Mental Health

The Power of Self-Compassion at Work

It can be human nature to be defensive at times, and hard on yourself at others. Whether you’re experiencing a setback at work or have made a mistake, here’s how you can be compassionate to yourself during hard times.

By URLife Team
20 May 2024

It’s only human to make mistakes, right? Well, the other day, I just happened to send an email to the wrong client. What followed after was a period of self-blame and anxiety about the consequences. But I quickly understood that owning up to my mistake and understanding that it was a genuine mistake was what I owed to myself. As soon as I did that, the anxiety, nervousness and fear automatically disappeared.

Let's appreciate these instances of self-compassion in action. They show what it means to believe in ourselves, which is something we should encourage more. Self-compassion encourages growth and helps us bounce back when we mess up. Instead of viewing our mistakes as total failures, we see them as chances to learn and treat ourselves kindly.

But practising self-compassion at work isn't always easy, especially if we're used to being tough on ourselves.

Studies have shown a positive correlation between self-compassion and career satisfaction. A 2018 research paper published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that individuals with higher levels of self-compassion reported greater job satisfaction and were more likely to view setbacks as learning opportunities instead of failures. These findings highlight the significance of cultivating self-compassion for a more fulfilling and contented professional life.

There are three important aspects of self-compassion including self-kindness, understanding self and mindfulness. Self-kindness revolves around our inner dialogue – how we talk to ourselves. Given that around 80 per cent of our thoughts tend to be negative, it's crucial to monitor and shift this dialogue toward positivity.

Understanding entails recognising that struggles and suffering are universal human experiences. Acknowledging this helps prevent unnecessary suffering in our own lives.

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment, allowing us to identify when a kinder or more understanding approach is needed. Embracing reality enables us to cultivate qualities like self-compassion.

While these concepts may seem simple in theory, implementing them can be challenging. In a world filled with judgement and comparison, practising self-compassion can feel counterintuitive. Nonetheless, it's vital for overall well-being.


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Is Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion the Same?

Self-esteem often means comparing ourselves to others, but self-compassion doesn't involve judging ourselves or others. Instead, it helps us value ourselves because we genuinely care about our own well-being, especially after setbacks.

People who are really good at self-compassion demonstrate these three behaviours more often than not: 

  • First, they're nice to themselves when they mess up rather than being judgmental and cursing themselves for every unexpected or wrong output; 
  • Second, they understand that everyone makes mistakes and it is a shared human experience
  • Third, they deal with negative emotions by allowing the emotions to seep in without letting the negativity take control.


4 Ways to Be More Self-Compassionate at Work


Adopt a Growth Mindset 

Do not marry your failures or setbacks. Failures are inevitable and should be considered as a shared human experience and not as your weakness. Individuals with a fixed mindset perceive personality traits and abilities, including their own, as unchangeable. They hold the belief that who we are presently is who we will remain in the future. 

Conversely, those with a growth mindset regard personality traits and abilities as adaptable. They recognise the potential for growth and are therefore more inclined to strive for improvement—dedicating effort and practice while maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook.

Self-compassion plays a crucial role in navigating the mindset shift from fixed to growth. By treating ourselves with kindness and understanding when we face setbacks or encounter failures, we cultivate resilience and maintain a healthy perspective. Instead of dwelling on our shortcomings as permanent flaws, self-compassion allows us to acknowledge them as part of the human experience, fostering a growth mindset. It encourages us to embrace challenges with a sense of curiosity and openness, knowing that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. 


Related story: This Mindset Can Reduce Stress And Help Raise Smart Kids


Incorporate Shadow Work

Doing more shadow work means taking time to explore the parts of ourselves that we might not always see or understand. These could be feelings, thoughts, or experiences that you keep hidden, even from yourself. By looking at these hidden parts, we can learn more about why we feel and act the way we do.

For example, maybe we get really angry in certain situations, but we are not sure why. Shadow work helps dig deeper to uncover the reasons behind our anger. Maybe it's linked to something from our past, like a childhood experience, that we hadn't fully processed.

Understanding these hidden parts of ourselves gives us more control over your emotions and actions. It helps us make better choices and grow as a person.


Related story: How To Transform A Fixed Mindset Into A Growth Mindset


Treat Yourself Like A Friend

Sometimes we all have negative thoughts about ourselves or feel like we're not good enough. It's normal to doubt ourselves, but we often expect too much from ourselves. We're kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

If you're struggling with something tough, try imagining how you would help a friend in the same situation. Think about what you would say and do for them, and then do the same for yourself. This can give you a different perspective and help you take positive steps forward. Also, treating yourself like you would a friend can also help you be kinder to others.


Related story: How To Care For Yourself When Caregiving


Consider Setbacks as Learning Opportunities 

Think of mistakes as chances to learn and grow. Instead of seeing them as failures, view them as valuable lessons that can help you improve. When you make a mistake, take the time to reflect on what happened and what you can do differently next time. 

When we shift our perspective to see mistakes as learning opportunities, it changes how we approach challenges. Rather than fearing failure, we become more willing to take risks and try new things. This mindset shift fosters innovation and creativity because we're not held back by the fear of making mistakes. Instead, we see each misstep as a chance to discover new solutions and refine our skills.


Related story: Journaling 101: How To Journal For A Better Mindset


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By cultivating a mindset of kindness and understanding towards ourselves, we not only enhance our own well-being but also foster a more supportive and resilient work environment. Through self-compassion, we unlock the potential for greater productivity, creativity, and overall satisfaction in our professional lives. 


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