People often fear treating themselves with compassion. They think it’ll make them weak or keep them from taking responsibility. They worry that if they’re kind to themselves they’ll weaken their motivation and sabotage their goals.
Kristen Neff, a pioneering self-compassion researcher, author, and teacher, has devoted her career to studying self-compassion. Her research suggests just the opposite.
She believes self-compassion makes you more efficient because you can process difficulties and stress faster.
Her findings show that self-compassion makes you stronger and more motivated. It’s associated with greater emotional resilience, more caring behaviour in relationships and more accurate self-concepts as well as less narcissism and reactive anger. It helps you to pick yourself up and not give up.
Neff’s research suggests that self-compassion may be more important to psychological well-being than self-esteem. Self-compassion enhances your ability to face weaknesses and thus motivates growth and change. Research shows self-compassionate people take greater personal responsibility for their actions.
Self-compassion: A Vital Element for Compassionate Leadership
Compassion has been named an essential skill for leaders in the last few years. But it’s not widely recognized that true compassion starts with self-compassion. Compassion without self-compassion leads to burnout. Nurturing others to their full potential starts with nurturing yourself to your full potential. If you want to provide psychological safety for others, begin with yourself.
When we criticize ourselves harshly, we both become afraid of failure and fail more often. It undermines our self-confidence and tanks our persistence. We experience more performance anxiety, stress and are less resilient.
High performers have particular self-talk. They speak to themselves in the 2nd or 3rd person as a kind and supportive friend who builds them up. Their inner voice is like an inner wingman/woman who has their back.
Neff’s 3-Step Formula for Self-Compassion under Challenges
Neff has a 3-step formula for increasing self-compassion and mindfulness when facing challenges:
1). Take a moment to notice you’re struggling. Validate it.
2). Recognize that struggle is part of living as a human and everyone in the world faces struggles.
This is important because it makes you feel less isolated and disconnected and dissolves any self-pity you may be feeling. With self-compassion you recognize that suffering and feelings of inadequacy are part of our shared human experience.
3). Bring kindness to yourself. Ask yourself what you need in this moment. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help and support you?’
Applying self-compassion converts moments of struggle into peace and transformation. Setbacks become learning opportunities rather than failures.
Do you practice self-compassion? I’d love to hear about your experience.