Self-Compassion

A Hidden Jewel

Self-compassion is commonly misunderstood. While some misunderstandings have minimal effect, misconceptions about self-compassion have profound impact. Often misunderstood as an excuse to feel self-pity, a reason to stop trying, or a rationale to be selfish—a kind of de facto admission of weakness or impurity—most people never consider self-compassion as an important step in meeting and dealing with life’s inevitable challenges. While there is cultural acceptance of practicing compassion, which includes both awareness that someone is suffering and a genuine desire to alleviate this suffering, directing this awareness and desire toward our selves has received short shrift.

Wrong-headed beliefs about self-compassion lead people to not take enough care when they need it most. These misguided beliefs are often fueled by culturally limiting beliefs that connect masculinity with not needing help. For example, recent research has revealed that many soldiers who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) do not seek help, in part because they don’t want to be identified as having a disorder. Only weaklings have disorders, so to speak. If they were to practice self-compassion, they would be aware that they needed help, be kind to themselves by getting help, and also realize that anyone in their circumstances would likely experience trauma and need help.

Kristin Neff, an original researcher in the field of self-compassion, defines it as having three primary elements:

  1. Self-Kindness vs. Self-Criticism: It means being empathetic and warm toward ourselves when we suffer rather than ignoring our pain or beating ourselves up through self-criticism.
  2. Common Humanity vs. Isolation: All human beings suffer. We all fail at times. We all have losses. We share much with others simply by being human. It can help us reach out or receive support when we need it most.
  3. Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification: Mindfulness includes being balanced towards our negative emotions so that we neither suppress nor exaggerate them. We practice looking at our negative thoughts, not looking through them.

Research reveals strong evidence that practicing self-compassion correlates with a bunch of positive results: protection against stress, less vulnerability to criticism, recovery from painful experiences, increased feelings of self-worth, improved performance after setbacks, a core sense of optimism, and general happiness. The good news is that self-compassion can be learned and practiced.

Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D., LHEP™

Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D., LHEP™

Daniel helps CEOs, VPs, managers, engineers, scientists, artists and others realize and develop their greatest assets—curiosity, purpose, authenticity, and resilience. As a change agent, he occupies different roles: executive and leadership coach, organizational trainer, group facilitator, consultant, and researcher. He focuses on helping people build inspiring, successful professional careers and personal lives. He has coached leaders in companies such as Yahoo, Netscape, Oracle, ESPN, Power Vision, Adobe, Restoration Hardware, Autodesk, and Genentech, as well as many smaller companies—including start-ups.

Daniel’s background in various approaches in psychology, contemplative practices, neuroscience, and philosophy makes him uniquely qualified to help leaders gain a deeper, more effective understanding both of themselves and those they serve. With his guidance, leaders learn to strategically strengthen relationships and build powerful bonds—creating an environment of trust and honesty. He achieves this by helping people resolve common misunderstandings and power struggles to create cohesive, well-functioning teams and organizations. People experience greater self-esteem, which positively influences all aspects of organizations—including the bottom line.

An expert in the field of awareness and relationship skills, Daniel has presented at major conferences, businesses, and universities. A published author, he contributed to the book The Communication Path and with his wife, Judith Bell, he co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success Volume 8 as well as the book Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership. He’s delivered his successful communications messages on radio and television. His deepest interests are in researching and teaching skills that allow people to thrive both professionally and personally—rather than simply survive.

Daniel is also president of Relationships That Work® and directs Strength with Heart® men’s groups and seminars. He researched how the traditional male role influences relationships, both professionally and personally. He applies this understanding in guiding leaders to be more conscious and impeccable.

Supporting leaders in acquiring new skills of resilience—stability, flexibility and the capacity to bounce back—informs Daniel’s entire body of work. With Judith, he co-created and delivered a specially designed resilience training program for NASA to help its workforce survive and thrive during a crisis in organizational confidence in the manned space program.

Daniel brings warmth, caring, and humor to his work. At the same time, he challenges people to think outside the box. He believes that people often learn best when they laugh the most.

Daniel holds a BA in psychology from Boston University and a PhD in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. He has been a participant in the RL Angels & Traitors and Authentic Leadership 1 courses. He has acted as co-facilitator of The Human Element® course and is the co-creator/co-facilitator of the Resilience Dynamics® course. He has used Judith as a consultant and unpaid coach for since 1987.

Read more

Sign up for PeRLs of Wisdom

Our newsletter, PeRLs of Wisdom, will be emailed to you with resources related to the monthly topic such as additional activities, practices, discussions, quotes, and announcements of upcoming programs. You can unsubscribe from PeRLs of Wisdom at any time.