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The Science of Self-Compassion

Posted on 14 February 2019 by Douglas Merrow

 by Deb Rodney

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education in a 2014
study showed that self-compassion is
an important resilience tool. It gives us strength in difficult times, the ability to learn from mistakes, and to re-bound with a greater zest for life.

The research suggests that self-compassion is a far superior alternative than trying to be perfect, work harder, compete with others for approval or resist making mistakes.

Here are some of the findings: 

• When our self-worth depends on out-competing others, we become more insecure, anxious, and self-critical.
• When we fear making mistakes we feel anxiety if criticized and become defensive.
• In competition, people see others as obstacles to overcome, which separates us from them.
• Self-criticism and competition get in the way of our primary goal to belong and be loved.

On the other hand:

• Self-kindness reinforces the understanding that we are intrinsically deserving of care and concern just like everybody else.
• Self-compassion helps us understand that making mistakes is intrinsic to being human and that they are a normal part of everybody’s life.
• Self-reflection with kindness is likely to improve one’s performance after failure.
• When one remains calm in the face of failure, rejection or criticism, people experience a higher sense of well-being and are more productive.
• Meditation has been shown to loosen the grip of self-critical thoughts and emotions.

Health Benefits:

Self-compassion can activate our biological nurturance and natural soothing systems, which leads to greater feelings of well-being. Conversely, harsh self-criticism activates our sympathetic nervous system and elevates stress hormones.
So, those who have more compassion for themselves and their mistakes are less at risk for anxiety and depression.

Deb Rodney has spent her career writing about change, empowerment and resilience. Sometimes she hosts soirees or leads workshops. Please contact her at with your thoughts and comments. They would be gratefully appreciated.

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