Message From Julie: Five Reasons Self-Compassion is Good for You & Your Team

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Why is it that we as humans we tend to be so hard on ourselves? And more importantly, how can we stop hurting both our success as leaders as well as our happiness by doing so?

According to self-compassion researcher and associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., there are a number of reasons we lack (and may even resist) self-compassion. Sometimes there is confusion between self-compassion and self-pity. Self-pity is feeling sorry for yourself while self-compassion is being kind to yourself. 

Or perhaps you are resisting the idea of being compassionate to yourself because you are equating self-compassion with self-indulgence. Again, they are not the same. Self-indulgence is about engaging in things that are harmful to you or – at best – not helpful or kind. 

But perhaps the greatest myth we tell ourselves is that if we “indulge” in self-compassion we will lose our edge. This could not be further from the truth. 

Dr. Neff’s research has shown that self-compassion reduces anxiety, depression, stress, shame, suicidality and unhealthy perfectionism. On the upside, it increases life satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence and gratitude. 

Here are Five specific benefits you can expect as a leader if you adopt a routine of self-compassion:

  1. Improved coping and resilience. Resilience is defined as how rapidly you rebound from a negative situation. As a leader it is your responsibility to quickly rebound after a set-back or change at work and be a role model in helping others do the same.
  2. Increased motivation. Self-compassionate individuals have higher standards but are not as upset when they don’t meet them. They are able to own up to mistakes and failures and learn from them. The ability to own up to mistakes is a cornerstone trait of both great leaders and great teams.
  3. Enhanced Emotional Intelligence. Studies conducted by Neff in conjunction with other researchers have found that those who practice self-compassion are better able to manage their own emotions under stress, maintaining a calm demeanor even in the midst of turbulence.
  4. Acceptance of mistakes as learning opportunities. “When we accept failure and mistakes as part of the learning process, and when we approach it with kindness and encouragement, we’re going to want to do better because we care,” Neff says. “It puts us in a mindset that maximizes our ability to learn and grow.” When we can do this for ourselves we can then extend it to our teams as well, promoting an environment of trust and psychological safety.
  5. Better relationships. Relationships are not only important in our personal lives. They are critical to being an effective leader.

And finally, those who are more compassionate with themselves suffer less burnout – a real bonus in today’s workplace.transforming culture with agile leadership webinar

So I’ve convinced you that self-compassion is the road to greater success as a leader. Now what? Here are three suggestions. 

  • Think about – or better yet – write about how you would respond to a good friend who was facing the same situation that you find yourself in.
  • Take what Dr. Neff calls a “self-compassion break” She walks you through the process here.
  • Keep a journal where you process the difficult situations you encounter throughout the day through the lens of self-compassion. Here is an exercise for doing this. 

For more information on the ideas above and to access additional resources on self-compassion, I encourage you to visit Dr. Neff’s website.

Finally, I challenge you to pay it forward by encouraging your team members to begin practicing self-compassion. It is not only good for them, it is good for you and for the organization when they do so.

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POSTED ON: Emotional Intelligence