Watch this conference keynote session live during the 2014 Center for Mindfulness International Scientific Conference. Includes slides and video of the presenter. Register now to get access to this live streaming keynote session or watch the archived recording on demand anytime after the conference.
Friday, April 4 - 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EST
Self-Compassion, Psychological Wellbeing, and the Relief of Suffering
Kristin Neff, PhD
For many years self-esteem was seen to be the key to psychological health. More recently, however, researchers have identified several downsides to the pursuit of self-esteem such as narcissism, ego-defensiveness, social comparisons, and the contingency of self-esteem on success. Research suggests that self-compassion is a healthier way of relating to oneself, offering the benefits of self-esteem without its downsides. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves kindly even when we fail, make mistakes, or feel inadequate, just like a good friend we cared about. Rather than making global evaluations of ourselves as "good" or "bad," self-compassion involves being accepting and supportive of ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not because we're worthless or inadequate, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering. This talk will distinguish self-compassion from self-esteem, self-pity, and self-indulgence, and also discuss research indicating that self-compassion is a more powerful and effective motivational tool than self-criticism. Data from a randomized controlled trial will be presented on the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program, an eight-week course developed in conjunction with Chris Germer that is designed to teach self-compassion skills. This talk will also explore how mindfulness and self-compassion relate to one another, and consider whether explicit training in self-compassion is needed to teach self-compassion skills, or if the implicit methods employed in many mindfulness-based interventions are sufficient. Finally, pilot data comparing outcomes of participation in MBSR and MSC will be presented which suggest that the relative benefits of each program vary according to participants' initial levels of self-compassion.