I couldn’t resist reviewing and commenting on the attached article by Kristin Neff. Her work on self-compassion is integral to The Daring Way™, Brene´Brown’s shame resilience and vulnerability curriculum that I facilitate with individuals and groups. Self-compassion is an essential component of the Daring Way™ model. It’s seen, not as an attribute that people either do or don’t possess, but as a practice that we have to cultivate over time. In the Daring Way™ we talk about how if you’re going to show up and be seen at vulnerable moments you must be able to practice self-kindness and recognize that when we screw up we’re not alone – everyone screws up sometimes. We have to be willing to take risks, screw up, getting back up, and try again. Without a little self-compassion it’s tough to get up and try again.

In this article Kristin Neff describes five myths about self-compassion that make it hard for us to practice self-kindness: 1) Self compassion is a form of self-pity, 2) self-compassion means weakness, 3) self-compassion makes one complacent, 4) self-compassion is narcissistic, and 5) self-compassion is selfish. These five myths tend to be compelling because they’re reflective of our dominant cultural beliefs that in order to be a good person we have to be really hard on ourselves.

I’m struck by how similar these myths are to the four myths of vulnerability: 1) vulnerability is weakness, 2) we can opt out of vulnerability, 3) vulnerability is over-sharing, and 4) we don’t need vulnerability if we can go it alone. The problem is that we’re living in a culture that values self-flagellation, perfectionism and comparison so it’s hard to see that being kind to oneself during tough times could be anything but weakness. If you read through Neff’s article, however, you will easily see the fallacy in this position. She describes the research that debunks the myths about self-compassion and demonstrates that high levels of self-compassion are associated with better ability to refocus on others rather than remaining stuck in shame and self-criticism. Self-compassion, it turns out, is not only indicative of strong coping skills and high levels of resilience, but is in many ways the opposite of narcissism and completely incompatible with selfishness.



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