While having good self-esteem is a necessary ingredient in leading a successful life, recent evidence uncovered by a team of Berkeley psychologists suggests that it is less important than self-compassion. It turns out that self-esteem is a less reliable predictor of future success than is showing compassion towards oneself.
The research shows that people who take stock of their mistakes without beating themselves up over them did better than those who did not. Most tellingly, those who showed compassion towards themselves following setbacks were more successful than those who relied on self-esteem for motivation.
In the study, the researchers gave the subjects a test and then divided them into two groups. One group was asked to evaluate their performance on the test in a self-compassionate way while the other group was asked to do so based on maintaining a high self-esteem.
The two groups were then given the opportunity to retake the test. What do you think happened? Well, the self-compassionate group studied longer and consequently, did better on the test than those whose focus was maintaining self-esteem.
The reason for this may be that when people take an honest look at their mistakes without harsh recriminations and assigning blame, they are able to correct those errors and do better on the next attempt. Those who rely on self-esteem will think they are successful when they are not and may not be evaluating their mistakes in a frank manner to see how they can be eliminated on the next go-round.
It is important to note that self-compassion is not about blame shifting. It is about embracing responsibility for mistakes made without harsh criticism. It is about realizing that as human beings, we all screw up and yes, errors will occur. It means learning from our mistakes without tearing ourselves down in the process.
Being compassionate toward yourself decreases stress levels and allows you to continue on even after you’ve made mistakes. It allows you to continue forward momentum, which is one of the most important factors in success. You must have the will to keep trying. Without this, you certainly will never succeed.
The most important thing you can do today to ensure your future success is to stop beating yourself up over your past mistakes. Everyone is going to screw up and you are not immune. Show a little self-compassion: forgive yourself for making mistakes, figure out what went wrong, and keep moving forward.