How self-compassion supports academic motivation and emotional wellness

January 15, 2019 | Mind/Shift

Many of today’s parents and teachers came of age in the 1980s and 1990s — a time when the self-esteem movement was in its zenith. Self-esteem was supposed to be a panacea for a variety of social challenges, from substance abuse to violent crime. The research, however, did not support such broad claims.

If teachers and parents want children to develop resilience and strength, a better approach is to teach them self-compassion, said Dr. Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. “Self-esteem is a judgment about how valuable I am: very valuable, not so good, not valuable at all.”

In contrast, “self-compassion isn’t about self-evaluation at all,” said Neff. “It’s about being kind to oneself. Self-compassion is a healthy source of self-worth because it’s not contingent and it’s unconditional. It’s much more stable over time because it is not dependent on external markers of success such as grades.”

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