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Does being kind to yourself block your wish to grow?

Dr. Kristin Neff on self-compassion in an interview with Jason Marsh, chief editor of Greater Good at the University of California at Berkeley. Here is her website with some short audio of self-compassion "exercises." Thanks so much to Jack Cohen for sharing these resources with me. "...people who are self-compassionate, they want to learn and grow for its own sake, not because they want to impress other people. There is a huge body of research showing that if your goal is to learn as opposed to just impress others, that’s a much more sustainable way of learning and growing." Neff also brings up 2 more important points: "Well, there’s the data supporting the fact that self-compassion has the same mental health benefits as self-esteem: less depression, more optimism, greater happiness, more life satisfaction. But self-compassion offers the benefits without the drawbacks of self-esteem. Self-esteem is associated with narcissism; self-compassion isn’t. It’s self-compassion, not self-esteem, that predicts stability of self-worth—a type of self-worth that isn’t contingent on outcomes—as well as less social comparison, less reactive anger.

"Now a lot of research is coming out around health behaviors, showing that people who practice self-compassion make really wise health choices. They exercise more for intrinsic reasons, they can stick to their diets, they go to the doctor more often, they practice safer sex."

And back to that nagging doubt we may have...that if we aren't afraid and alarmed, we won't do anything good...

"JM: Is self-compassion going to make people complacent and unmotivated to improve themselves and accomplish more?

KN: Yeah, that is a very common concern. It’s actually, I think, the number one block to self-compassion: the fear that if I’m too kind to myself, I’ll be complacent.

The research doesn’t show that.  The research really supports that people who are self-compassionate, their standards are just as high for themselves, but they don’t get as upset when they fail to meet their goals—they cope with it more productively. And as a result, when self-compassionate people don’t reach a goal, they’re much more likely to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and re-engage in a new goal.

Self-compassion is associated with what’s called “learning goals” rather than “performance goals.”

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