Self esteem vs self compassion

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“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

-Aesop

Yesterday in Yoga Teacher/Holistic Coach Traning class the students were all giving feedback on the yoga class we just completed.  One of the students, J, said initially she was beating herself up because she couldn’t bring her leg forward gracefully from plank pose to lunge.  She relayed how frustrated she was because she is really competitive and always wants to excel.  But, she continued, as the class continued on she felt more accepting of her body and what it could do, and stopped focusing on what it couldn’t do. I could relate to what she was talking about because I too have to come on my knees from plank and “help” my leg forward.  It is a legitimate modification to moving from plank to lunge, but there was still that judgment we placed on ourselves.  Yoga helps in many ways, and body acceptance is definitely one of them in my opinion.  But I also detected something else at play — self-compassion.  Check this out:

“Self-compassion offers the same benefits as self-esteem without its downsides

It’s important to distinguish self-compassion from self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to the degree to which we evaluate ourselves positively. It represents how much we like or value ourselves, and is often based on comparisons with others. In contrast, self-compassion is not based on positive judgments or evaluations, it is a way of relating to ourselves. People feel self-compassion because they are human beings, not because they are special and above average. It emphasizes interconnection rather than separateness. This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself. It also offers more emotional stability than self-esteem because it is always there for you – when you’re on top of the world and when you fall flat on your face.

Research indicates that self-compassion offers the same benefits as self-esteem (less depression, greater happiness, etc.) without its downsides. In a large survey conducted with over 3000 people from various walks of life, for example, it was found self-compassion was associated with much more stable feelings of self-worth (assessed 12 different times over an 8 month period) than self-esteem. This may be related to the fact that self-compassion was also found to be less contingent on things like physical attractiveness or successful performances than self-esteem. Also, self-esteem had a strong association with narcissism while self-compassion had no association with narcissism.

Another study asked people to recall a previous failure, rejection, or loss that made them feel badly about themselves. One group of participants was asked to think about the event in ways that increased their self-compassion. Another group was asked to think about the situation in ways that protected or bolstered their self-esteem. People who received the self-compassion instruction reported less negative emotions when thinking about the past event than those in the self-esteem condition.

Moreover, those in the self-compassion condition took more personal responsibility for the event than those in the self-esteem condition. This suggests that – unlike self-esteem – self-compassion does not lead to blaming others in order to feel good about oneself.

Developing self-compassion

Instead of endlessly chasing self-esteem as if it were the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, therefore, I would argue that we should encourage the development of self-compassion. That way, whether we’re on top of the world or at the bottom of the heap, we can embrace ourselves with a sense a kindness, connectedness and emotional balance. We can provide the emotional safety needed to see ourselves clearly and make whatever changes are necessary to address our suffering. We can learn to feel good about ourselves not because we’re special and above average, but because we’re human beings intrinsically worthy of respect.”

BY KRISTIN NEFF, INNER PEACE, JULY 23, 2014
“MOVE OVER SELF-ESTEEM: SELF-COMPASSION IS THE REAL KEY TO STRENGTH & SUCCESS”

The next time you make a mistake, instead of letting it strike a blow to your self esteem, try some self compassion.  Who doesn’t need some “kindness, connectedness and emotional balance” these days?

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