Self-Compassion Fosters Mental Health

People often think that self-criticism helps to motivate them.

Being kind to yourself is more helpful in reaching goals.

Self-compassion is distinct from self-esteem, a trait that can shade into narcissism. Nor should it be confused with self-pity or self-indulgence. “Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and care you'd treat a friend,”says Kristin Neff, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the leading researcher in the growing field of self-compassion. People who are self-compassionate avoid harsh critiques or negative generalizations of themselves, and they see their troubles as part of the human condition.

Those low in self-compassion think that unless they are hard on themselves, they will not amount to much—but research reveals that being kind to yourself does not lower your standards. “With self-compassion, you reach just as high, but if you don't reach your goals it's okay because your sense of self-worth isn't contingent on success,”... [emphasis mine]

I respect avoiding self-blame and paying attention to your needs. I'd thought of it in terms of self-nurturing, or not being a martyr. To me it's an issue of authenticity and not buying into oppression. It's rare to have values validated by research.

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Good article Ruth. It's often said that people are hardest on themselves.

Nobody's harder on me than me (how could they be?),
And nobody's harder on you than you.

-- Joni Mitchell, "Moon at the Window"

A person can beat him or herself down far more easily than anyone else can.  I mean, let's be real: you live with yourself 24/7.  Add to that the hypothesis that your focus determines you reality.  Or:

What you put your attention on grows in your life.
-- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Certainly, some self-criticism is necessary, as none of us are perfect, but self-criticism which becomes self-denigration is unhealthful and unhelpful, as surely as self-aggrandizement and indulgent egotism are.

Learning to correct oneself non-destructively when it is necessary and appreciating oneself without going to excess is yet another lesson which every person on this planet needs to learn, yet few have ever had it taught to them. As with so many other essentials, it's more of a learn-on-the-job lesson, and usually after multiple mistakes in both directions.

Wonderfully stated Loren!

Good quote, Loren! And the point about correcting yourself nondestructively- great! That is something we should teach and share.

I criticize myself way too much.  I think some of it was learned from hearing my Mom criticize herself (which she learned from her dad criticizing her), some from the Mormon church that expected perfection, and some from my personality type.

I'd like to overcome it, but it's at least a 50 year habit, which makes it tough to reverse.  Once in a while, when I start calling myself names, I do remember to remind myself to be kinder to myself.

I went to what looks like the original paper on the study and saved it for later reading:

I've found it helpful, when I need to make a change in how I talk to myself, to write down how I'd like to talk to myself, how to phrase it better, and then say that to myself six or more times for a few days. As a teacher I learned students don't remember something unless they hear it 6 times. i apply that to myself. So far it's been helpful. In resistant cases, like when I'm trying to change bad habits, I actually make a printout and attach it to the fridge with magnets where I'll see it when I eat.

This is why I love the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi.  It recognizes the beauty in the imperfect, the not quite finished, or something in need of care.  Some days, I am all those things. ;-)  But more importantly, it helps me find beauty in other things that are not perfect, or quite "done".  We are often so hard on ourselves... when in reality, we're all pretty amazing. ;-)

Thank you Annie, for introducing me to the aesthetic of wabi-sabi. When I googled it, wow! This example I found especially peaceful and grounding.

Beautiful example, Ruth!  I really like this definition of wabi-sabi:

Embracing liver spots? Damn! I never thought of that.

You've given me a new perspective.

Ha ha!  I'm *only* 43, but already have several liver spots on my hands.  I live in Florida, spend all of my free time outdoors, and am allergic to two main ingredients in sunblock... a recipe for disaster!  When I spot a new liver spot, I assign it to a wonderful beach I've been to, or an incredible hike I've taken.  When I look at the spot, it reminds me of that moment or trip. ;-)  So yes, we can embrace our liver spots. ;-)


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