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Discovering Self-Compassion

Why does our performance effect our wellbeing? University of Texas Professor Kristin Neff says that since our culture connects achievement and self-esteem, our feelings about ourselves can ride waves of our performance. Success is perceived as a temporary and unstable position and so too is our wellbeing. This positioning can lead to isolation when classroom community is jeopardized by students competing for grades that directly correlate to their own self-worth.

close up of white sneakers on the beach with water

Neff presents another concept called “self-compassion” that steps outside of that paradigm altogether.

Self-compassion is defined as…

being kind and understanding towards oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical; perceiving one’s experience as part of the larger human experience, rather than seeing them as isolating; holding painful thoughts and feelings in mindful awareness, rather than over-identifying with them.

“Self-Compassion, Self-Esteem, and Well-Being”, Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5/1 (2011)

Self-compassion does not mean we do not strive for excellence, it just means we do so without our self-worth hanging in the balance, deeply dependent on the result of our efforts. It means, as researcher Emma Seppala describes that we can talk to ourselves in the way we talk to our best friend. Supportive and motivating but with a degree of distance that does not internalize each test score as evidence that shapes our core identity.

Be kind to yourselves. Speak with self-compassion to yourselves. You are enough.

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