According to self-compassion researcher and expert Dr Kristin Neff, we humans use self-criticism as leverage – a tool for motivation, who would have thought!  But of course, we know that – that familiar old friend, that inner voice perpetually driving us with its commands and demands from the inner recesses of our minds…

“Come on, get going and you better do it properly.”

“You’ve really got to push yourself here.  Ah, you never get this right.  Come on, try harder!”

“Harry can do it…!”

This type of inner prompting is one way our brain ensures that we do not fail and fall behind in the race of life.

Another reason our brain promotes the critical inner voice is the preventing shame and public humiliation.  Our inner voice will drive us along with this warning ringing in our ears – “you better get this right or you’ll be the laughing stock…!”

It stands out as a fascinating conundrum, our brain, while trying to prevent calamity, actually employs a strategy that is most likely to create it.

Research by Neff et al., shows quite clearly how destructive and ineffective criticism is as a motivator.  Not only does it inhibit our creative abilities, it is also likely to throw us into a non-motivated state of depression, helplessness and work inhibition.

From her research on self-compassion versus self-esteem as a predicator of wellbeing, Neff found self-compassion to yield the same positive outcomes of high self-esteem without the negative traits engendered by seeking to raise self-esteem – the need to win and be better than anyone else by putting someone else down to achieve this.  Instead, when we apply self-compassions three components, self-kindness, acceptance of our humanity and mindfulness, many positive outcomes occur.  Neff employs the metaphor of raising a child to highlight the difference between self-critique and self-compassion – which parenting style would raise a happy and confident child – critical and judging parents or caring, kind and compassionate parents – you guessed it – compassion wins!

Part 2 coming soon – the science behind self-compassion – the facts, the application, the outcomes.