Being mean to others isn’t going to win you any leadership points, guaranteed. But self-compassion is a key factor for success too. Without it, as you hit the inevitable failuresthat come with experimenting and learning, both the confidence and energy you need to interact, generate ideas, and overcome difficulties fade fast. So it’s worth hitting pause for a second and assessing if your kindness to yourself needs a level up.
In The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope offers a quick, no-fuss version of a self-compassion test adapted from the Self-Compassion Scale. The 12 statements used for that test that you’re supposed to consider are as follows:
- I try to be understanding and patient toward those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
- When something painful happens, I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
- I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
- When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
- When something upsets me, I try to keep my emotions in balance.
- When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
- When I fail at something important to me, I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
- When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.
- When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.
- When I’m feeling down, I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.
- I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
- I’m intolerant and impatient toward those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
I recommend that you take the NYT quiz to get your custom self-compassion score and have a better sense of how much personal work you might have to do. But simply looking at the questions themselves, you can see that, while they’re related, self-compassion isn’t the same as self-care. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re self-compassionate just because you took the time yesterday to indulge in a bubble bath or bought yourself that reward you wanted last week.
Self-compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin, has three key elements. These are
- Self-kindness vs. self-judgment
- Common humanity vs. isolation
- Mindfulness vs. over-identification
These elements mean that, if you practice self-compassion, you recognize that perfection isn’t possible. Subsequently, you don’t criticize yourself if you fall short. You do try to understand what it is that held you back and what you need. And if something goes wrong, you don’t egotistically think that there’s something magical about you that’s pinned you for more imperfection, suffering, or vulnerability than anybody else. You realize that you’re not an exception to the rule and that it’s the human condition to sometimes screw up and not get what we want. And, finally, you stay aware of how you feel in a balanced way. You acknowledge your emotions for what they are without getting lost in or judging them, and as both a participant and a more objective observer to those feelings, you have the clarity and larger perspective necessary to figure out the best way to move forward.
If you find that it’s difficult for you to do any of these three things, think hard about what negative implicit biases you’ve learned about yourself and where they might come from. When thoughts based on those biases crop up, every single time, flood yourself with positive messages to teach yourself of a new bias, one that’s true. Then surround yourself with encouraging people. As they see the best in you and offer compassion, it will be easier for you to see the best in you and be kind to yourself too.