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Kristin Neff, PhD University of Texas at Austin Self-Compassion and Individual Flourishing

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Kristin Neff, PhDUniversity of Texas at Austin

Self-Compassion and Individual Flourishing

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Global evaluation of self-worth

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For years self-esteem was seen as the ultimate marker of wellbeing

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Potential problems with high self-esteem

Not if you have it, but how you get it

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The need to be special and above average

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Social Comparison

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Bullying and Prejudice

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Contingency of Self-Worth

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Three components of


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Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment:

Treating self with care and understanding rather than harsh judgment

Actively soothing and comforting oneself

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Common humanity vs. Isolation

Seeing own experience as part of larger human experience not isolating

Recognizing that life is imperfect (us too!)

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Mindfulness vs. Over-identification

Allows us to “be” with painful feelings as they are Avoiding extremes of suppressing or running away with

painful feelings

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Why isn’t self-compassion more

prevalent in Western culture?

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Belief it’s weak, complacent and passive

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Compassion can be a strong, powerful force for change

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Confusion with “Making excuses”

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Belief that motivation requiresself-criticism

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Motivation with Self-Criticism

Fear of being bad or worthless

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Motivation with Self-Compassion

Desire for health and well-being

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Self-compassion provides the emotionally supportive environment needed for change

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If possible….

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Research on Self-Compassion

United States, Canada, United Kingdom,

Belgium, Netherlands, Thailand, Taiwan,

Korea, Turkey, Germany, Norway, Iran

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2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012+










Journal articles, chapters and dissertations examining self-compassion (Google Scholar)

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Reductions in: Anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, perfectionism, shame, negative body image

Self-compassion linked to well-being

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Self-compassion linked to well-being

Increases in: Life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, curiosity, gratitude

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Self-compassion vs. self-esteemOffers same benefits without pitfalls

Fewer social comparisons

Less contingent self-worth

No association with narcissism

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Linked to Coping and Resilience

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Linked to health behaviors

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Linked to greater motivation More intrinsic motivation, desire to learn & grow Personal standards just as high, not as upset

when don’t meet them Less fear of failure More likely to try again when fail

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Linked to Other-Focused Concern

More forgiveness and perspective-taking

More compassion for others, empathy,


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Mindful Self-Compassion Program

8-week workshop designed to explicitly teach skills of self-compassion

Uses meditation, informal practice, interpersonal exercises and homework assignments

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Research on Mindful Self-Compassion

Randomized controlled trial

Intervention group vs. wait-list control group

54 participants

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Percent increase in self-compassion, mindfulness, and compassion

2 (Group) X 2 (Time) Repeated Measures ANOVAs

*P < .05

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Percent decrease in depression, anxiety, stress,and emotional avoidance

2 (Group) X 2 (Time) Repeated Measures ANOVAs

*P < .05

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Percent increase in social connectedness, life satisfaction, and happiness

2 (Group) X 2 (Time) Repeated Measures ANOVAs

*P < .05

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All well-being gains maintained over time


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Self-compassion in the workplace?

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Self-compassion calculator, videos, research articles, guided meditations

and exercises available at: