In today’s episode, we cover self-compassion with Dr Kristin Neff. Kristin received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, and is releasing her new book Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power and Thrive.
Self-compassion is the key to stop your inner critic in its tracks, but what is self-compassion, why is it important to be happy, and what can you do to develop a strong sense of self-compassion?
What to Listen For
- Introduction – 0:00
- What are the three elements of self-compassion and how can you use self-compassion to improve your daily life?
- What are the warning signs you need self-compassion and what ways can you apply self-compassion?
- Why is it easier to show compassion toward others and not ourselves?
- Exercises to Strengthen Self-Compassion – 18:22
- What simple exercises can you use right now to show yourself more compassion and stop being so hard on yourself?
- What can you do to work on mindfulness?
- Setting and Maintaining Boundaries – 27:10
- Why are boundaries important in developing your self-compassion?
- How can you set boundaries and learn how to say no while showing compassion and self-compassion?
- Perfectionism and Self-Compassion – 39:00
- What can you do to manage your perfectionism with self-compassion so you can stop beating yourself up over mistakes and failures?
If you struggle with accepting your mistakes and failures, self-compassion is your key to developing a healthy relationship with your imperfect self. We all make mistakes, but for some reason we are much better at showing compassion to the people we care about than ourselves. Cultivating a practice of self-compassion can change that and allow you to be kind to yourself while still pushing yourself to keep improving.
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Resources from this Episode
Speaker 1: Welcome back to the art of charm podcast, a show designed to help you communicate with power and become unstoppable on your path from hidden genius to influential leader. We know you have what it takes to reach your full potential, and that's why each and every week Johnny and I share with you interviews and strategies to help you transform your life by unlocking your own unique X factor, whether you're in sales, leadership, building client relationships, or looking for love you're in the right place.
Speaker 2: You shouldn't have to settle for anything less than extraordinary. AGA I'm really excited about today's episode. I kind of feel like it is connected to the one we had just done with Paul bloom last week. And if you haven't checked that out, please go back and do so. We talked to Paul bloom about sacrifice and suffering and meaning and what it takes in order to transform. And if you've been listening to this show, he will, you know, that suffering and sacrifice is just that it is a part of your transformation. The other part is the self-compassion that you're going to need to go through that suffering and sacrifice to draw out the best within you.
Speaker 1: And let's be honest, sometimes that suffering is caused by our inner critic. That self doubt, that fear that's holding us back. And that's why today we're excited to unpack how we can develop the self-compassion necessary to overcome that inner critic and find that confidence to take action in our lives. Today, we are speaking with Dr. Kristin Neff. Dr. Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research and conducted the first empirical studies on self-compassion almost 20 years ago. She's currently an associate professor of educational psychology at the university of Texas at Austin. And in addition to writing numerous academic articles and book chapters on the topic, she is the author of the latest book. Self-compassion the proven power of being kind to yourself and fierce self-compassion, which focuses on how to balance self-acceptance with the courage needed to make change log or the show Dr. Neff. We're so excited to chat with you today about self-compassion.
Speaker 3: Oh, thank you so much for having
Speaker 1: Me, Johnny and I are huge fans of acceptance commitment therapy. We use it with our clients who are struggling with social anxiety and inner critic that keeps them from doing the things that they want to be doing. And what comes up a lot is self-compassion. And I'd love to hear your take on what is self-compassion. How do we define that scientifically? And then we'll unpack, uh, how our listeners can use that in their daily lives.
Speaker 3: Great. Okay. Well, I mean, the easy way to think of self-compassion is simply turning compassion inward, treating yourself with the same kindness care or support that you would naturally show to a friend you cared about, but the scientific definition, at least my, my model, which I came up with about 20 years ago is that there's actually three elements to make compassion. Self-compassion first is the kindness, which is kind of the most obvious, but also mindfulness. In other words, in order to give ourselves compassion, we need to be able to turn toward our pain. We can't ignore it or shove it underneath. At the same time, we can exaggerate it and run away at the drama of what's happening. We kind of need some perspective, which is offered by mindfulness too, that we can be kind to ourselves when we're struggling. And then the third thing, which is what makes it compassion and not pity is other people, right? So compassion is isn't inherently connected stands. It's not like woe is me. It's saying, Hey, I'm a human being. I struggle like everyone else. So those three elements together make up a state of self-compassion.
Speaker 1: And when it comes to scientifically speaking, how does self-compassion actually help improve our lives?
Speaker 3: Well, the research is pretty overwhelming at this point is I think almost 4,000 studies at last count, including dissertation. So there's a lot of research and it shows basically it's linked to reduce psychopathology. So less depression, less anxiety, less stress, less suicidal ideation, but also increased positive states of mind like happiness and life satisfaction. And that's because of course, even though it's aimed at suffering, it helps us reduce our suffering. When we care for ourselves, the feeling of being connected and, and kindness that arises with self-compassion is actually a positive emotion. It's linked to a more coping and resilience. And in fact, one of the most powerful things that self compassion offers us is the ability to deal with difficult emotional situations without being overwhelmed. It's like this, this armor we carry with us to life that actually helps us get through the tough stuff. Uh, it's also linked to increased motivation, right? People, some people think self-compassion is letting yourself off the hook, going easy on yourself. Um, but of course, if you care about yourself, yourself, you'll want to reach your goals. Not because you aren't good enough as you are simply because you want to thrive and be happy. So it's really it's, um, it's really amazing the literature on self-compassion and all the benefits it offers.
Speaker 1: Yeah. It's counterintuitive. I think many in our audience would feel that being extra hard on yourself is how you achieve those goals and is how you push yourself past pain and discomfort. And self-compassion is insane in a lot of ways, especially amongst our male clients as being too soft on yourself and not pushing yourself hard enough to reach those goals. So it does definitely feel counterintuitive.
Speaker 3: Yeah, it is counter-intuitive and I think that's because we, with, with our children is not. So counter-intuitive like, yes, if he used the paddle, you probably will motivate them to setting, get good grades. But we know now in the parenting literature that you're probably gonna mess your kid up and cause all sorts of psychological problems. And then that encouragement support means not going easy on your kid. The saying, I believe in you, I want you to achieve, how can I help? That's going to be more effective. And so the same with ourselves, yes. Self criticism does work. Wouldn't do it if it didn't, but again, at least to things like depression, anxiety undermines yourself, confidence. Um, it creates fear of failure. It can make you elite do things like procrastinate because you're so afraid if you don't meet your goals, you're going to beat yourself up.
Speaker 3: So self-compassion is a more effective motivator, right? So again, you, you're still motivated to achieve and do your very best. Like for instance, we teach this to athletes, top level athletes. They have to be at the best of that game, but if they miss a shot or they, you know, they blow game with, they just beat themselves up. It's not going to help their performance. They have to say, okay, well it's part of being an athlete. You know, you miss a shot. I'm just going to get back up on that horse and keep trying. It also allows us to learn from our failures in a way that self criticism doesn't because it's like, oh, okay, well, normal to fail. Well, what can I learn from it? And it's actually more effective in that sense as well.
Speaker 2: I think that's where the waters get a bit muddy that most people don't really understand true. Self-compassion they, they see it as perhaps I need to treat myself, I need to do something special for myself. But for a lot of folks, it's about giving themselves some space, listening to their inner critic and being able to, to navigate it, understand when that inner critic is beating themselves up and then having some tools to work with that inner inner critic. So because of those waters are a bit muddied and a lot of people don't realize that self-compassionate is their key out of how they're feeling and their de-motivation and where they feel burnout. What would be the warning signs or symptoms that self-compassion is something to, we need to start looking at?
Speaker 3: Uh, well basically if you're depressed, if you're stressed, if you're free, if you're anxious, if you're basically anytime you're suffering, the remedy is self-compassion right. It's a way that we relate to any form of suffering in any moment. Um, you know, and it can take a variety of forms. Self-compassion is that desire to help oneself be well sometimes what you need to be well as a good old kick in the butt. Sometimes you need a, you know, to take a break. Sometimes you need to draw boundaries. Sometimes you need to protect yourself. Sometimes you need to rest really know from the outside can tell you what you need. Self compassion says, you know what? My needs are important, not more important, important than those of others, but at least as important, what do I need in this moment to get through and be at my best and be well and happy. And so once, so basically to answer your question, how do you know if you need it very simple tests, you can, you can notice how you talk to yourself when you're struggling. And again, it's not just failure or self criticism. Like how are you dealing with the pandemic for instance, or for some difficult situation and notice how you speak to yourself and say what I say this in the same kind of tone of voice to someone I really cared about. And at the answer is no, you probably need some self-compassion.
Speaker 2: I mean, age and I both grew up in very blue collar households. We had factory dads who motivation was a little bit more of a yelling and screaming to the house, which we've also picked up on. And I would say that we have learned to use that to, to motivate us. And for myself, the trick has always been when to learn, to let go of that anger as fuel and turn it into something more positive. At least that anger that, uh, that stress at the beginning has always been a good start. But if you allow it to drive you, it can, it can consume you.
Speaker 3: Yeah. So actually my latest work and my latest book is all about what I like to call fierce self-compassion. So compassion has two main forms of probably as more, but at least two main forms. One is kind of a tender, gentle form. This is our ability to be with ourselves as we are floss and all to be with pain and kind of a gentle, nurturing way. But sometimes compassion takes getting angry. You know, anger directed at the alleviation of suffering is very useful. You know, you, you, you should been an issue being with social injustice, for instance, the me too movement. This is the self-compassion movement. As women stand up and get angry and say, it's not okay for you to treat me this way. So anger has a place in self-compassion. You know, really any behavior that's used for the alleviation of suffering can be a type of compassionate response that I have a whole chapter about anger. Cause sometimes we think of anger as bad, or we're supposed to like get over it or like be these peaceful people, you know, anger and motivates us. It makes us brave. It energizes us. It focuses us. It can be very useful. Now of course, the problem with anger is very easily. We, we lose ourselves and it becomes personal and we start causing harm as opposed to preventing harm. But again, if your aim is to prevent harm, anger could has a, is a very effective tool for that end can be anyway.
Speaker 1: Well, you mentioned at the start pity and we don't want to get to a place of pitting ourselves. We want to stay motivated to reach our goal. So how does pity balance with self-compassion? Is there such thing as too much self-compassion
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Speaker 3: Yeah. So, you know, people ask me that in a way too much self-compassion is a bit of an oxymoron because of compassion is concerned with your well-being and you're doing something that's causing you harm. It's no longer compassion. Right? So yeah, you might, you may think you're being compassionate when you're really just pitting yourself or feeling sorry for yourself or just, I really am not going to go into work today, even though in fact wouldn't be good for you would be to go into work. Right. So compassion is kind of almost defined by the outcome. So it's always aimed at the self's wellbeing. Um, so penny, the, the big thing about pity is that it's an isolated stance. So for instance, um, if I were to pity, you maybe ADA for your leaf blower situation, if I was to like, oh, I feel so sorry for you.
Speaker 3: You'd be like, you know, what, what, what, like this never happened to you. But if I tell you that, actually I was on Dan Harris's show and I had a leaf blower incident of my own. I've been there then it's like compassion. And is that actually, it's true, by the way, I did have a leaf blower incident and that, that sense of connection, Hey, I've been there. This has happened to me. Or this could happen to me where we're both human beings, bass actually, what makes it compassion? So that element of recognizing our shared humanity is actually essential and it helps us feel connected to others in our suffering where self-pity makes us feel isolated from others. And that isolation just makes things a lot worse.
Speaker 2: I watched that Dan Harrison,
Speaker 3: Did you, by at least four episodes, we kind
Speaker 2: Of used it as
Speaker 3: A prop.
Speaker 1: I'm in the clear now on the leaf blower. And thank you for that shared humanity moment there. I think the other part of the balance that can be tricky is many of us find it a lot easier to be compassionate towards others. So when we think about friends and family members, even strangers, we can have compassion for. And as Johnny was saying earlier, you know, having rough and tumble dads who are more of the stick than the carrot, it has been a real challenge to lay off ourselves and not be in a place of constantly pushing towards perfection. Why is it that it's so much easier for us to express compassion outwardly and less?
Speaker 3: Yeah, there's a couple of reasons. Some are, some are cultural there aren't cultural barriers against compassion where race thinking, it's good to be compassionate to others, but there are a lot of barriers of self-compassion. Again, we think it's going to make us lazier. We are unmotivated. So we aren't, we aren't taught that. It's a good thing. So that's one problem, but there's also something more basic. That's physio physiological. So both self criticism and self and Patrick, both criticism and compassion you might say are kind of evolved responses. So, but compassion mainly evolved to help others. So parents who are more compassionate to their children or group members who are more compassionate to each other, their genes were lucky to survive and be passed down was actually more natural. And you might say at first with ourselves is when we make a mistake or we fail or something difficult as hap happens, we go into threat defense mode.
Speaker 3: This is also very natural. We go into fight flight or freeze or mingle. It gets triggered. You know, this is a very, very, a Quicken, easily triggered safety response. Unfortunately, when the problem is ourselves and the threats to ourselves, we fight ourselves with self criticism thinking we'll beat ourselves into shape. So it will be safe. Or we flee into shame thinking we're free from the perceived judgments of others. So it will be safe or we freeze and we ruminate me get stuck, also safety behavior. Now, when your friend makes a mistake, you are personally threatened. So it's actually easier to tap into the evolved care response. Whereas when you're personally threatened, basically when we're freaked out, it's a little hard to access self-compassion. And so it's not, as you know, it is a practice for that reason. It's not difficult because we already know how to do it toward others. It's not like you don't have to learn how to meditate or it's not esoteric. It's very simple, but it's not entirely natural instinctually. So we need to kind of train our brains, do a little hack, so to speak. So we start tapping into the care system. That's normally aimed at others and do a U-turn and aim it toward ourselves
Speaker 2: For that caring system. I would think a lot of that is detaching. And as, as you mentioned from criticism and expectations of others, but there's also the criticisms and expectations that you're gonna, that you're gonna put on yourself as well. Was that you find in your research, any connection between the two,
Speaker 3: Well, you mean being when other people criticize you and if you criticize yourself, do you mean like developmentally? Yeah, so certainly. So in other words, my son's very self-critical and I've never criticized him. And I think it's just because he has a lot of anxiety. So some of it is just natural. So the way he deals with threat probably won't surprise you to know, especially with your parents, that people who grow up with parents who are very critical, also learn that is, so my son finally has gotten self-compassion because I've modeled it for him. But if I were, you know, but people whose parents model criticism, then they think, oh, that's the way to be also parents who are abusive or insecurely attached or maybe negligent or, you know, inconsistently there that also gets modeled like the pupae. Some people who grow up who feel their needs aren't worthy of being met, have a harder time believing that they actually should focus on meeting their own needs.
Speaker 3: So, you know, obviously what's modeled for us by our parents and our family, early family history affects our here's the thing, it effects our ability to be self-compassionate in terms of how easy it is. But the really cool thing is what we know is, uh, we can learn to be self-compassionate. We can actually give ourselves compassion for our traumatic early childhood and we can learn to reparent ourselves. Now, typically it takes therapists and in some ways I think, I really think what good therapy is, is the ability to help clients be self-compassionate, you know, it's kind of, transtheoretical no matter what your approach, good therapy and outcome of good therapy is increased. Self-compassion, you know, sometimes it's explicit. Sometimes it's more implicit, but that's what a therapist does kind of models, compassion models that your, your needs are worthy of being met, that you're, you know, you're an important person. So how, you know, it does help to have a therapist along the journey. If you had an early trauma history, for instance,
Speaker 1: Now, when it comes to bringing this into our lives and actually practically using self-compassion I know many in our audience will often share similar stories of upbringings like me and Johnny and being too hard on themselves and being heavily influenced by their inner critic sometimes stuck in that inner critic mode, or they won't take action that they want in their life. So could you walk our audience through how we could bring more self-compassion to life in our own life?
Speaker 3: Yeah. So it's actually not, it's difficult as you might think one really easy way to give yourself compassion. That kind of, if you're, if you're really stuck in your brain is just in the loop. In this thinking loop, you can bypass the brain and go to the body. So putting your hands on your heart, or maybe cradling your face, or you can be yourself, a little hug or holding your own hand. What happens is because compassion is rooted in the care system, which is linked to parasympathetic nervous system activity. Without going into that, you guys have probably talked about that, but like heart rate, variability, oxytocin and all those opiates. So we're designed by evolution to respond to that warm, caring, touch as a signal of safety and care. So if you give yourself some supportive touch, your body can respond physiologically, you know, cortisol gets reduced, heart rate variability goes up and you can actually, you can bypass the brain at least somewhat, and that can help set the stage to have your thoughts be more supportive.
Speaker 3: So that's one easy way. Another very easy ways to say, what would I say to my best friend if they were experiencing this exact same thing again? So it was like, well, okay, actually, I probably wouldn't say what I'm saying now. I, you know, what, what would I say that I think would actually be most helpful to my friend medicine means sugarcoating thing, like really helpful, warm kind, supportive, constructive feedback would be most helpful. And the feeling that I'm here for you. Well, then you can just do the same thing for yourself, right? It will feel a little weird. You know, I'm not going to lie. If you aren't used to it, it's going to feel awkward at first, but you get used to it over time, right? So that's one thing you can do. And then another thing you can do is, is you intentionally call in the three components of self-compassion.
Speaker 3: It's almost like baking a loaf of bread, right? You need one part mindfulness, one part common humanity, one part kindness. So what might that look like? It might look like mindfulness. Wow. This is really hard. I'm hurting. I'm feeling badly. This hurts common humanity. Well, I'm not alone. You know, it's not like everyone else in the world is perfect. You know, this is part of being human being this, you know, is nothing wrong with me fulfilling this way. This is part of being human. And then one part kindness, again, saying some words of support, encouragement, warrants, care toward yourself. Uh, w when you breathe, I find it in my research that explicitly bringing in these three components all together is really powerful.
Speaker 1: I think the mindfulness component we've talked a lot on the show. You've actually had Dan Harrison to talk about. That can be really difficult when we find ourselves falling into these very same patterns over and over again. And we don't even recognize that we're in the pattern. And if mindfulness, isn't a big part of our listeners' lives, what's a simple way that we can start working on that first ingredient.
Speaker 3: Big mindfulness was just like really the ability to have equanimity and to really be present with the tough stuff and meditation, which is a whole skillset deactivating, the default mode, all those things. That's big mindfulness, little mindfulness is just noticing that it hurts. That's all you really have to do to have. Self-compassion just notice that you're hurting, you know, and be willing to acknowledge it. So if you notice when you're upset, oh wow. I'm upset. Then that's all you need that little reminder say, okay, what are you? Oh, that's part of it. You need compassion. So common humanity. Well, it's part of being human to be upset, mean wrong with me. It's not like I'm the only one in the world who's experiencing this. What might I say to a friend who is experiencing this? You know, so again, it's not rocket science, it's just, but it is a practice because we aren't raised to be this way and it doesn't come completely naturally.
Speaker 1: And I'm curious in teaching your son, this practice, was there some cues that you, uh, brought in to really give him the space to do that? Is there something that looking for to, to bring it into his own life?
Speaker 3: Yeah, well, it's interesting because, you know, he was raised by a mindfulness and compassion teacher and I would try to, when he, he, you know, he's also autistic, so also made a challenge, but if you'd be really upset about something, I try to talk about self-compassion and, you know, cause I, of course, when you resist being upset, it just makes it worse. And he was spiral into these tantrums and I would try to help them, you know, just to acknowledge it and be kind to himself. And he quite literally, he would say, don't give me that self-compassion stuff, mommy. I don't want to accept the pain. I was like, cute. I'm gonna fight this pain. I'm not going to accept this pain. And it's like, okay, well you can try. I mean, good luck with that. I mean, what can you say as a mother except, you know, he had to figure it out himself, that that approach didn't work.
Speaker 3: And now, so now he's 19 and he's been in therapy and he's, you know, he's, he's really doing so well dealing with he's. Yeah. So as we've got it, he's got put it this way. He's got a few different comorbid diagnoses. Um, and I'm just so proud of him because I think I must say probably partly because of the way he was raised, he's really willing to look at it. He wants to work with it and now he won't put his hand on his heart and say something like, you know, I'm here for you, Rowan, you know, um, you know, um, what do you need? Things like that he's he can be warm to himself finally, but he had to come to it at his own time. You can't, you can't shove this down anyone's throat. He had to kind of see that the other way was working for him before he was really ready to try something new. And now he, he likes mindfulness and compassion and all of it.
Speaker 1: Well, that's such an interesting point of wanting to fight the pain. And many in our audience will say they want to fight their inner critic and they want to get an argument with it and try to overpower it with logic in hopes to get it to quiet down. And we know from the science that that just doesn't really work.
Speaker 3: No, actually, I don't know if you have had Dick Schwartz on here, internal family systems therapy, but so many ways we have, we can say we have different parts of ourselves. We sh I should probably call it selves compassion, technically, because we have an inner critic, we've got a compassionate part. We have a wounded child part, we've got a mature wise part. We have all these different parts. And so what happens if you try to shut down the inner critic? Because remember the inner critic is trying to keep you safe. The whole reason the inner critic is there is because, you know, it's maybe trying to protect you from your criticism of your father or trying to get you into shape. So you don't make mistakes or trying to, you know, shame you so that you won't be so wounded by others. It doesn't work very well, but the motivation of the inner critic is always to keep you safe.
Speaker 3: And if you try to shut it down, it will just scream that much louder. But if you say, so we have a whole exercise in the, in the mindful self-compassion program we developed where we actually give compassion to the inner credit. We say, you know, I see you're trying to help me. Hasn't been working out very well, but, you know, thank you so much for your efforts. I hear you. And then once you have kind of some understanding and appreciation for your inner critic, then it can say, okay, she hears me finally. All right, well, okay. I can let this other voice in, which is the more compassionate voice, but what will you resist, persists and grows stronger? I mean, acceptance and commitment therapy. It's really all about that. I mean, there's a lot of self-compassion, especially implicitly and acceptance and commitment therapy. I think now they're starting to bring it in more explicitly. You guys probably more know about, know more about that than me, but it's definitely totally imbued in the whole approach at least implicitly.
Speaker 2: Well, certainly for all the interviews that we've done. I mean, the folks whose always come off the most confident and the most successful all have a great working relationship with the worst aspects of themselves to the, to the degree though, even may even have a pet name for the worst aspects of themselves, of that inner of that inner critic. And they will have that dialogue. They will see that dialogue through to its end. And maybe there might be some, some logic in there as trying to calm them down. They'll have, there's probably some heated emotion as well, but it is. That is the drama of a emotional theater that has to happen between the, between the fictional character of your word of self and your to self to be basically to go through all the arguments and say, are we done? Can I move forward? Now? I have, you said everything that you needed to say to me, great, I'm moving forward.
Speaker 3: Well, sometimes we need to be drawing a fierce boundary with their inner critic, right? So sometimes we need to use fierce compassion also in we're not only protecting ourselves from others, but sometimes from those parts of ourselves, maybe just draw a boundary and saying, that's enough. I'm not going to listen to this right now, but then we also want the tender self-compassion when we're able to that kind of more accepting side, that warm side, that's really the healing power of self-compassion is that accepting nurturing energy. But there is also a place for drawing some pretty fierce boundaries. I call that mama bear self-compassion there's mama and mama bear, and both are really important aspects of being a caring person.
Speaker 2: Well, it's interesting that you bring up boundaries, uh, and with our clients, those who seem to be their worst critics also, for whatever reason, it's always correlated that they have, they don't have boundaries drawn up from friends and family who are taking advantage of them. So then they get put in this cycle, then they realize I've got to take advantage again. So now the inner critic comes out to beat them up. And of course, they're always going to rationalize it with I'm being kind. I have infinite amount of time and, and opportunities to help everybody. But without setting up those boundaries, you're giving your S so much of yourself out, and you're not focusing on the things that matter so that you are able to help people at your best.
Speaker 3: Exactly. And also the reason for help. So, so a lot of the reasons people don't say no, the real, you know, some people say yes, because they really authentic, really want to help. That's great. That's wonderful. It's admirable. But often we say yes, because we don't want other people to dislike us. And when we're doing it, because we're afraid of the judgments of others, or we want other people to like us, we want them to think we're a nice person is actually not authentic. And that's, that's where you get that correlation because we're, we don't feel confident enough in ourselves. We don't like ourselves enough to risk. You know, maybe they won't like me as much. If I say no, well, that's okay. Like myself, you know, this is important to me. I'm going to do, what's authentic for me. And to be able to do that, to draw boundaries, there needs to be some sense of self-worth that comes from the inside, as opposed to just the approval of others, which is one of the, another thing self-compassion gives us. Non-contingent self-worth less need for social approvals. One of the big, important benefits of it.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I'd like to unpack that a little bit more because I feel like social approval is really a big driving force for many people listening to the show and that that want and need to be accepted in the community. No one wants to be in the outgroup. So we find ourselves battling to others' expectations of us going outside of our own needs and wants to please them becoming people, pleasers, et cetera. So how does this all come together?
Speaker 3: One way I've talked about this distinction is really the distinction between self-esteem and self-compassion. So self-esteem is an evaluation of self-worth self-compassion is giving yourself like unconditional kindness and support whether or not you're worthy. You know, it's just kinda like whether you failed or you succeeded, it's just, you know, being kind yourself regardless. So self-esteem, there's, there's healthy. Self-esteem, there's, [inaudible] unconditional self-esteem, but usually self-esteem is contingent. It's contingent on through the three main areas. Actually they find in the research are social approval, perceived attractiveness and success, whether that's business or sports, whatever's important to you. And, um, that contingency is a problem. Because again, if people don't approve of us or if we don't succeed, or if we don't look the way we want to look, we feel badly about ourselves. We hate ourselves and we start self criticizing and it really is this downward spiral.
Speaker 3: So one of the things we know from the research is that self-compassion reduces the contingency of self-worth right. Again, because you're you're whether you succeed or fail, you're still worthy. Whether you're looking like you want to or not, you're still worthy. You know, whether other people like, or not, you're still worthy because again, your worth is, it comes from this just from being a human being who suffers, like that's how you got to do to have self, to be a human being who suffers. And that's a box that can always be checked. And so, because you have this more incandescent, unconditional stable source of self-worth, your self-esteem doesn't need to be so contingent on these outside sources.
Speaker 2: I think that's a big piece of why it's so difficult for somebody who hasn't set up boundaries in the past to then all of a sudden know that they have to put these boundaries up and they're going to be terrified of how it it's going to be taken, because those people have always had that access. And so now they're being told no for the first time. And that can be a shock because that reaction, that person has now changed. They're not the same person. They're not as open as they used to be to these requests.
Speaker 3: That's why self-compassion is so important every step of the way. So self-compassion helps you draw the boundary because you care about yourself. Self-compassion also helps you deal with the fear of drawing the boundary. Our I'm really afraid. This is hard. And if you do get a bad reaction and let's face it, you might, you know, how do you hold the pain with it? How do you relate to yourself when your mother's mad at you? Because you didn't do it. She won't, you know, you have to be able to relate to that pain. So self-compassion is really needed every step of the way. And that also sometimes, you know, someone may make a choice will actually add, I really don't want to say yes, but in this situation, maybe it's your boss, or, you know, maybe sometimes you don't have the choice you, you would like to have.
Speaker 3: Sometimes people, it's kind of a, some people aren't able to draw the boundaries that they'd like to because they aren't as privileged, you know, maybe you're discriminated against, or you're in tenuous situation, or a lot of external factors come into play. So we also don't want people to think that if I don't, if I don't draw a boundary, I'm a whip, you know, that's, that's not good either. We just want to like, do the best we can given our circumstances with as much kindness and support and care as we possibly can. And no one on the outside can tell you what's right for you.
Speaker 1: It seems to me that self-compassion plays a huge role in resilience and your ability to bounce back from these life events,
Speaker 3: Huge role, huge role. So I'll just give you one study. As an example, there was a study of a combat veterans who served overseas in either Iraq or Afghanistan and the, and those, those soldiers who are, how self-compassionate they were, were more predict, was more predictive of whether or not they develop PTSD, then the level of combat exposure, right? So in other words, even more important for trauma that how much solver you faced with how you relate to yourself in the aftermath of that trauma. And so soldiers who are self-compassionate, they're less likely to develop PTSD. They're less likely to have suicidal ideation. They're less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with their pain. They function better, you know, and that's in so many domains, whether it's dealing with cancer or chronic pain or raising a special needs kid or, or the pandemic does that.
Speaker 3: So research on the pandemic. So self-compassion really, the reason self-compassion is so absolutely key is because it's how we are with suffering. Passion means to suffer calm means with how we are with our suffering. How do we relate to our suffering and our suffering? You know, the pain, the difficulty, the distress of fear, you know, physical, mental, all of it. This is what derails us. When we get overwhelmed by our pain, we stopped, it stopped functioning as well. So how do we accompany ourselves? Who the journey of life when suffering comes up? Well, if you have compassion, if you have war support, kindness care, mindfulness, sense of interconnection, this is what gets you through. I mean, F you know, this is why I'm such an evangelist about it. I think very hard to survive well, without it, to be honest, I'm surprised so many people do as well as a say, too, because it makes things so much harder is, is that we have the super power in our back pocket that we can give ourselves.
Speaker 3: It does absolutely. You know, at three in the morning when no one else is around and your mind is just full of the story or the shame you can pull self-compassion out of your back pocket, you can hold the pain of it, recognize it. This is part of life, you're it, you're connected. It's, you know, your part is not, it's also not just you, you're part of a much larger story and open your heart to yourself with work, kindness, care support. And I, you know, I've, I've had those dark nights of the soul, like everyone, and I can tell you firsthand, it really gets you through.
Speaker 1: And I think with that also gives you the context to explore it a little bit more. So when I think of those sleepless nights, those moments of just absolute stress and panic, and I bring self compassion into it, I bring the interconnectedness into it. And then I think in the past 10 years, how many other times have I felt this way? And how long has that been? What's the duration been and it passes. And it gives you that context to allow that extreme pain and suffering to pass without carrying it day in and day out, and also damaging your relationships. And I've noticed during the pandemic, I've had moments of high self-compassion, where I'm going to get through this and our business turmoil is okay. And then I've had moments of low self-compassion, where I can't bring myself to be compassionate towards myself. And then of course, I see it impacting my relationship with my fiance. I see it, uh, in me, withdrawing from friends and not wanting to share and be present. So self-compassion not only impacts us. It impacts everyone in our lives.
Speaker 3: Oh, it does. And many levels actually. So, so for instance, people are more, self-compassionate make better relationship partners. People like part department is better. If they're more self-compassionate for, for, for a lot of reasons. One is that again, you just have more resources to give to others when you're, when you're more resourced. You're, you've got more work internally. You've got more available to give externally, but also, because the way, the way, the way the brain works with a mirror neuron system, right? So we are constantly impacting each other emotionally at the pre-verbal level. So maybe you're kind of keeping it under wraps, but if you're like depressed and like you're ruminating and you're hating yourself, other people can feel that to their own mirror neurons. This is just like an evolved capacity, the human brain. So if you're, if your inside is filled with like warmth and kindness and support and care and feelings of connection, you actually give that gift to every single person you come into contact with. And it can be, especially those people you really close to, you know, just like their secondary traumatic stress, or you feel the trauma of others is you might say there's secondary self-compassion right. So this is a gift you give to your children, to your loved ones, to your friends is what you bring into the world. Are you bringing a mindful of compassion and love? Are you bringing a mindful of like hatred and criticism and harsh judgment? You know, of course it affects others.
Speaker 1: And I think, especially with us being in this lockdown state where we don't get much of an outlet to not be around people who might not be feeling that level of self-compassion, I'd love to switch gears a little bit and talk about perfectionism, because I know we have a lot of perfectionists in our audience. It comes up quite a bit in the questions they ask us. And it sounds pretty challenging if you are a perfectionist to bring self-compassion into the equation, especially when you have big goals and dreams for yourself. So what is the relationship there and how do we become more supportive if we are a perfectionist,
Speaker 3: Right? So self-compassion and reduces maladaptive perfectionism. But soon as they call it, adaptive, perfection is basically high standards. Having high standards for yourself. That's very adaptive. So self-compassion does not lower your standards. That's a complete misnomer. The idea that somehow, if I'm self-compassionate, I won't aim as high, I might, you know, what's so put, put it this way. We confuse our behavior with ourselves. So it was, again, we work a top level athletes. Your standard may be incredibly high and maybe your performance isn't good enough, but just because your performance isn't good enough to make you happy. It doesn't mean that you aren't good enough. Right. And so what happens with maladaptive perfectionism? Is there, again, our sense of self worth gets wrapped up in our performance. If I don't reach my goal, if I don't get that a plus, if I don't win the national championship, sometimes that means I am a bad person.
Speaker 3: Right. And unfortunately, it just makes it so it's so much harder to learn from your mistakes to grow, to get back up on that horse again, when you're full of shame, because you're a bad person. I mean, shame is not exactly a great motivator. We think it is, but it's not. So again, you can be as exacting as you want to be with your behavior, with your performance, recognizing that. Yeah. Okay. My perf I was a failure, right? It's not good enough, but I'm good enough. And because I care about myself and if this goal really is important to me now, of course, you may, you may realize the self-compassion that maybe your goals aren't so much about your authentic wants and needs may be someone else thinks you should be this person to be worthy. So it also may have you questioned your goals, but if they are truly your authentic goals, you want to be the absolute best. You can be self compassion will support you on that goal. It won't hinder you.
Speaker 1: That's such a key point is I know for myself growing up, many of my goals were simply my family's goals for me. They were the goals of others and bringing in self-compassion in those moments of defeat, in those moments of failure allowed me to reorient. This is not important to me. Yes. This is important to my social group. This is important to my family. And therefore I'm drawing my self esteem from it, but it's not really that important to me. And that allowed me to make the difficult decision to leave graduate school, to start the business, to make choices in my life for me, for once versus for others.
Speaker 2: I certainly know a lot of people with maladaptive perfectionism. And I would imagine with, with athletes that is quite entwined to, uh, two together, uh, where do you begin to help unwind those two things? So they can make that separation and then start doing the work for building the self-compassion that they're going to need to reach those ridiculous expectations.
Speaker 3: Yeah. So, so I have a dissertation student right now who we just, she just developed a self-compassionate intervention for top level athletes. She named it fail better because athletes like to do everything better. So it's really because what athletes really care about most is how to improve their performance. That's really the name of the game. If you're at a top level athlete, and we know that we S we know we treat it as a truism, that failures are best teacher, and yet we act like we shouldn't fail. Well, how are we going to learn if it's not okay to fail? So again, this thing of separating the performance is, is that it's a behavior. Is it, you know, that the, the shot good enough or whatever from the person. So when you confuse yourself with your performance and you criticize, or you shame yourself is actually going to undermine your performance because you'll have anxiety, right.
Speaker 3: Performance, anxiety, as we know, and we, maybe we're excited about it, but if we like shame ourselves, we're just like so worried, oh my God, what if I mess up? Or if you miss that shot and like you freeze, then you've lost the game. So it was like, okay, Mr. [inaudible], I'll do it better next time. And like, what can I learn from this constant failure getting feedback? So we, we developed a whole practice of self compassionate feedback, where you use the failure as a way to give you constructive feedback about how to improve. And athletes were all over it. They loved it. They ate it up first. They were a little wary, but once they saw what I actually did, they were all in because of it helps you gain, man, there they're all over it.
Speaker 1: Well, I think a big part of that is recognizing what you can control and improve. Right? So, as we were talking about earlier, a lot of us fuse our identity to our behaviors. We think about variables that we have no control over, and that impacts the result. And then all of a sudden we're judging our own performance really harshly. We have to be able to separate those things that we just absolutely can't control so that we can fail better.
Speaker 3: Right. Exactly. And then we can also really, really important learn from our mistakes. I mean, it is true. This is how we learn. We learn from our failures, we learn from making mistakes and it wasn't Thomas Edison that said like, you know, something like a thousand times of getting it wrong before I got it right. Or some, some, some quote like that. But, um, but self-compassion is what allows you to learn and grow from your mistakes. And that's why it's so such an important key for success in life.
Speaker 1: Now, I would be remiss without asking you, my dad was always on me harshly for any sort of laziness or procrastination. And how do we strike that balance? Because it does seem that if we overcompensate on the self-compassion, we could fall into a place of inaction and not taking those learnings and actually acting on them. Yeah.
Speaker 3: So there's a pretty strong research literature that shows self-compassion reduces procrastination, right? Because what is press procrastination? Procrastination is basically offered like fear of failure or just like, you know, not wanting to deal with the discomfort of doing a difficult task. So again, anything can be misused. You may think you be, you may fool yourself into thinking you're being self-compassionate by putting it off, I'll just have another hit the snooze button. 10 more times. You aren't really being self-compassionate. You have to be on the look on, look out for it because the brain can be very tricky. If it's self-compassionate is going to be asking, what do I need to be? Well, what, what, what do I, what what's most important, by the way, it settles an easy question to answer, but you're where you're sincerely asking the question. Um, and if what you need is to get up out of bed, as opposed to hitting the snooze button, that's what you're going to do. If you're, if you're truly self-compassionate again, like I say too much, self-compassion is kind of an oxymoron. Can you have too much health and wellbeing? Well, again, if, if so, then it's like no longer health and wellbeing. So it's,
Speaker 1: Well, that being honest with yourself is key,
Speaker 3: But you have to be honest with yourself. And by the way, you know, it allows you to be honest with yourself. Self-compassion, it's true. For instance, um, there's research showing that it helps you take personal responsibility for your mistakes. People think it means you're gonna blow off in past mistakes, quite the opposite, because it makes it safe to acknowledge your mistakes. It makes it safe to look at yourself and say, wow, I really messed up. Or I really hurt someone or, Ooh, that's ugly. So if you're self-critical you, aren't going to be able to say like, Ooh, what I just said was ugly with self-compassion you've got the ability, like the, the mindfulness gives you the spaciousness and the kindness gives you the warmth and say, okay, well this is part of being human, you know, it's it happened. It happens just because I did something bad. Does it mean like, um, it repairable, I can beyond hope so I can look at it. I can hold it. And then what they find is self compassion actually motivates you to try to repair those farms you've made or repair those mistakes. So with, but without the emotional safety to do it, you just aren't even going to go there.
Speaker 1: Yeah. It actually gives you the opportunity to improve on whatever that action or mistake was versus living in self criticism, which doesn't provide any opportunity for that improvement.
Speaker 3: And it's self criticism is usually not clear sighted. It's not constructive, you know, again, when you're just saying, oh, you're stupid. Like, you know, w how does that useful information? You're a stupid, lazy slob. How's that going to help instead of saying, well, actually I noticed that you were sitting at your computer for three hours and, you know, maybe if you were to like, you know, get up and take a walk that might actually be more helpful.
Speaker 1: Well, that's actually really powerful because I think a lot of procrastination is that emotion that's going on and dysregulation with the emotion that keeps you from taking that action. If you bring in self-compassion, you can actually manage those difficult emotions and not let them lead you to the recliner to be lazy. Right?
Speaker 3: Exactly.
Speaker 1: We love asking every guest what their X factor is, what makes them extraordinary. I have a feeling what your answer might be. It's been a similar answer, much of the show, but what is your X-Factor Dr. Neff?
Speaker 3: Yeah. Well, I mean, so I certainly didn't come up with the idea of self-compassion. I learned it when I was studying in a tic, not Han Tsonga ticket hands, a Buddhist teacher who talks a lot about self-compassion. But yeah, so I think devoting my life to self-compassion is not only help the world, but it's really helped me personally, you know, again, through some really dark times as well. So there's really no day in which I don't use. Self-compassionate it's just part is any, any moment I struggle to suffer, it's become really habit for me now, by the way, I should also say here's another quote for your perfectionist. The goal of practice is simply to become a compassionate mess. So I'm still a mess. I still get it wrong all the time. I saw reactive all those things, but I have learned to be a compassionate mess. And that's really enough, you know, having the open heart, having that compassion, that actually becomes your goal. Not getting it. It's not about getting it right. It's about opening your heart. And, um, that's my, that's my X factor.
Speaker 1: Well, I think all athletes recognize that perfection is impossible. So when you're aiming for making every shot, when you're aiming for winning everyone over, when you're aiming for every first state to go perfectly, you often are going to fall, fail, fall short, not reach that goal, but we don't want to live in the mess. We want to be compassionate towards ourselves to move beyond the
Speaker 3: Mess. That's exactly right. Exactly.
Speaker 1: Thank you so much for joining us. This is a lot of fun and where can our audience find out more about your work and self-compassion, and of course your fantastic new book fear self-compassion
Speaker 3: Well, it's actually quite easy if you just Google self-compassion I got in early. So all the algorithms lead to me spell it any which way you going even have to use the dash. It doesn't matter. You'll find my website, self-compassion dot org. And I have a lot of free guided practices on there. I've got a ton of research articles by all sorts of authors, scientists. I have, um, videos. There's also links to, um, like you can, you know, do an online workshop or a link to the training arm of what I do, which is the center for mindful. Self-compassion like, if you want to take the self-compassion training course online, there's a lot of those available, and you can link to that through my website as well.
Speaker 1: And our head coach, Michael did take one of your online trainings, a four day intensive, actually. And he said to say, hello, we've fused a lot of your self-compassion principles in our unstoppable program to help those who are struggling with social anxiety and fear of failure. Great,
Speaker 3: Wonderful.
Speaker 4: [inaudible]
Speaker 1: Johnny. The episodes I love the most are the ones that are practical that after recording this episode, I'm applying in my own life and self-compassion is one of those areas that I know I need to keep working at. We talked a lot with her today about our background and upbringing and how hard we can be on ourselves and bringing self-compassion to the table. I have no doubt is going to help us overcome that inner critic.
Speaker 2: I got to say, I've worked with you for 15 years now, and an entrepreneurial relationship with this podcast and everything that we do at the art of charm. And I will second that you could use a dose of self-compassion. I think all of us can, especially in the turbulent world that we all live in.
Speaker 1: Thanks for that, Johnny. I appreciate your candor. Now let's get to this week, shout out. It goes to none other than Colin. Who's a member of our X-Factor accelerator. Now he joined us this past Tuesday to talk a little bit about how his life has evolved since joining the program. In fact, before joining X-Factor, his lifestyle was exhausting. Him and his dating life was taking up way too much of his time with options. He really wasn't that interested in, and of course it's difficult when you find yourself in that pattern to start to assert yourself, create boundaries and get that time and space and energy back to develop yourself. When Collin actually learned our boundary drawing framework and started applying it in his dating life. Well, his dating life took off. He's now found women in his life that he's excited to meet while carving out time and space for himself to go after his hobbies, his passions and side hustles. That's right.
Speaker 2: Hey Jay. He even feels lighter and has more energy and is very excited to use that same boundary framework in other areas of his life. And that's the beauty of the X-Factor accelerator. So what are you all waiting for? Come join us in the X-Factor so we can celebrate your wins, unlock your X-Factor dot com
Speaker 1: That's right. Apply today and join Collin and the rest of our community at unlock your X-Factor dot com.
Speaker 2: Oh, so could you do us an, the entire art of charm team, a huge favor, head on over to iTunes and rate and review the podcast. It means the world does and helps others find the show and it helps us get great guests.
Speaker 1: That's right. Thank you for all the support. Go out there and have an epic week.
Speaker 4: Yeah, [inaudible].
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