Need to motivate yourself? What’s better, self-esteem or self-compassion?Sarah Denholm
Trying to rev yourself up to improve your speaking skills? There has been some interesting research done recently into what helps you to feel better about yourself: self-esteem or self-compassion?
Psychological studies are finding that self-compassion – being kind to yourself – is more effective than high self-esteem when it comes to helping people to make changes in their lives.
When you want to see new possibilities, to motivate yourself to make changes and take action in the outer world, self-esteem isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A study by Kristin Neff from the University of Texas, and her colleague Roos Vonk, analysed data on the benefits of self-compassion vs self-esteem in over 3000 people from all areas of life, and found all sorts of benefits to compassion, including its being associated with a “steadier and more constant feeling of self-worth.”
And interestingly, part of the study found that “participants self-compassion levels, but not their self-esteem levels, predicted how much anxiety they felt” when asked to participate in a mock job interview set up to “test their interview skills”. (And additionally, those with high self-esteem became just as anxious as those with low self-esteem, as they were thrown off balance.) Plus high self-esteem has been associated with narcissistic “it’s all about me” personalities.
If you’re interested, Kristin has written a book, and an article she’s written is here:
It does take focus and practice (like most things that are worth doing), and you need to work on 3 core elements as defined by Kristin:
- self-kindness, rather than judging ourselves sternly
- common humanity – feeling connected with others
- mindfulness – being aware of our experiences rather than trying to ignore our anxieties or dwell heavily on them
Keeping this idea in my mind has been a good focus and reminder when I starting judging and talking to myself unkindly – which can still kick in when I’m tired, or do something I’m not proud of.
There’s also a great short article here on the motivational power of self-compassion: http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/09/the-surprising-motivational-power-of-self-compassion.php about a different study.
I’d love to hear what you think!