Word-Of-the-Week #611: Self-compassion

April 21, 2016 by  

Self-compassion extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.

How well do you handle failure? Do you tend to be over critical of a shortcoming? How would you rate your overall satisfaction with your life?

This week’s WOW comes from long time friend, subscriber, and sister Lurene. She wrote, “I also like self-compassion” in response to last week’s self-respect. When I asked her what that meant to her she said, “That I finally know, that I am enough – more than enough, for everyone in my life including myself.”

So with a little research I found Kristin Neff, Ph.D. who is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, being the first one to operationally define and measure the construct over a decade ago.

“She has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

  • Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
  • Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.
  • Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one’s negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. Conversely, mindfulness requires that one not be “over-identified” with mental or emotional phenomena, so that one suffers aversive reactions. This latter type of response involves narrowly focusing and ruminating on one’s negative emotions.

a self-compassion-quote

Research indicates that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health than those who lack self-compassion. For example, self-compassion is positively associated with life-satisfaction, wisdom, happiness, optimism, curiosity, learning goals, social connectedness, personal responsibility, and emotional resilience. At the same time, it is negatively associated with self-criticism, depression, anxiety, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism, and disordered eating attitudes.

Although psychologists extolled the benefits of self-esteem for many years, recent research has exposed costs associated with the pursuit of high self-esteem, including narcissism, distorted self-perceptions, contingent and/or unstable self-worth, as well as anger and violence toward those who threaten the ego.

It appears that self-compassion offers the same mental health benefits as self-esteem, but with fewer of its drawbacks such as narcissism, ego-defensive anger, inaccurate self-perceptions, self-worth contingency, or social comparison.”

This week’s focus is on self-compassion. Are you as kind to yourself as you are to others? Do you feel that you have more problems than others? Do you try to suppress negative emotions? Are you enough – for everyone in your life including yourself?

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