As I was searching the internet for ways to help people increase self-esteem, I came across the TED talks with Dr. Kristin Neff about self-compassion. I watched in awe as she compared the idea of self-esteem to the act of self-compassion and how these can come to fruition with entirely different results for mental health symptoms. This concept of self-compassion, and how to manifest it in life, is so closely aligned with my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness practice, that I was amazed I had not come across it sooner.
I was taught that high self-esteem is the root of happiness, an idea that was born out of research based on correlations, for example, children are given a trophy, award, or other recognition in activities. The issue is that now, as Neff points out in this talk, that the rates of narcissistic tendencies and an unfounded sense of entitlement are pervasive in our culture. Not only is this questionable, but because of society basing self-esteem on almost no merit, any mild tipping point can have a devastating effect on self-worth leading to a downward spiral of depression.
What does this have to do with self-compassion?
Self-compassion is almost the opposite of self-esteem. It is the idea that we are all fallible, prone to failure and will not succeed at everything. However, it expands further than this sense of doom and gloom. Self-compassion research states that once we come to this inevitable conclusion about ourselves, we are more able to treat ourselves kindly, see our failures as lessons and not markers of self-worth, and become more resilient in the future. Self-compassion is the idea that I am human, and that is acceptable.
How do I do it?
As self-compassion researchers and practitioners put it: “It is as simple as being as kind to yourself as you would a loved one or a friend.” That’s it. Easy, right? Well, take it from someone who is working hard to learn the concept, it takes work and practice, and a lot of it. But the more you put in to loving yourself and being kind to yourself, the more you have to give to those you care about most. Try it and see!
To learn more about how to accomplish the act of self-compassion and the research behind it refer to: