Self-compassion is treating one’s own mistakes with the same support and compassion offered to others, and it is more important than self-esteem to develop skills and performance, found University of California, Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen.
Self-compassion enables people to accept their mistakes and shortcomings with kindness.
It also enables equanimity when people are aware of painful thoughts and feelings.
Self-compassion is optimised when people accept responsibility for disappointing performance outcomes, and use this information to improve future performance.
In Breines and Chen’s research, volunteers considered a personal setback with either:
- self-compassion or
- self-esteem enhancement (focusing on one’s positive qualities and accomplishments).
People who practiced a self-compassion tended to view personal shortcomings as changeable, and said they felt more motivated to improve performance by avoiding the same mistake.
Another task induced failure, then provided an opportunity to improve performance in a later challenge.
Participants who viewed their initial test failure with self-compassion devoted 25 per cent more time to preparing for future trials, and scored higher on the second test than those who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.
Self-compassion can enhance performance, suggested Breines and Chen, because it enables more dispassionate assessment of actions, abilities, and opportunities for future improvement.
In contrast, self-esteem-bolstering thoughts may narrow focus to consider only positive characteristics while overlooking opportunities for improvement.
Self-compassion measures were related to positive personality characteristics outlined in Robert McCrae and Paul Costa’s five factor model of personality known by the acronym OCEAN:
- Openness (curious vs. consistent/cautious)
- Conscientiousness (organised vs. careless)
- Extraversion (outgoing vs. reserved)
- Agreeableness (friendly vs. unkind)
- Neuroticism (nervous vs. confident)
in a study by Kristin Neff and Stephanie Rude of University of Texas, and Kristin Kirkpatrick of Eastern Kentucky University.
Neff’s team found that higher levels of personal well-being, optimism, initiative, conscientiousness, curiosity, happiness were associated with self-compassion.
Higher self-compassion was also related to lower anxiety and depression.
In contrast, self-criticism, was associated with imagined assessments by others and comparisons with other people.
McGill University’s Mark Baldwin found that participants who imagined an important person providing evaluative feedback experienced more negative self-evaluations, self-criticism, and negative moods.
Compassionate self-appraisals enable people to perform better and experience more positive moods than self-critical evaluations.
-*How have you applied self-compassion to improve performance?