Self-Esteem vs. Self-Compassion

Recently, I watched a TED talk by Dr. Kristen Neff titled, “The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion,” and it really hit home with me. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-deprecation, as I am sure several of my classmates are as well.

Dr. Neff talked about how self-esteem is the most common way to gauge how a person feels about him or herself, and how in the American culture, it is insulting to be “average.” We NEED to feel special or above average to believe we have any self-worth.

What this need leads to, she explained, is people over-valuing themselves, and putting others down in order to feel better.

“There is an epidemic of narcissism in this culture,” Dr. Neff said.

She went on to point out that along with the narcissism, there is an epidemic of bullying and racism because people are always looking for something to be wrong with their peers in order to build themselves up.

This is where self-compassion comes in. Instead of relying on self-esteem – which is contingent on success – to help us feel better about ourselves, Dr. Neff suggests we rely on self-compassion – showing understanding and empathy to ourselves.

“Treat yourself with the same care and concern that you would a good friend,” she said.

Along with that, instead of focusing on how you are different from everyone else, focus on how much you have in common – no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.

Dr. Neff said as humans, we believe we need our self-criticism to motivate ourselves, but in fact, self-criticism only leads to higher stress levels and lower productivity levels, and our bodies will eventually shut down and go into a depressive state.

Self-compassion, however, will allow us to give ourselves a break and accept that we are never going to be perfect, and we’ll continue to be productive and work to improve ourselves.

“When we’re kind, we are in the optimal mind state to do our best,” Dr. Neff said. “Just when self-esteem deserts you, self-compassion steps in and gives you a sense of value.”

In this fast-paced age of social media and technology always at our fingertips, it is a great idea to sit back once in a while and self-reflect and get in touch with ourselves and what is actually going on in our lives.

“The more we are able to keep our hearts open to ourselves, “Dr. Neff said, “The more we have available to give to others.”

I have included the link and I encourage everyone to watch it – and take notes.

Until Next Time,

Trina Jo


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