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old post: Be kind to your webfooted friends…and yourself!



I have been copying posts from my old blog site.  This is the last I will copy over, from 2012.  Copying into WordPress is not easy and so there will be formatting issues, I am sure.  Thanks for bearing with.

What's your greatest weakness, that thing or action about which you most feel shame, guilt, or other badness?  Now...can you speak to yourself about it with compassion?  If so, what are you then inclined to do? 
This morning, I read a beautiful set of four studies by Berkeley's Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.  The common thread was to have people think about a weakness or an action that they had done and found, well, shameful. They then asked people to express compassion and kindness to themselves.  The control groups were terrific.  One was a standard "do nothing" control. The other typically involved thinking of a strength or something participants were proud of.  Seems like a natural thing for us to do when we've messed up--think of something else, something good about us to make us feel better. 
Afterwards, those who had been compassionate toward themselves were more inclined to self-improvement than were those who had thought about something that made them proud, or who had done nothing.  In the first study, self-compassion bolstered the belief that the weakness about which people had written was changeable.  In the second, the compassionate wanted more to make reparations to the person they had harmed and avoid doing the harm again.  In the third, they studied more before taking a follow-up test on which they had initially done badly.  In the last, they were more likely to want information about someone else who had had their own weakness, but had overcome it (vs. someone else who simply had the same weakness). 
We live in a culture that seems to value perfection, so it is so tempting to serve up the illusion of perfection.  But we are creatures of light and darkness...we often do that which we would not. And if we are to be perfect in the sense of complete, then surely acknowledging, with kindness, that from which we are tempted to run is necessary.  How else can we make the most of the gifts which we have been given?

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