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The self-compassionate way to success

Try this simple test designed by a psychology professor to learn self-compassion, which experts say is a key to real happiness.

January 30, 2021 / 02:25 PM IST

People often advise us to stop being hard on ourselves and to learn self-compassion. But not all of us know exactly how to go about it. Most of us only have a vague, superficial understanding of the concept.

Now there are some specific guidelines that could help. They are in the form of a simple self-test devised by Kristin Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas.

“Most of us have a good friend in our lives, who is kind of unconditionally supportive,” Neff said, according to the BBC. “Self-compassion is learning to be that same warm, supportive friend to yourself.”

This approach entails forgiving our mistakes and making a focussed effort towards self-care during times of disappointment or embarrassment.

Neff has come up with a kind of a self-help quiz for people to answer and rate themselves on a scale of 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always). The points are divided in two sets. The first set is:


I try to be loving toward myself when I’m feeling emotional pain.

I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.

When something painful happens, I try to take a balanced view of the situation.

The second set is:

I’m disapproving and judgmental about my flaws and inadequacies.

When I think about my inadequacies it tends to make me feel more separate and cut off from the rest of the world.

When I’m feeling down, I tend to fixate on everything that’s wrong.

If you more or less agree with the first set of statements, and not as much with the second, your self-compassion level is high.

The BBC reports that Neff, who went through a difficult phase after a divorce, has based some of her findings on interviews with “hundreds of undergraduate students.” She found a clear link between excessive self-criticism and depression and anxiety. Conversely, those that were kinder on themselves had greater satisfaction from life.

The study also established that self-compassion was distinct from self-esteem. A person could have high self-esteem, and yet be hard on themselves after perceived failures.

Historically, some individuals with above-average talent and ambitions wore their habit of being tough on themselves as a badge of honour. But times have changed, and such an approach, research indicates, is not healthy anymore
Akshay Sawai
first published: Jan 30, 2021 02:20 pm
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