Is self-compassion the key to a healthy workplace?

Self-Compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff describes the myriad benefits of self-compassion.  Among them, she found that:

“…higher levels of self-compassion were significantly linked to more perspective taking, less personal distress, and greater forgiveness. Self-compassion was linked to compassion for humanity, empathetic concern, and altruism among adults (source).”

I certainly want to come to work with colleagues who have perspective, are less stressed, who forgive mistakes and are altruistic. More than that, I want to BE¬†someone who brings that compassionate energy to the office. Don’t you? Whether you are the CEO or the janitor, you can cultivate self-compassion and subsequently bring it into your workplace, contributing to a healthier culture. When we treat ourselves with compassion, we not only strengthen our own ability to deal with stress and adversity, but we become better at supporting those around us with their challenges. So what is self-compassion, and how does it play out in our work? Dr. Neff outlines three elements (that I have unceremoniously paraphrased):
  1. Treating yourself with kindness, instead of judgment in the face of suffering, failure, or feelings of inadequacy. (Trade that inner-critic for a more supportive persona.)
  2. Acknowledge our sufferings and failures as part of the common human experience. (Take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone in this, aka, everybody poops.)
  3. Practicing mindfulness with our negative emotions so we don’t suppress nor exaggerate them. (This sucks, it’s ok to feel like it sucks, but also – keep some perspective.)
Because things will go wrong at work (it’s an inevitability), it’s critical to be able to handle mishaps, mistakes, and even disasters. When our response to a mistake lacks self-compassion, a la, “I’m such a moron. What kind of person would do that?” we tend to make the problem worse. Why? Because we are a) less likely to be able to come up with a solution when we are consumed with negativity, and b) we are less likely to fess up to the mistake to ask for help from someone else. After all, if we think we’re alone in our failings, we don’t think anyone else will understand. In another scenario, I make a mistake and respond with self-compassion. “Ah, sh*t! I totally dropped the ball on that follow-up. I have had a lot on my plate, and everybody drops the ball sometimes.” With self-compassion, I’m able to feel the stress of having made a mistake without blowing it out of proportion. Since I’m not consumed by awfulness, I can also come up with a solution (perhaps sending the follow-up now or asking a colleague to help) and own up to it, mitigating any snowball effects. On the flip side, if I have self-compassion, I’ll also be able to show compassion for colleagues when they are suffering, make mistakes, or otherwise struggle. I’ll be able to show the same compassionate response to others. This compassionate culture contributes to psychological safety, which has been linked to better productivity, more creativity, and overall healthier work environments. If you struggle with an inner-critic that you think may be holding you back, sign up for the Self-Love Agenda. It’s an eight-week program designed to help you learn to value yourself as you are and to treat yourself as someone worthy of love. Registration for the next cycle is open now through March 1 and the program starts the following Monday. I hope you’ll join us!]]>

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