Six Benefits of Practicing More Self-Compassion

It can be very tempting at times to fall into a spiral of self-doubt, especially when we find ourselves faced with making a number of important decisions. As we transition from adolescence to adulthood, this number greatly increases, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed with the demands and expectations of our day-to-day lives. Because of this, it can be easy to learn to second-guess every choice we make, which can result in  being more likely to  underestimate our own intelligence and capability, and even worse, lower our overall sense of self-esteem. While many of us are readily compassionate and understanding to our friends and loved ones, sometimes we forget to turn this compassion inwards to ourselves as well. Being too tough on ourselves can actually hinder our performance and keep us from achieving the most out of life. A little self-compassion goes a long way. In fact, here are 6 benefits of treating oneself with the same kindness we might show unto others.

1. Boosts Happiness

First and foremost, self-compassion can boost our overall happiness. This is because self-compassion is associated with better moods and positive characteristics. More specifically, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality links self-compassion with one’s overall happiness, optimism, personal initiative, wisdom, and greater appreciation towards oneself and one’s body.

2. Increases Motivation

Self-compassion can make us want to take initiative. After all, we are more likely to make good choices and act positively if we feel good about ourselves and receive positive reinforcement rather than if we adopt a more negative perspective. A 2011 study conducted by the University of California showed that participants spent more time studying for a test after a previous failure if they demonstrated self-compassion. Moreover, said participants also reported feeling a greater motivation to change their weaknesses when they practiced self-acceptance than those who did not. In other words, we respond better to feeling better than feeling worse. Sounds obvious, right? Practicing self-compassion can motivate us to achieve the goals we set rather than if we hold ourselves back out of fear of failure.

3. Makes Us More Resilient to Adversity

More than just motivating us to take risks and do better, self-kindness and compassion can also help us get through the tougher times in our lives. Challenges are a necessary stepping-stone to success, but some challenges prove to be more difficult than others and some obstacles are more difficult to traverse. In these instances, treating ourselves negatively would be the equivalent of wearing lead shoes whilst trying to climb a wall – making the task far more difficult for ourselves than the wall is alone. Self-compassion is a key component to overcoming adversity in our lives. Another 2011 study published in Psychological Science, shows that people who report higher levels of self-compassion have also shown to have improved emotional recovery following events such as marital separation and divorce. We all need support through difficult times in our lives, however a crucial measure of that support must come from ourselves in addition to expecting it from others.

4. Improves Body Image

When we learn to be compassionate with ourselves, we are essentially learning to love ourselves. This love is not just mental, but physical as well. Multiple studies have linked higher self-compassion to healthier body image and decreased body shame. In fact, a 2012 study published in the journal Body Image, found that those who frequently practiced self-compassion tended to be less preoccupied with their body image, have fewer concerns about their weight, and show a greater appreciation overall towards their bodies than those who did not demonstrate the same kindness.

5. Reduces Psychological Distress

As previously mentioned, practicing self-compassion benefits us both mentally and physically. Recent studies have shown that self-compassion can actually decrease mental health problems. In another study published in 2012 in Clinical Psychology Review, it was revealed that self-compassion reduces psychological distress such as anxiety and depression, and reduces some of the harmful effects of stress. When we tell ourselves that we can accomplish things, it is more likely that we will, and when we tell ourselves the we love ourselves no matter what, then we can more easily overcome negative psychological experiences like anxiety, depression, and related disorders.

6. Enhances Self Worth

Most of us may think that in order to maintain high self esteem we must rely on external circumstances and social comparisons to make us feel valued. However, self-compassion can help enhance our self-esteem and our feelings of self-worth, enabling us to maintain our own self esteem from within. A study released in 2009 in the Journal of Personality reported that self-compassion allows us to feel good even after experiencing failures, perceived inadequacy, imperfections, and personal set-backs.

Start Practicing Self-Compassion

So why practice self-compassion? The reasons are obvious. We will need plenty of support in our lives through our various trials and tribulations, however, that support needs to come from within and not just be dependent on others. After all, there’s no shame in being our own best friends, because we deserve just as much love as we’d give to anyone else.