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Body Image

6 Reasons to Treat Yourself Better

Self-compassion makes you feel better and increases your chances of success.

Nesolenaya Alexandra/Shutterstock
Source: Nesolenaya Alexandra/Shutterstock

Do you ever call yourself names? Do you replay your mistakes in your head over and over again? If so, you’re not alone: Harsh self-criticism is pretty common. But beating yourself up for your mistakes and punishing yourself for your failures can backfire because being too tough on yourself may hinder your performance. Multiple studies show that treating yourself with more kindness could be the best way to gain better results.

The Key Components of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion strikes a balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement. Rather than getting down on yourself for making a mistake, or hosting a pity party when you encounter hardship, self-compassion involves taking a kind, but realistic view of your experience. Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a pioneer in self-compassion research, explains that self-compassion has three main components:

  1. Self-kindness. Replace harsh self-criticism with kinder, gentler words.
  2. Common humanity. Acknowledge that suffering and personal failure is a universal experience.
  3. Mindfulness. Observe your negative emotions without focusing on them or suppressing them.

The Benefits of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion offers tremendous benefits that can help you become more successful. Research continues to uncover the incredible social, psychological, and physical health benefits associated with self-kindness:

1. It increases motivation.

Self-compassion can increase your motivation to recover from failure, according to a 2011 study conducted by the University of California. Researchers discovered that subjects spent more time studying for a difficult test following an initial failure when they practiced self-compassion. Participants also reported greater motivation to change their weaknesses when they practiced self-acceptance.

2. It boosts happiness.

Self-compassion is associated with better moods and positive characteristics, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality. Researchers concluded that self-compassion was linked to happiness, optimism, wisdom, personal initiative, and curiosity.

3. It improves body image.

Multiple studies have linked self-compassion to a healthier body image and decreased body shame. A 2012 study published in Body Image found that people who practiced self-compassion experienced less preoccupation with their appearance, fewer concerns about weight, and greater appreciation toward their bodies.

4. It enhances self-worth.

While high self-esteem often depends on external circumstances and social comparisons, self-compassion comes from within. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Personality reported that self-compassion allows you to continue feeling good despite instances of failure, perceived inadequacy, and imperfection.

5. It fosters resilience to adversity.

A little kindness toward yourself can go a long way to helping you get through rough times. Studies consistently show that self-compassion is often a key component in overcoming adversity. For example, a 2011 study published in Psychological Science reported that higher levels of self-compassion are related to improved emotional recovery following marital separation and divorce.

6. It reduces psychological distress.

Higher levels of self-compassion are linked to decreased mental health problems. A 2012 study published in Clinical Psychology Review discovered that self-compassion decreases psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression. The study also found that a self-compassionate view reduces the harmful effects of stress.

Cultivate Self-Compassion

If you tend to dwell on your mistakes or think you aren’t ever good enough, you could benefit from practicing a little more self-compassion. Ironically, accepting yourself for who you are may help you become better. Many exercises can help you take a more self-compassionate approach. For starters, talk to yourself like you would speak to a trusted friend. Additionally, coach yourself in a supportive manner when you’re trying to recover from setbacks. Saying kinder things to yourself won’t just help you feel better, it could also help you perform better.

Learn more in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being published in more than 20 languages.

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