The Power of Self-Compassion

Without self-compassion, we are destined to struggle. When we embrace its magical powers, we thrive – physically, emotionally, and beyond!

In the previous article we discussed the important role of compassion in helping others to achieve success. Which leads very naturally to the subject of self-compassion, and its role in advancing, or retarding, our own plans and aspirations.

Self-compassion is an adaptive way of relating to one’s self in the face of personal inadequacies or situational difficulties. Rather than being self-critical, people with a high degree of self-compassion treat themselves with kindness and concern when they experience these negative perceptions. This is not the same as making excuses for your perceived failures.

Self-compassionate people tend to rely heavily on “positive cognitive restructuring”, explaining their negative experience in terms of the larger human experience, avoiding the isolation and pain of self-blame. They remain mindful of painful thoughts and feelings rather than over-identifying with them, without either suppressing or ruminating on them.

It is worth considering the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem. The latter is also an important part of psychological well-being, but differs in that it includes a measure of relative self-worth. It is highly influenced by the perceived opinions of others, and is a measure of the degree to which we judge ourselves to be competent in life domains that we consider to be important. At the upper extreme of self-esteem, we find narcissism. In this state the individual not only feels that they are exceptionally competent in life, but they also feel that this exceptional competence makes them more valuable and attractive than others.

Research has shown that self-compassion is so powerful that it is strongly associated with well-being among both adults and adolescents. It improves all dimensions of emotional wellbeing and psychological health, and is two to three times more predictive than mindfulness in explaining anxiety, depression, worry, and quality of life. Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion helps protect against anxiety and depression, while increasing life satisfaction and purpose.

The benefits of self-compassion extend well beyond the individual and include enhanced relationship success. Research has shown that people with high levels of self-compassion are more likely to compromise, and are less likely to self-subordinate, not only reducing emotional turmoil, but enhancing relational well-being. Self-compassion is more powerful than self-esteem in predicting relationship success.

It makes intuitive sense that you perform better emotionally when you love yourself (responsibly). Recent research is proving that self-compassion goes even further; perhaps surprisingly, self-compassion also has profound physical benefits. Neuroendocrine studies indicate that programs that systematically increase self-compassion have a positive impact on our immune response. This happens at the level of the inflammatory cytokines. These powerful chemicals influence our immune and stress responses. Self-compassion protects our bodies through its effect on these important inflammatory modulators.

The science of self-compassion is compelling. It drives our health and happiness, and is the foundation of self-development.

In the next article, we look at a few simple steps that will help you to enhance your self-compassion.

Have fun,

Roddy

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