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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Replies to This Discussion

I use criticism, discipline and kindness to keep myself on track. In that way I get a lot of work done and when things go wrong I know I did my best.

As a teacher, I often journal about interactions I've had with students.  When it is a difficult situation, or one I think could have been handled differently, I try to come up with other responses I could have given.  Sometimes, this confirms that I handled the situation well, other times, it teaches me how to handle similar situations in the future more effectively and with more compassion.  I never thought to apply this to my daily life, which I think is a wonderful idea. 

I agree with you.  We are how we act.  I find that whenever I define who I think I am, it is most often to excuse poor behavior.  For example, "I'm really a nice person" as a response to doing something that was not so nice.  Thanks for the thought food!


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