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Self-Compassion vs Self-Esteem

I was watching the TedX Talk of Dr Emma Woodward when this sentence hit me. I know so many people with no self-esteem problems, but they chastise themselves when they make mistakes, or things don’t go as expected (myself included).

One of the fears I see in my executive clients when discussing self-compassion is the fear of complacency. They/we fear that we will never excel if we don’t punish ourselves for the things that didn’t go right. The truth is that self-compassion has nothing to do with complacency.

In this fascinating article, Kristin D. Neff takes the teachings of Buddhism and defines self-compassion as having 3 main components.

Here I have taken the liberty to translate these components into “how to practice self-compassion”:

  1. Honesty recognizing the “event/failure” without being judgemental and, instead, being kind to ourselves.

  2. Having sympathy for our feelings of inadequacy and realizing that these feelings are common to all of us. Humans are not and do not need to be perfect.

  3. Encouraging ourselves to go beyond this “event” without over-identifying with it. Being present in the moment without falling into the trap of ignoring or ruminating about aspects of our lives or ourselves that we dislike.

The best thing about self-compassion is that research indicates that self-compassion is strongly associated with psychological well-being: increased feelings of happiness, optimism, curiosity and connectedness, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, rumination and fear of failure.

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