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20th December 2021

Increasing Performance Through Self-Compassion

When faced with failure or going through a difficult time, we often respond in one of two ways – we either blame ourselves or shift the blame to others. However, neither of those responses leads to real individual growth. Being self-critical or passing the blame demotivates us which in turn lowers our productivity and job satisfaction. So how can we face challenges in a positive way? The answer is self-compassion. Looking inwards and showing compassion to ourselves can help us develop and be mentally prepared to face whatever comes our way. This article explores how self-compassion is linked to performance and what we can do to become more self-compassionate.

What Is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is the ability to be kind and understanding to ourselves during periods of suffering or failure. It is the ability to let go of the negative or painful thoughts and feelings and perceive them as part of a larger human experience. Self-compassion is demonstrated through three behaviours [4]:

Self-Kindness versus Self-Judgment – showing kindness to our failures and mistakes rather than being judgmental.

Mindfulness versus Over-Identification – approaching negative emotions objectively and not letting them take over.

Common Humanity versus Isolation – Understanding that making mistakes is part of human nature and everyone makes them from time to time.

Practising self-compassion can bring many benefits, one of the most important being improved wellbeing. Having greater self-compassion can help us feel less stressed and can lower the risk of developing depression [4]. A recent study measuring the psychological and physical responses to self-compassion exercises suggests that these exercises function to calm the threat response. Hence reducing physiological arousal and enhancing emotion regulation. The reduced arousal is then linked to a greater sense of connection with others and feelings of safety [5].

At work, practising self-compassion is associated with improved job satisfaction and enhanced resilience. It can also reduce burnout and emotional exhaustion and help us build our motivation to stick to our goals. Self-compassion can therefore increase our overall performance at work [6].

Although being compassionate towards others often comes naturally, many of us find it challenging to show the same compassion to ourselves. The good news is that, as evidence shows, self-compassion is trainable, and we can learn how to use it in our everyday life and silence our “inner critic”.

Steps to Becoming More Self-Compassionate

Treat yourself as you would treat others – when you have made a mistake, rather than being self-critical, try to show kindness to yourself. What would you say to a friend if they made the same mistake? Would you be as harsh as you are to yourself, or would you show them support and understanding? Treat yourself the same way you would treat those around you [7].

Change your inner dialogue – silence the negative self-talk and show kindness to yourself. Instead of being a harsh judge, recognise that you are doing your best under the current circumstances. Use positive self-compassion affirmations such as “I accept the best and worst aspects of who I am”, “My mistakes just show that I’m growing and learning” and “I deserve compassion, tenderness, and empathy from myself” [7].

Practise mindfulness – mindfulness meditations help us focus on the present and perceive what is going on in our lives in a non-judgemental way. It brings appreciation and calmness to the mind. Practising it daily can help you reprogram your subconscious to be more loving and compassionate.

Keep a self-compassion journal – when faced with demanding situations, writing down your thoughts can help you to understand and accept the circumstances and reflect on your learning from the experience.

How can Impact help you?

Here at Impact, we understand how important self-compassion is, especially in the current unprecedented times. We offer bespoke workshops focused on wellbeing and one-to-one coaching that can support you in developing more self-compassion and using it to thrive in your role. To find out more, please contact us, click here. 

Helpful Resources

[1] Give Yourself a Break: The Power of Self-Compassion (2018). Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2018/09/give-yourself-a-break-the-power-of-self-compassion

[2] Self-Compassion Is an Essential Tool to Excel In Your Career, Expert Says. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2021/06/03/self-compassion-is-an-essential-tool-to-excel-in-your-career-expert-says/?sh=2eea3be971c5

[3] Lefebvre, J. I., Montani, F., & Courcy, F. (2020). Self-compassion and resilience at work: A practice-oriented review. Advances in Developing Human Resources22(4), 437-452.

[4] Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of research in personality41(1), 139-154.

[5] Kirschner, H., Kuyken, W., Wright, K., Roberts, H., Brejcha, C., & Karl, A. (2019). Soothing your heart and feeling connected: A new experimental paradigm to study the benefits of self-compassion. Clinical Psychological Science, 7(3), 545-565.

[6] Kotera, Y., & Van Gordon, W. (2021). Effects of Self-Compassion Training on Work-Related Well-Being: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 630798. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.630798

[7] Self-Compassion Exercises by Dr Kristin Neff. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/