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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Why Self-Compassion Is More Important Than Self-Esteem

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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 November 18, 2021

    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

    We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

    A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

    So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

    • honest
    • reliable
    • competent
    • kind and compassionate
    • capable of taking the blame
    • able to persevere
    • modest and humble
    • pacific and can control anger.

    The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

    1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

    All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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    But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

    2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

    How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

    I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

    “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

    Abigail Van Buren

    3. How does this person take the blame?

    Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

    You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

    5. Read their emails.

    Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

    • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
    • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
    • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
    • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
    • Too many question marks can show anger
    • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

    6. Watch out for the show offs.

    Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

    7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

    A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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    Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

    8. Their empathy score is high.

    Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

    People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

    9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

    We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

    “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

    Stendhal

     10. Avoid toxic people.

    These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

    • Envy or jealousy
    • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
    • Complaining about their own lack of success
    • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
    • Obsession with themselves and their problems

    Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

    Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

    Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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