Self Compassion!

We all have some idea of what professional growth means for us and the factors that play a role in that defined growth. I am no different to this.

A while ago, I stumbled across the idea of self-compassion as a crucial factor for not only personal growth but also professional growth. I can now attest to it and would love to share more about the concept in this article.

So how exactly does self-compassion enhance professional growth?

Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion evangelist who has dedicated a decade researching it, defines self-compassion as:

With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. :sparkles:

Interestingly enough, self-compassion does not equal to self-esteem, and self-compassionate people have higher self-esteem.

As a software engineer, what I have noticed in tech is one needs to build resiliency towards changes, be it frequent re-org or layoffs, or be open to new challenges/opportunities.

If this is not enough, we also have to build the attitude to be open to feedback, both positive and negative.

All this while focusing on growth. Practicing self-compassion is very vital in this scenario.

Key behaviors of self-compassionate people

  • Be kind (not judgemental) towards their failures and mistakes

Have you ever met someone who said “I never make any mistakes” or “I have never failed”? I have not. Because to err is human. As a software engineer, I have had my fair share of failures and mistakes. After all, bugs, missed deadlines, system crashes, etc. are a part of the process as we learn and grow.

In the rapidly changing and evolving tech industry, failure is a natural byproduct of experimentation and, ultimately, innovation.

Being kind and not judgmental to self allows us to dig deep to understand why we failed or made the mistake, in turn setting ourselves up for long term success.

  • Recognize failures are shared human experiences

We rarely work individually. Most of the time, it is teamwork. Failures are collective human experiences and recognizing so allows us to be kind towards the people we work with. In turn, contributing to their growth and our own.

  • A balanced approach to negative emotions when they stumble or fall short

Negative emotions are sure rife when we stumble or fall short of meeting our goals. Using the self-compassion lens allows us to take a more balanced approach towards dealing with negative emotions.

  • Sure! Feel bad but don’t let negative emotions take over

It is ok to feel bad but not be overwhelmed by the surge of negative emotions when things do not turn the way we expect them to be. Practicing self-compassion helps us to recognize this very pattern.

The personality traits of people who practice self-compassion

  • A Growth Mindset

We all want to improve and be better versions of ourselves in everything we do. It turns out, self-compassion is crucial to achieving this. Although factors like determination, persistence, and hard work are important, true personal growth starts with reflection.

Have a realistic assessment of where we stand (strength & limitations) allows us to achieve the balance between complacency (oh, I am already better) and defeatism(oh, I am doing so much worse). A realistic self-appraisal is a foundation for self-improvement.

Far too often, this is a critical thing in an environment where quarterly or annual performance reviews make many nervous. If you view abilities as changeable, getting negative feedback should not deter you from trying to improve.

Research suggests self-compassion triggers the adoption of a growth mindset. It gives the push that helps us shatter our current boundaries as we take on new challenges every day. I remember the Satya Nadella’s quote that stuck with me- The Learn-it-all beats Know-it-all!

  • A strong feeling of Authenticity, a sense of Truth to Self

Authenticity in the workplace is often underrated and elusive. Authenticity is cultivated by minimizing negative thoughts and self-doubt. Having a positive outlook on life makes people more willing to take chances.

It is common to feel stuck in jobs where one has to suppress their true self because of incongruent workplace norms around behavior, doubts about what one has to contribute, or fears about being judged negatively by colleagues and superiors.

Self-compassion can help us evaluate our professional and personal trajectories and make course corrections when and where necessary. For example, a self-compassionate engineer who misses a deadline will choose to focus on how they can effectively meet deadlines for upcoming releases. Moreover, they are more likely to assess what caused the miss (prioritization, unclear requirements, not enjoying the particular type of task, etc.) and work on improvements.

Learning to be self-compassionate

Self-compassion is a skill that can be learned and enhanced. To practice it, a few questions to ask oneself-

  • Do I show caring, understanding, and kindness towards myself today and every day?
  • Do I feel authentic and genuine in my interactions with others?

If yes, Kudos! Keep it up. If no, now is the perfect time to reflect and get started. Being kind and nonjudgmental toward the self is good practice that encourages us to treat others compassionately. It creates an upward cycle of compassion.

Compassion is not a virtue -- it is a commitment.
It's not something we have or don't have -- it's something we choose to practice. 
-Brené Brown