Self-compassion – treating one’s own suffering with the same support and compassion offered to others – is more important than self-esteem in developing skill and performance, found University of California, Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen.
Self-compassion enables people to accept their mistakes, failures, shortcomings with kindness.
In addition, self-compassion enables awareness of painful thoughts and feelings with equanimity.
This approach is optimized when accompanied by accepting responsibility for unsuccessful performance outcomes, and using the information to non-punitively improve performance, they noted.
Volunteers considered an actual personal setback or failure with self-compassion or self-esteem-enhancing perspective (considering one’s positive qualities and accomplishments).
Participants who practiced a self-compassionate perspective tended to view personal shortcomings as changeable, and felt more motivated to improve performance by avoiding the same mistake in the future.
Another task induced failure, then provided an opportunity to improve performance in a later trial.
Volunteers 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.
Breines and Chen suggested that self-compassion can enhance performance because it enables more dispassionate assessment of actions, abilities, and opportunities for future improvement.
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 (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
- Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
- Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
- Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind)
- Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/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 associated were associated with self-compassion.
In addition, higher self-compassion was related to lower anxiety and depression.
However “priming” participants to think of an important person in their lives was associated with more negative self-evaluations, self-criticism, and negative moods in research by Mark Baldwin of McGill University,
Research on evoked self-compassion and its negative partner, self-criticism, suggests that 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?