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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 25th 2013

If you’re human you’ve experienced that harsh critical voice inside of your head. In fact, this voice often treats us harsher than we would ever treat any of our friends and even the people we dislike.  When it pops up we spend a lot of energy resisting or fighting with it only to feel more depleted and defective. But there’s another strategy, one that is far more effective and feels a whole lot better. 

Kristin Neff, PhD has dedicated the latter part of her career to studying the skill of self-compassion. In her research she notes three core components to self-compassion:

  1. Treating with kindness versus harsh self-judgment (encouragement, understanding, empathy, gentleness).

  2. Common Humanity – self-esteem says how am I different than others, self-compassion how am I the same as others. All people are imperfect. That is a shared human experience.

  3. Mindfulness or awareness. 

In American culture the trend has been to try and increase our self-esteem, but this can be a trap. To have high self-esteem means experiencing ourselves as special or above average. To be told we’re average is an insult and can make us feel awful. So our brain’s strategy is to compare ourselves to others, put others down as a way to puff ourselves up. 

This strategy not only is short lived, but ultimately makes us feel disconnected which is at the heart of dis-ease. 

Here is Kristin giving a Tedx Talk about The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion:

The way to shift our brain’s maladaptive strategy starts with mindfulness or awareness. In that awareness, we have the opportunity to know what we need which is often some form of kindness. We can also become aware of our common humanity, that millions, if not billions of others struggle with whatever it is that we’re struggling with in the moment. 

Practice Kristin’s three core components today and see if you can even bring them in during the difficult moments .See what you notice. 

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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