Self-compassion has been described as being kind to oneself, especially during suffering, realizing that pain is universal, and the ability to face pain without drama.
It is separate from self-esteem, even though they have a lot in common. How does self-compassion relate to positive affects and personality types?
Can your personality affect your ability for self-compassion?
Researchers from Texas and Kentucky Universities looked at positive attributes and personality functions to see if they are associated with self-compassion in undergraduate students.
They found that those who are self-compassionate are more happy and optimistic, although that could be related to the fact that those who are more self-compassionate are able to hold negativity non-judgmentally.
Other tests within their study showed that self-compassionate people were able to see things as they are (realistically), were able to show compassion towards others, and were able to make changes within themselves for the better.
Self-compassion was strongly correlated with all of the “big five” personality traits (positively with conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness; and negatively with neuroticism), except for openness.
Self-compassion beats self-criticism every day and in every way
A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley, investigated the effect of self-compassion for motivating change. Four experiments were conducted and all participants were asked to think of something that would elicit self-criticism.
Two experimental groups were given a self-compassion induction and the other two groups were not. All groups were asked to write about their biggest weakness from a compassionate and understanding perspective.
After the challenging task, participants received a message: “If you had difficulty with the test you just took, you are not alone. If you feel bad about how you did, try not to be too hard on yourself”.
In each experiment, participants who practiced a self-compassionate mindset showed a much greater willingness to improve and learn from their self-perceived weaknesses.
Again, they were found to have a higher level of optimism than those who did not practice this self-compassionate mindset. (Be sure to check out these health benefits of optimism)
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Compassion: What do our kids need?
Parents and teachers often emphasise the importance of self-esteem to the development of happy and well-adjusted children, but is this doing more harm than good?
Self-esteem is described as being an overall sense of feeling competent within different areas of one’s life.
High self-esteem is correlated with feelings of happiness. However it has also been significantly correlated with less desirable traits such as narcissism.
So how can we teach our children, and ourselves, to be happy without risking the development of narcissism or an inflated ego?
Researchers have discovered that self-compassion may be the key to stable, long-term happiness.
Self-compassion involves three processes:
- sharing a common sense of humanity with others
- being mindful when considering personal weaknesses or hardships.
High self-compassion is associated with greater life satisfaction, and less self-criticism, anxiety, and depression. It also promotes a more stable sense of self, so that hardships in life are more easily recovered from.
Finally, self-compassion has been shown to be equal to self-esteem in promoting happiness and well-being, without being associated with narcissism.
A healthy personality tends to be relatively stable, in this sense, it is ‘reliable’.
– Frank J. Ninivaggi (M.D.)
Perhaps it’s time to teach our kids the skills of self-compassion rather than focusing solely on self-esteem, so that they may have the best chance to grow up as happy, well-rounded individuals.
Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. L. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41 (4), 908-916.
Breins, J.G, Chen, S. (2012). Self-Compassion Increases Self-Improvement Motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1131 - 1143.
K. D. Neff, & R. Vonk. (2009). Self-compassion versus global self-esteem: Two different ways of relating to oneself. Journal of Personality, 77(1), 23-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00537.x
Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139-154.