Self-compassion and the growth mindset

It takes practice

What do you do when you have a setback at work? Two common responses are to either blame others or become defensive, or alternatively to blame yourself. Neither response is very helpful.  Putting the blame onto others limits learning, and being self-critical can increase stress and procrastination and undermine personal development.

What if we were to treat ourselves as we would a friend in this situation?  We would most likely be kind, understanding and encouraging.  Treating ourselves in the same way is known as self-compassion.  Self-compassion is about greater forgiveness for our mistakes and learning to be that supportive friend to ourselves.

Self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem.  Self-esteem relates to a sense of self-worth or perceived value in comparison to others.  The thinking goes that it is not good to be average, only by feeling above average is self-esteem increased.  As a result, self-esteem fluctuates depending on relative success and can result in the need to put others down to make us feel better about ourselves. 

Self-compassion does not involve judging ourselves or others.  It does involve being kind about our mistakes, recognising that failures are a shared human experience and taking a balanced approach to negative emotions when mistakes happen.  There are clear links here to emotional agility and authenticity.

Authenticity is the sense of being true to the self and our values. The first step may well be a process of self-reflection to understand our strengths and our limitations and to be realistic in our self-appraisal. This is the foundation for improvement and for motivation to change.

The belief that our personalities and traits are not fixed but malleable is know as a ‘growth mindset’.  The potential for growth is recognised and so performance is more likely to improve. If you believe that your abilities are fixed there is no point in making the effort.  But if you believe performance can be improved then negative feedback shouldn’t deter you in trying to improve.   If you practice self-compassion you are more likely to have a growth mindset.

Self-compassion doesn’t lead to a lack of willpower.  It creates a sense of safety that allows us to confront our weaknesses and make positive changes to our lives.  Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding alleviates fears of social disapproval paving the way for authenticity and greater optimism. 

Being self-compassionate does not just benefit you but also others around you, as self-compassion and compassion for others are linked.  Practising one boosts the other as you are more likely to pay attention to the performance of others and provide useful feedback on how to improve. It takes practice but self-compassion is not difficult or complex and like any skill, it can be learned and enhanced.