Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Self-compassion is more important to success than self-esteem

Heidi Grant Halvorson, writing for the HBR Blog Network, asserts that self-esteem, rather than being a useful tool for enabling high performance, may instead be destructive.

Rather, the idea of self-compassion, forgiving yourself for mistakes and failures, is more beneficial, and may drive success. Writes Halvorson:

A growing body of research, including new studies by Berkeley's Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.

Now, I know that some of you are already skeptical about a term like "self-compassion." But this is a scientific, data-driven argument — not feel-good pop psychology. So hang in there and keep an open mind.

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding — it's embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego. It's not surprising that self-compassion leads, as many studies show, to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness, and to less anxiety and depression.

Self-compassion is a core ingredient of grit, which you've read about here in the past. Self-compassion makes it safer to admit error and share stories of mistakes, which has the powerful benefit of raising the knowledge of an entire team or company.

Sharing stories about mistakes and failure is another way to enable self-compassion. It helps us understand we are not alone in stumbling from time to time. That's one of the purposes of this blog and of the Mistake Bank book, currently in process.

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