An Alternative to Self-Esteem: Fostering Self-Compassion in Youth

By Persinger, James | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, January/February 2012 | Go to article overview

An Alternative to Self-Esteem: Fostering Self-Compassion in Youth


Persinger, James, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Research-Based Practice

For more than a generation, the idea that children need nurturance of a high self-esteemin order tobe developmentally healthy has had wide acceptance in Western psychology (Neff, 2009a; Neff & Pittman, 2010). A generation of parents has been told that one of their key tasks is to increase their children's self-esteem, and teachers have been trained to give accolades, gold stars, and the occasional trophy to foster self-esteemin their students (Twenge, 2006). The emphasis on self-esteem is an outgrowth of the perception that global self-esteem is almost synonymous with mental health (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, Solomon, Arndt, & Schimel, 2004). Though numerous scholarly articles have been written about selfesteem (cf. Baumeister, i998),withmost (see Pyszczynski, Greenberg, Solomon, Arndt, & Schimel, 2004, for a review) arguing that it relates to adaptive outcomes, the idea that self-esteem brings well-being alone has been increasingly questioned, in part because in some cases, people engage in counterproductive or dysfunctional behaviors to nurture high self-esteem in others and to produce it in themselves.

As Seligman, Reivich, Jaycox, and Gillham (2005) argue, self-esteem programs tend lo emphasize feeling good about oneself rather than building competence, and therefore the programs may hamper the giving of critical feedback to children out of concern for protecting their self-esteem. As a result, this practice has helped contribute to significant grade inflation (Neff, 2011). Also, as Neff and Lamb (2009) argue, in some individuals, high self-esteem can be associated with exaggerated and/or inaccurate self-concepts, making self-improvement difficult. These individuals are more likely to dismiss negative feedback as unreliable or biased, to trivialize failures, or attribute them to external causes (Crocker & Park, 2004) , the result being less personal responsibility for harmful actions.

Inflated self-esteem can be counterproductive in some individuals, causing antagonistic behavior toward those who threaten the inaccurate image they hold of themselves as well as the experience of anger toward anyone perceived as a threat to their egos (Neff, 2009b) . For example, bullies are as likely to have high self-esteem as others, with the bullying behavior causing them to feel good about themselves (Neff, 2009a) . It also increases the likelihood that individuals may engage in both relational aggression and downward social comparisons (Twenge & Campbell, 2003) by derogating others to affirm themselves (cf. Fein & Spencer, 1997). Finally, individuals whose inflated images of themselves need constant bolstering and social validation often have relationship problems (Campbell & Baumeister, 2001). High and inflated self-esteem may have its perils, and to avoid them, self-compassion is proposed as an alternate construct.

SELF-ESTEEM VERSUS SELF-COMPASSION

Self-compassion is different from self-esteem and contributes to many indicators of well-being. Self-compassion involves kindness toward one's difficulties, recognition that such experience s are part of being human, anda mindful awareness and acceptance of one's painful feelings. Neff (2003a, 2003b) is a prolific researcher of self-compassion, and most Western research on self-compassion as a psychological construct has been conducted using the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) she created (2003a). The scale has strong psychometric properties, demonstrates concurrent, discriminate, and convergent validity, and has been used in dozens of studies that support self-compassion as a compelling and important construct distinctly different from self-esteem.

Neff and Vonk (2009) and Neff (2011) each offer a review of studies that have used the SCS to contrast self-compassion with self-esteem. They state that one key difference is that self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations, social comparisons, or personal success, and therefore avoids most negative characteristics associated with self-esteem. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

An Alternative to Self-Esteem: Fostering Self-Compassion in Youth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.