Being kind to yourself may sound like something out of a nursery school.
Even cynics, though, should value self-compassion – especially if they wish to be resilient.
Consider the last time you failed or made a critical error.
Do you still blush with embarrassment and chastise yourself for being so dumb or selfish?
Or do you realise that making mistakes is a natural aspect of being human and attempt to speak to yourself with care and tenderness?
For many people, the harshest judgmental answers come naturally.
Indeed, we may even take satisfaction in being harsh on ourselves as a sign of our desire and determination to be our best selves.
However, a wealth of studies reveals that self-criticism frequently backfires – and in a poor way.
It can encourage procrastination and make us less able to attain our goals in the future, in addition to increasing our unhappiness and stress levels.
Instead of chastising ourselves, we should exercise self-compassion: greater forgiveness of our mistakes, as well as a conscious effort to care for ourselves at moments of disappointment or embarrassment.
Kristin Neff is an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the researchers behind this study.
Neff says, “Most of us have a terrific buddy in our lives who is kind of unconditionally supportive. Self-compassion is the ability to be that same loving, supportive friend to oneself.”
If you are a cynic, you may be put off by the idea at first. Nonetheless, scientific data suggests that it can boost our emotional resilience as well as our health, wellness, and productivity.
Importantly, it enables us to learn from the mistakes that led to our dissatisfaction in the first place.