Why Self-Compassion Works Better Than Self-Esteem by Olga Khazan

Why Self-Compassion Works Better Than Self-Esteem by Olga Khazan

Excerpts:

Why the Best Success Stories Often Begin With Failure by Amy Crawford

Boosting your ego won’t make you feel better. Instead, try talking to yourself like you would your best friend.

There’s nothing wrong with being confident, to answer Demi Lovato’s question. The trouble is how we try to achieve high self-regard. Often, it’s by undermining others or comparing our achievements to those around us. That’s not just unsustainable, Neff argues, it can also lead to narcissism or depressive bouts during hard times.

Neff proposes a better path: Self-compassion. In other words, treating yourself just like you would your best friends, even when they (you) screw up.

I recently interviewed Neff about how self-esteem fails us and how we can boost our compassion for ourselves instead. An edited version of the conversation follows.

….Khazan: So what is self-compassion? How is it better?

Neff: It means treating yourself with the same kind of kindness, care, compassion, as you would treat those you care about—your good friends, your loved ones.

One component is self-kindness, which is in a way the most obvious.

But it also entails a recognition of common humanity—in other words, the understanding that all people are imperfect, and all people have imperfect lives.

Sometimes, when we fail, we react as if something has gone wrong—that this shouldn’t be happening. “I shouldn’t have failed, I shouldn’t have had this issue come up in my life.”

And this sense that “this shouldn’t be happening,” as if everyone else in the world were living perfectly happy, unproblematic lives. That type of thinking really causes a lot of additional suffering, because people feel isolated and separated from the rest of humanity.

So, when we have self-compassion, when we fail, it’s not “poor me,” it’s “well, everyone fails.” Everyone struggles. This is what it means to be human. And that really radically alters how we relate to failure and difficulty. When we say, “Oh, this is normal, this is part of what it means to human,” that opens the door to the grow from the experience. If we feel like it’s abnormal, this shouldn’t be happening, then we start blaming ourselves.

Self-compassion also entails a mindfulness. In order to have self-compassion, we have to be willing to turn toward and acknowledge our suffering. Typically, we don’t want to do that. We want to avoid it, we don’t want to think about it, and want to go straight into problem-solving.

Khazan: I noticed that you found this works for romantic relationships, for body image … what are some of the various contexts that you found that this works in?

Neff: One is coping and resilience. A lot of people think self-compassion is weak. Well, it’s not.

For instance, there’s some work with combat vets, on their level of self-compassion— are they an inner enemy or an inner ally? The vets who were an inner ally instead of an inner enemy cope much better and are much less likely to develop PTSD symptoms. It helps people cope with divorce, pain, age.

A big one, which a lot of people just can’t quite believe, is that it enhances motivation. People who are more self-compassionate, when they fail, they’re less afraid of failure.

There was a study where helping people be more self-compassionate about failure [on a test], later on when they had a chance to study for a second test, they actually studied longer than people who were not told to be self-compassionate.

Because, basically, it creates an environment where it’s safe to fail, so self-compassionate people are often more likely to try again. They also have more self-confidence, because they aren’t cutting themselves down all the time.

…. Khazan: One of your findings is the men have more self-compassion than women. Why is that?

Neff: It’s a very small difference, but it’s consistent: Women tend to be less self-compassionate than men.

Now, we’re doing research looking at gender role orientation, and androgynous women—women who draw equally on their masculine and feminine sides— have exactly the same level of self-compassion [as men].

It seems to be the feminine women … when you think about it, when you really identify with norms of self-sacrifice, “I should always be meeting the needs of others,” a lot of those problems that come from identifying with the traditional female stereotype.

read the remainder on The Atlantic

 

(this post was published December 26, 2016)


See Also: 

Nay-Sayers and Failure on the Way to Success: Singer Elvis Presley

You’re Not Failing Enough, by Diane Paddison

Become More Resilient by Learning to Take Joy Seriously by Brad Stulberg

How Successful People Stay Calm by Travis Bradberry

How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think – Don’t Let A Little Criticism Hold You Back, by Simran Takhar

How People Learn to Become Resilient by Maria Konnikova

Top 10 Regrets Of The Dying by Dale Partridge

Why the Best Success Stories Often Begin With Failure by Amy Crawford

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