Communication Self Improvement — 16 December 2013
Compassionate self-view enhances life and love

How we view ourselves is an important element in our success in life and love. Those who exhibit an amplified or diminishing self-worth often encounter less-than positive responses from others and may not benefit from their well-deserved life and love’s rewards.

Research by Dr. Christine Van Lai Kwan, University of Wisconsin, underscores the significance of “holding a positive view of self vis-à-vis others in negotiating life challenges as well as the reciprocal influence of well-being in our social and self-evaluative processes.”

Professor Kristin Neff of the University of Texas studied Self-Compassion as a means of achieving a more effective and enjoyable life. She found that being kind to ourselves as we are to others while accepting our imperfections not as major blemishes without shame but as normal variances within human behavior, renders us better equipped to deal with life’s pleasures and challenges.

She advocates: 1.Using self-kindness that we generally offer to others. 2. Observing and changing our unkind, self-shaming language. 3. Healing our suffering by providing ourselves with compassion.

Professor Neff explains that berating ourselves is based on the erroneous belief that it is needed for self-motivation. Actually, her research shows that when we attack ourselves we cause harm by excreting Cortisol, a hormone that shuts the body down and ultimately causes apathy, depression and even despair. What motivates us is love, caring and compassion that we received as infants from our mother through “warmth, gentle touch and soft vocalizations.“ These reactions reduce Cortisol and increase Oxytocin and Opiates, the “feel good” hormones.

For many people the negative self-view was instilled early in life through harsh messages from parents, teachers, coaches, mentors or less-than loving peers. Some disgruntled adults reduce their own self-dissatisfactions by projecting them on vulnerable youngsters.

Trading these learned shaming and demeaning messages for affirming, self- compassionate ones can offer us an honest and empowering self-view that can help us face life with strength and confidence.

Whether one is concerned about job performance, making mistakes, not being liked by a supervisor, being less-than a sterling parent, disappointing others, not living to one’s own professional or personal expectations, the internal dialogue must be expressed with the same kindness, support and encouragement one would offer to a friend.

Some single individuals rate themselves as insufficiently appealing, not gregarious enough, poorly informed or uninteresting and thus render themselves poor candidates for finding a suitable mate. These harsh and often erroneous personal assessments are likely to doom or interfere with the individuals’ success in presenting themselves as worthy and desirable potential partners.

If instead, uncertain people would trade their fears for honest assessment by consulting trusted friends about how they are perceived and then empower themselves with their own compassionate view of their less-endearing traits, they will be able to chart their course for change and may be better able to succeed in life and love.

  • Abstain from negative self-talk.
  • Assess yourself with compassion and kindness as you would those whom you love.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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