Self-Compassion and Inner Strength Building
How we can strengthen our motivation and resilience.
Posted February 18, 2023 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Self-compassion practice has been scientifically shown to boost our mood and reduce negative emotions.
- Loving-kindness practice is one example of a self-compassion practice focused on developing goodwill and kindness toward ourselves and others.
- Loving-kindness helps build our resilience and increase our motivation for sports and beyond.
“When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life, well, hang on
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes”
This great R.E.M. song, “Everybody Hurts,” reminds us that life can be full of pain and hurt. We all experience a range of ups and downs in this messy life; excitement, love, joy, frustrations, disappointments, worries, loneliness, and sadness. The question is, how do we treat ourselves when we experience this pain? Would we treat our friends the same way?
Self-compassion practice has been scientifically shown to boost our mood and reduce negative emotions. Perhaps not surprisingly, research also shows that this practice helps increase empathy, social connection, and motivation.
In her book Fierce Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff explores how self-compassion increases our motivation as it guides us in responding mindfully to our mistakes or failures. This concept has also begun to be used in sport psychology with athletes, given that mistakes can be costly. Being able to pick ourselves back up after losing a game (which is generally unavoidable) builds resilience. Research is increasingly showing that those athletes that practice self-compassion tend to have more constructive reactions to failure.
For instance, a study at the University of Saskatchewan found that after making performance errors, athletes who practiced self-compassion were less likely to catastrophize or take things personally, and they were more likely to maintain equanimity (i.e., "Everybody has a bad day now and then”). These athletes also report feeling more vitality while playing and are more motivated to grow and develop as professionals, including taking responsibility and improving their skills.
Loving-kindness practice is one example of a self-compassion practice focused on developing goodwill and kindness toward ourselves and others. The way we can practice loving-kindness is to visualize wishes of goodwill for ourselves as well as expand these wishes to others in our lives, such as those that we love, those that we enjoy spending time with, those that we know as an acquaintance, as well as those we may dislike.
These wishes can include “May they be happy,” “May they be healthy,” and “May they stay safe.” Though, of course, we can add or alter these wishes. We may place a hand over our hearts to soften this practice and provide ourselves with the space and opportunity to reflect and make these goodwill wishes.
With self-compassion practice, such as loving-kindness, we are exercising the muscles of our inner strength, which is paramount to building our resilience and increasing our motivation for sports and beyond. Self-compassion is a mindset. As Kristin Neff puts it, “Me against the world becomes me as part of the world.
A version of this post was published at Mindful Kids Psychology Centre.