How Self-Compassion Can Help You Cope With Adversity: 3 Steps To Improve Your Resilience

How Self-Compassion Can Help You Cope With Adversity: 3 Steps To Improve Your Resilience

via Forbes by Hanna Hart

Innovators talk about the importance of being willing to “fail fast and iterate.” Like coaches, they espouse a growth mindset that embraces failure as part of the learning process. I am a big proponent of the growth mindset, but I know that it’s easy to talk in intellectual terms about failure and it is a lot harder to actually fail. Moving on and learning from failures requires resilience—the capacity to recover quickly from or adapt to adversity, trauma or stress. One component of resilience is “grit,” a species of toughness, passion and perseverance in the face of adversity. It’s “the drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time.” Think of Mattie Ross in True Grit, a 14-year old girl who travels long distances on horseback and endures many trials along the way to avenge her father’s death.

It only we could just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on! But the truth is that failure hurts. When you don’t get the job or the promotion or when something you worked on fails, you are likely to feel disappointed, frustrated, sad, embarrassed and maybe scared. And if you are like many driven professionals, you are probably pretty hard on yourself—self-critical, focusing on your flaws and mistakes. You may even have found that this self-critique helps you to push yourself to excel. But maybe you are paying a price inside. Perhaps your inner voice is judgmental and harsh: “How could I have done/said that?” Your confidence and self-esteem get be bruised. Your thoughts spiral around what you should have done differently or you may beat yourself up about your mistakes. When you are in such a state of self-judgment, it is hard to learn or move on. Grit alone may not be enough. 

Self-compassion offers another path to resilience and to finding your growth mindset.Today In: Leadership

Self-compassion is an antidote to self-judgment, just as curiosity is an antidote to fear. According to psychologist and researcher Kristin Neff, it involves “treating ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend we cared about. Rather than making global evaluations of ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not because we’re worthless or inadequate, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering.”

Neff’s early research compared self-compassion to self-esteem as a source of resilience. Self-esteem relates to one’s feeling of self-worth and is often built upon accomplishment or comparison to others. Unfortunately, because self-esteem is based on an external assessment of our worth, it can desert us when we most need it—when we fail. We are left with feelings of inadequacy and self-judgment. Self-compassion is there for us. As director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Emma Seppälä notes, “With self-compassion, you value yourself not because you’ve judged yourself positively and others negatively but because you’re intrinsically deserving of care and concern like everyone else. Where self-esteem leaves us powerless and distraught, self-compassion is at the heart of empowerment, learning, and inner strength.” Self-compassion has also been linked to resilience in adolescents and young adults and to reduced effects of trauma among Iraq war veterans. 

There are three main elements to self-compassion…

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