Sometimes when we bring up self-compassion, we get the following response, “I don’t think it’s for me”.
And the reason being is that a lot of people who believe that if they start to show themselves some compassion, they're going to become lazy, weak, and self-indulgent.
But, I'm here to tell you that self-compassion isn't for the faint-hearted.
In order to be self-compassionate, we have to face up to our own mistakes, we need to take responsibility and own our stuff, and we need to have the grit to face our difficult emotions.
All of these things can be damn hard.
So let me dispel some of the most common misconceptions about self-compassion further.
1. Self-compassion will make me selfish.
Probably one of the biggest concerns that people hold is that self-compassion will make them selfish. But, you’ll be pleased to know that research has shown that self-compassionate people are quite the opposite of that, and are actually better caregivers.
In numerous research studies, results have shown that people high on self-compassion are more able to be compassionate to others (and they're also more resilient and protected against compassion fatigue).
The reason being is that if we give away all of our compassion to others, we don’t have any left for ourselves, and then we become burnt out and resentful of others taking from us all the time. To be a good caregiver, we also need to fill up our own tank every so often.
Want to be a better partner? In a study of couples, individuals whose partner was high on self-compassion were described as emotionally more connected and supportive. It also reduced the likelihood of the partner being controlling and abusive.
2. Self-compassion will make me self-pitying.
Sorry, but no pity parties here.
Self-compassion isn’t about “Woe is me”. When something difficult happens, we use self-compassion to acknowledge what we did wrong, but we do it mindfully.
This means that we use mindfulness to observe our experience without getting totally caught up in it. We don't amplify or minimize it, we simply acknowledge, “This is a difficult moment for me".
Researcher, Dr Filip Raes, found that undergraduate students who were more self-compassionate actually tended to ruminate less about their misfortunes and were also less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In addition to this, self-compassion encourages us to acknowledge that all human beings are imperfect and that we all face difficulties. This allows us to maintain perspective when we are going through something and we don't become isolated in our struggles.
3. Self-compassion will make me self-indulgent.
Let me ask you this...
If you were a compassionate mother and your child wanted to eat a whole packet of chocolate biscuits, would you let them?
The answer is inevitably always “No”, and the rationale for the “No” is that it’s not actually kind to let your child eat a whole packet of biscuits (mainly because it will make them feel sick).
Self-compassion rests on the same principle. Just like the compassionate mother wouldn't allow her child to overindulge, self-compassion means treating yourself with that same kindness. Self-compassion often requires us to use self-control, as it focuses on the long-term consequences of a behavior, rather than the immediate short-term reward.
This means that we have to tolerate our own distress for the greater good. So, self-compassion is almost always the harder option and certainly not self-indulgent.
4. Self-compassion will make me lazy.
Have you ever had a really critical coach or teacher? Where every time you did something wrong they berated you on your failures or were just plain old mean?
Tell me, how did you go with that?
What about a coach or teacher who was encouraging and kind? Who didn't shame, blame or put you down? Who instead helped you when you were struggling or provided encouragement when you achieved something that you had tried really hard at?
You can try to tell me that criticism makes you motivated, but research shows time and time again that human beings respond better to positive reinforcement than they do to punishment. Furthermore, research on those who use self-compassion after making a mistake, are actually more motivated to take responsibility, apologize and change their behaviors.
5. Self-compassion will make me weak.
Self-compassion is quickly emerging as one of the most important aspects of coping and resilience.
Allen and Leary found that self-compassionate individuals were less likely to use avoidant ways of coping, such as being in denial or defensiveness, and were more able to tackle difficult situations head on.
This was supported by Sbarra and colleagues, who found that individuals higher in self-compassion who were going through a divorce showed greater psychological adjustment.
So, those who are self-compassionate are actually stronger in the face of life’s many challenges.
If you're still not convinced and you want to hear it from the expert on the topic, check out Kristin Neff dispel these myths in this video: