Self-Compassion’s Core Questions

The quintessential question of Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) is, “What do I need right now?”  That is, mindfully checking in with yourself, and if stress or struggle are present, showing up for yourself as you would a friend – maybe offering some softening, kind words, a hand on the heart, or an invitation to refresh or restart.  Remembering that suffering is part of the human condition; we all struggle – you are not alone.  This inquiry isn’t rocket science, but for many of us it’s a radical 180 degree shift from habitual ways of responding to our own discomfort.  Many of us who can naturally lean in and care for others still find it difficult to respond to ourselves with love.

To start a shift, maybe ask yourself, “What gets in the way?” Typical misconceptions are worries that self-compassion is a form of self-pity; weak; selfish; self-indulgent; a way of making excuses; or will undermine motivation.  However, significant research shows that in fact self-compassionate people are more likely to engage in perspective taking and ruminate less; have the strength of resilience to bounce back from difficulties; are more caring and compassionate towards others; engage in healthier long-term behaviors; take greater personal responsibility for their actions; and have no less high personal standards than others.  In fact, self-compassionate people are actually more motivated to stretch and grow, because if they try something new and happen to fail (which happens, right?), it’s safe to come home to themselves.  

To actually become more self-compassionate, investigate, “What works for me?” Does it help to use loving-kindness phrases, take a class or sit with others, practice in nature, or even write supportive post-it notes and stick them all over the house?  Over time, these intentions and efforts pay off; we can train ourselves into a reflexively friendly self-response when things are hard!  If you don’t know where to start, coming back to the simple questions at the heart of self-compassion – “What do I need?” “What gets in the way?” and “What works for me?” 
– Angelike Dexter

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