufferings (physically or mentally) could be listened more carefully, and treated with care. More often, Emilie could have permitted herself to rest, and told herself this:
I know you are tired. You’ve let children eat 2 hours later and move the meeting to another day, and everybody was disappointed. But that’s okay. Every mother or worker does that once in a while. But your children and your colleagues will survive and so will you. You did a good job. Thanks to that, you’ll be able to take care of them again.
Today Emilie is able to react firmly and with tenderness to herself and her loved ones. She seeks help. She takes care of herself without guilt. “I can rest. I can say no with joy”. And guess what? People surrounding her seem to change! People can do more when she does less. She doesn’t have the world on her shoulders. She has learned self-compassion.
#2. You know you are (imperfect) human
“The second component of self-compassion is recognizing our common humanity“, according to Neff. What does it mean? We are not alone but among all other imperfect humans.
“That sounds easy”, we may say. “We all know we are imperfect”. But in reality, we tend to forget it too often. Dan did something wrong and spent a few days blaming himself. Julie is ashamed because she did not succeed. David tries to ignore his feelings because they show that he is weak mentally… We are hard with ourselves more often than we think.
When we recognize our imperfection, we are more compassionate towards ourselves. The resistance and pressure of failure are reduced. Failure is a teaching. And we know that we are not alone in the struggle. “Hardship and struggle are deeply embedded in the human condition” (Neff). We are conscious that it’s our “common humanity”.
Will it make us badly perform? Indeed, you will see the contrary. This thinking can free us from being too hard with ourselves. We can be our best because we know that errors and imperfections are human. We can learn from it. And we can get up after falling. Don’t you believe that’s the quality of success?
#3. You are mindful
The third component of self-compassion is mindfulness. You are aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations at the present moment. Tired but don’t notice you are and continue to run? You are not self-compassionate. Have negative emotions without being conscious that you are having them? Self-compassion might be missing.
When an adolescent asked him “How do I love myself?”, Thich Nhat Hanh said: “You breathe in, and breathe out mindfully. And you realize that your body is a wonder of the cosmos. It comes from plants, the sun, the rain, and generations of human, plant, and animal ancestors. You are a wonder”.
“When we love someone”, said Thich Nhat Hanh in his training, “the most precious thing to offer him or her is our true presence”. And when we learn to love ourselves, it is also a true presence we can offer ourselves. Being present with ourselves, we learn not to ignore our fatigue. We then permit ourselves to take a break. Even when our children, partner, or others are looking at us with expectations.
Are we still a big heart? Yes, with self-compassion, we preserve ourselves. To be able to offer others a fresher, and loving being.
Mindfulness self-compassion with Kristin Neff
Well, you may say, we now understand the basics of self-compassion and its importance in our well-being. But how can I practice mindful self-compassion in my daily life? What are the ways that we can train ourselves to be more compassionate?
In her training and her book Self-Compassion, Kristin goes in-depth with these three components of self-compassion. She gives a lot of concrete examples and also proposes ways to practice in your daily life. “Using solid empirical research, personal stories, practical exercises, and humor, she explains how to heal destructive emotional patterns so that you can be healthier, happier, and more effective” (Editor review). She is considered the world’s foremost expert on self-compassion. Try her free training today.
As a conclusion
Facing life difficulties, we might try to change some other things that surround us. We expect them to make us feel better. But we never know that the one thing that we could change, is ourselves.
And if I have to share one thing with you, that is, we can learn to be more self-compassionate. Practice self-kindness, acknowledge our imperfection and be mindful. We will see that once self-compassion becomes part of ourselves, we live more mindfully. We are truer and happier.
Will you try it? Give in the comment below a moment when you were too hard to yourself, and how you can be more self-compassionate in that case. I look forwards to hear from you!
Free training – The power of self-compassion
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