What are the benefits of self-compassion?

Ronald Siegel
Research has revealed a number of benefits of self-compassion. Lower levels of anxiety and depression have been observed in people with higher self-compassion, Kristin Neff, associate professor of human development at the University of Texas, Austin says. Self-compassionate people recognize that they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, thereby lowering their anxiety and depression.

According to Neff, another benefit is greater wisdom and emotional intelligence, suggesting that self-compassion is a wise way to deal with stress and other difficulties in life. Several types of well-being have been documented to be associated with self-compassion, including feelings of social connection and life satisfaction. Some research suggests that self-compassionate people experience more happiness, optimism, curiosity, and positive attitude compared with people who are less self-compassionate.

In terms of motivation, self-compassionate people have been found to aim just as high as others but with the recognition that they may not always reach their goals. Self-compassionate people display less self-handicapping behavior, such as procrastination, than those who lack self-compassion. And they are motivated to learn and grow but are not as concerned with performance goals or the desire to enhance self-esteem. "Thus self-compassionate people are motivated to achieve, but for intrinsic reasons, not because they want to garner social approval," Neff asserts.

Behaviors that foster better health may also be linked to self-compassion, including the motivation to control weight and quit smoking.

Even interpersonal relationships may benefit from self-compassion. In one study, the partners of self-compassionate people described them as being more emotionally connected, accepting, and supporting of autonomy. They were also described as less detached, controlling, and verbally or physically aggressive than those who were less self-compassionate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.