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Last Updated on March 16, 2020

Why Self-Compassion Is More Important Than Self-Esteem

Why Self-Compassion Is More Important Than Self-Esteem

If your best friend stood you up for a date at the movies, would you be forgiving and understanding when he/she explained what happened?

If you made that same mistake to your best friend, would you be forgiving and understanding of your own mistake? Would you mentally beat yourself up for days or would you just chalk it up to human error and circumstances?

That ability for you to be understanding of your own mistakes in life is self-compassion.

Do you give more consideration for others when they make mistakes than you do for yourself? If you do, then your need to evaluate your self-compassion, as it has a huge impact on your mental well being.

We Can Have Good Self-Esteem but Little Self-Compassion

You may have good self-esteem, meaning you think you are a person of value and therefore you believe in your abilities. However, you can have good self-esteem, but without self-compassion you will struggle to accept your failures as human error or circumstantial.

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Without self-compassion, you will be extremely hard on yourself and your personal mistakes, which therefore will affect your self-esteem negatively. If you always criticize yourself when bad things happen, then your mental health can also be adversely affected. Not being too hard on yourself, or having self-compassion is essential to your mental well being, so you better know if you have it or not.

Self-Compassion Is the Ability to Be Understanding Toward Yourself

Having good self-compassion means that you are understanding and considerate toward yourself, as you would be for a dear friend. Often in life, people are hard on themselves, hoping that it will propel them to greater success.

Theories of self-compassion explain that your success is more likely to happen if you have good self-compassion. The reason is because you are more likely to survive set backs, mistakes, and trials with a greater ability to rebound, get back up and try again because you are self-compassionate.

Dr. Kristen Neff is a a world renowned expert on self-compassion. She explains that self-compassion involves providing yourself with understanding when you fail:[1]

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Dr. Neff explains that three components make up self-compassion. Understanding these three components can help you understand whether you possess self compassion. These components include: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Instead of Being Overly Critical of Yourself, Be Kind to Yourself

In possessing self-kindness you are not judgmental toward yourself or your failings. It also means that you aren’t overly critical of yourself. You look at things realistically, but allow yourself to accept failure as part of the human process. If you don’t allow yourself self-kindness and instead are judgmental of yourself, you will experience negative consequences. Scientific American examined self-compassion and explained the result of self-judgment on an individual’s mental health:[2]

“Unfortunately, self-criticism can lead to generalized hostility (toward oneself and others), anxiety and depression; these are problems that can handicap people from reaching their full potential.”

Instead of Indulging in Sadness, Recognize That Suffering Happens to Everyone of Us

Common humanity is the second component associated with self-compassion. This is simply your ability to recognize your life’s ups and downs as something that happen to all people. Dr. Neff describes common humanity as “recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience”. Life ups and downs happen to all people. If you think they are happening to only you or that your pain is not also felt by others experiencing the same or similar situations, then you are isolating yourself. Recognizing that suffering in life happens to all people, including yourself, is part of having self-compassion.

Instead of Suppressing Your Emotions, Acknowledge Them

The third component to having self-compassion is mindfulness. According to Dr. Neff this involves:

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“a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them”.

For some this would be considered having emotional intelligence. It is the ability to acknowledge your feelings and emotions, but not wallowing in them. Repressing your feelings does not help you with self-compassion. You need to allow yourself to experience emotions, but with an awareness that your emotions should not swallow you up.

To Build Your Self-Compassion, Stop Being so Critical of Yourself

Lack of self-compassion is tied to being overly critical of oneself. Just like most aspects of self identity they are often tied to childhood. How we were spoken to or treated as a child can have a great impact on our self-compassion. If you were told “you are useless”‘or “you can’t do anything right” on a regular basis as a child, you may carry those thoughts and memories with you into adulthood. Even if you don’t believe those words for yourself today, they can subconsciously or unconsciously impact your ability to be compassionate with yourself. Also meaning, if you fail, those criticisms of being useless or unable to do anything right may come back to haunt you, whether they are conscious thoughts or unconscious thoughts.

Therapy can be a great help in uncovering those defeating statements that may be feeding your soul and mind when you fail. Those defeating statements are preventing you from being compassionate toward yourself. Consider therapy if you lack self-compassion and especially if you can’t identify the core cause. Identifying the core cause can help you dispel and discredit those harmful words previously spoken about you or to you.

There is a self-compassion assessment which let you find out how well you personally provide compassion to yourself. You can try the test here: Self-Compassion Assessment and take the following steps to love yourself better.

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Emma Seppala[3] identified some practical ways that you can help you boost your self-compassion today. Here are her tips:

    Self-compassion may come easier to some and more difficult for others. It is an important component of your well being that is worth taking the time and effort to improve upon.

    “…research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By tapping into our inner wellsprings of kindness, acknowledging the shared nature of our imperfect human condition, we can start to feel more secure, accepted, and alive.”[4]

    Dr. Neff eloquently summarizes the greatest benefit of self-compassion, which in essence is acceptance of ones self, imperfections and all.

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    Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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    1. Value Your Time

    Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

    2. Know Your Priorities

    Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

    For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

    3. Practice Saying No

    Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

    4. Don’t Apologize

    A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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    5. Stop Being Nice

    Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

    Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

    6. Say No to Your Boss

    Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

    But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

    7. Pre-Empting

    It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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    “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

    8. Get Back to You

    Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

    “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

    At least you gave it some consideration.

    9. Maybe Later

    If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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    “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

    Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

    10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

    This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

    Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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