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Self-Compassion Works Better Than Self-Esteem (theatlantic.com)
428 points by jansho on May 11, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments

As my psychotherapist put it yesterday: people that seek self-esteem in an unhealthy way are vampires. "You have to become your own bloodsource" she said.

When you seek self-esteem in an unhealthy way, you do things to get approval/validation from others. You'll suck some blood from girls who like you, suck some blood from jobs you apply for that want you, tell friends about all the high-end interviews you have and the cool things you're doing. But after you've gotten what you need from the girls, the jobs, the friends, you realize you never really wanted any of them. And that you wasted your time in the process when you should seek what YOUR OWN PATH is. Self-compassion/kindness is when you become your own sustainable bloodsource of self-esteem and it is critical for your survival and success.

No disrespect intended, but this is so American someone should use it as an academic linguistics example of culture-specific communication!

(eg. psychotherapy, negative third party social group stereotyping, pop culture references, second person framing of self-help advice as casual banter, capitalia, shameless and fundamentally American reformation of compassion in an ego-linked context...)

This is such ethnocentrism smacking bullshit. It's unfounded stereotyping of a country that's I'm going to guess is more culturally, ethnically, and ideologically diverse than you are used to.

For starters, I didn't notice any citations in your claims of academic relevance. Have you read papers from reputable institutions that support your positions as their central thrust (rather than a side note or speculation)? If so please cite one and let us know how many of your points are part of its central argument.

Taking it down a notch from academia, even the Wikipedia article on American stereotypes does agree with your list. Too many biased Americans on WP? Even anecdotally in countries I've lived and stayed in, many people were happy to share their American stereotypes and I enjoyed the discussions, but they never mentioned your list.

Some of the things I'm used to hearing: Americans are fat? Not a pleasant thing to hear but objectively true. Americans are gun crazy? Not everyone but still, there is solid foundation here. So this is not a matter of (just) being insulted, I simply call into question your ability to back up your specific claims with sound evidence and data.

Finally your claim that self compassion is "fundamentally juxtaposed" to eastern meditative traditions is incorrect (I assume you meant to write opposed). On the contrary, it is vital component of some practices and one of the first things studied (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mettā#Mett.C4.81_meditation).

With everything happening in the US right now the last thing we need is people making false assumptions that all of us support the same leadership, same homogeneous viewpoints, same personal failings, etc.

First, ethnocentrism would require an ethnic group as the subject.

Second, I prefaced to ensure this was taken as tongue in cheek as intended. Clearly you missed that part.

Third, having spent many years researching Buddhism we must agree to disagree regarding your suggestion that self-targeted compassion and Pali metta[0] are similar.

Finally, a passing generalization is clearly not the same as viewing everyone as identical.

[0] http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#metta

>ethnocentrism would require an ethnic group as the subject.

Incorrect. "ethnocentrism: evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one's own culture"

>I prefaced to ensure this was taken as tongue in cheek as intended. Clearly you missed that part.

I didn't miss it. Writers get to imply as they like. Readers are free to infer as they like. That's how it works.

>Having spent many years researching Buddhism we must agree to disagree regarding your suggestion that self-targeted compassion and Pali metta.

I'm sorry, this is just completely untrue.

1) From your own sources: "Right at the start loving-kindness should be developed towards oneself."

2) From my source: "[In] practices that focus on compassion...the practitioner is targeting oneself"

3) Choose any master you like who has written on metta/lovingkindnessand and compassion. By long tradition the start of the path is self compassion.

>a passing generalization is clearly not the same as viewing everyone as identical.

I hope not. The problem with generalizations and false stereotypes is they tend to encourage that sort of thinking.

Yeah this is nonsense. Psychotherapy originated in Austria and evolved in Europe. Vampires have a long folk and literary tradition and are not necessarily a pop-culture reference. Shouting (all-caps) is not unique to Americans, and to imply it is is nationalistic prejudice. You definitely intended disrespect. If you didn't you are exhibiting a disturbing lack of awareness of the consequences of your speech. How's that for second person framing?

To make this easier for an American to understand, I used Google Translate to convert the comment to French, and then back to English. I think it's helpful.

No disrespect, but it's so American that someone should use it as an academic linguistic example of culture-specific communication! (Eg, psychotherapy, negative social groups of social groups, pop culture referrals, second-person counseling as casual jokes, capitalia, shameless and fundamentally American reform of compassion in a context Linked to the ego ...)

Don't forget referring to adult women as girls!

Infantilization is a broader problem, actually. Overseas soldiers are typically "boys" (whether male or not). Teenagers accused of violent felonies are often "kids" whose grades are suddenly relevant.

And kudos to you for using "women" instead of "female".

This is confusing me. What is the current PC way to address the non-male gender?

PCs can address at least 8-bit segments (bytes). Current transfer minimum is probably 64-bit for uncached writes.

That's a very heterogeneous group you are addressing. Why are you grouping by a binary gender? What is it you think individuals in this group have in common?

The key (reproducing_organ) only has 2 (or 3) values. If you want a composite key (reproducing_organ, sexual_preference, sexual_identification), you would get (at most) 3 * 3 * 2 (?) possible values. If you want to expand that key to include X because PC reasons, I'm not listening anymore.

> What is it you think individuals in this group have in common?

Penises and vaginas. Since those with ambiguous genitalia are a rounding error, they can flip a coin.

Are you serious?

Why is that deserving of kudos?

Can you explain what your comment means?

No disrespect intended

Please don't take this the wrong way.

this is so American

I felt that the commenter was expressing themselves in a way that was particularly unique to Americans.

someone should use it as an academic linguistics example of culture-specific communication!

I believe the example is of such a high quality that it would be useful in an academic context (ie. college/university courses) as an example of communications made within one culture that are unique to that culture versus other cultures speaking the very same language, ie. people born in Scotland or New Zealand would generally never communicate in this way.

The examples list arguably American cultural traits present in the paragraph.

(Edit to explain points: 'psychotherapy' = more prevalent in US culture, 'negative third party social group stereotyping' = ~all those people are <negative-something>, 'pop culture references' = vampires, 'second person framing of self-help advice as casual banter' = grammatical form where "you gotta X", or "you should Y", or "when you X you Y!", 'capitalia' = THIS BIT IS GRATING, 'reformation of compassion in an ego-linked context' = compassion for self, which is fundamentally juxtaposed to traditional not-self usage as linked to eastern meditative traditions (vipassana, etc.) and where increased egocentrism is widely considered a quintessentially American cultural trait).

Except for perhaps psychotherapy^, there's nothing there that would be out of place if someone said it, say, in Russian (I can translate, if you wish).

In particular, there's about 140,000 hits for "emotional vampirism" when you Google it in Russian (pop culture, eh?).

Same thing about writing in ALL CAPS: http://lurkmore.to/CAPSLOCK

May I ask you, which many languages, besides English, do you browse the Internet in? I am curious about your the basis for comparison.

^People are becoming more open about seeing a therapist (психолог), but it's something out of reach of most people.

You explained all the obvious parts. Now explain what everything in that list means.

Thank you, the edit provided what we were looking for beforehand.

You're American, huh, contingencies?

I don't know what's going on here, but I think you should start bringing garlic to your sessions, just in case.

GP's post reminds me that I fail to understand how people can come out and say they want their kids to be in tech like them. Just go through a few article titles: death, loneliness, diseases, therapy, antidepressants, OCD... Do you really want to put your kid in an environment like this, deny him the chance of enjoying life like a normal person?

Because they don't want them to have less than $500 in their savings account, like a normal person.


That is crazy! I had no idea about this. Also taking into account that America has next to no social safety nets it's really crazy.

Is this stuff less prevalent in other fields? In tech, you never realistically need to worry about money or losing your job (as it is so easy to find another) - most people don't have this comfort. IMO tech is an excellent career. Just don't become a big spender so that you have to work till your sixties.

It is more prevalent. People in tech also work long hours, have "side projects" aka somewhat expected unpaid work, are unhealthy, seem to not exercise, play video games too much, watch too much tv...

the list goes on

Is it more prevalent because we have hard data showing it is, or do we think it is more prevalent because we typically speak with more people in tech because we're in tech and have more experience with them?

I am now a few years post-divorce and in a relationship with a wonderful future wife v2.0, and I will be the first to tell you that my perspective on others', careers, and behavior patterns has changed significantly because I'm exposed to a very different slice of American culture than I was with wife v1.0. You'll find similarities where you didn't expect to find them. The same is true of differences.

I'm looking at data from the UK. Computer Programmers seem to be on the upper end of skilled, non-managerial labor.


Still lower than a lot of other professions. I do wonder how the difference in work-culture affects the data though. I have talked to programmers in the UK who say that the environment is completely different -- 35-40 hour weeks rather than the churn and burn that you see at a lot of businesses here.

All my (UK) programming gigs have been 37.5 hours and I'e never had to work overtime. Generally it's optional at a higher rate of pay.

Congratulations on the new release!

Mabey this is more an American problem? I live in Sweden and developer jobs here are fairly low pressure, high pay and everything else the rest of the industry has: 1 year maternity leave, 6 week paid vacation etc. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

"In tech, you never realistically need to worry about money or losing your job (as it is so easy to find another) - most people don't have this comfort."

This is a misconception. If you work in a cost-centre (biz speak for not making direct dollars) your task maybe cut. I've seen whole divisions in corporations cut when savings were required. Startups are notoriously flakey for employment for reasons other than direct failure. If you work in an area with measurable sales (product) you may make a lot of money.

Tech at the moment reminds me of Rock music in the 70's. Lots of cash splashing about, deals done, people making money in making music. If there is a re-adjustment due to technology, for example the move to coughDigital/CDscough in the 80's using our music analogy?

Different perspectives, I suppose, but I recommend programming to anyone who has a head for it. Admittedly, perhaps the culture is different away from the big tech hubs or startup culture or what have you. I've only been working in the field a few years in two positions, but both were fairly low-pressure positions with 40-hour workweeks, a few weeks of paid time off, and reasonable but not amazing pay. For reference, I've done ERP development at a CD manufacturer in Pennsauken, NJ, and air traffic software development for the FAA near Atlantic City, NJ.

Seems to me like there are plenty of jobs for people to get into tech and make a decent living, if they prioritize for their happiness rather than compensation or doing something 'cool'.

The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well.

Do alot of parents try to decide what their kids should be doing with their lives when they become grown ups? That in itself sounds like a reason the kids will end up in therapy.

Or maybe just rephrase the self esteem thing. The innate desire to fit some imaginary view, feeling not good enough until X happens, or Y likes you. <= What is the source of that emotion, that silent fear that make you run after ghosts.

I'm still a bit like that, very often I did things for wrong reasons, validation. My brain was very efficient and very pleasuring when seeking mental complexity, appearing smart; but socially inept to interact emotionnaly with people in sane honest ways.

A fun problem.

I've seen that theme in music before

> The Mountain Goats - Damn These Vampires

> Bright Eyes - Devil Town

The song Devil Town was written by Daniel Johnston, whose work you might enjoy. Bright Eyes certainly did a solid version of it!

Devil Town is indeed a fine piece of American Music par-excellence. But, I wouldn't read metaphor into it. I believe Johnston was talking about actual vampires living in Devil Town. Johnston suffers from some mental imbalances, and is also very religious. Devil Town would literally be where the Devil would be living. If there's a metaphor, he is talking about living in a world of sin, brought on be people who have been enchanted by the Devil.

But anyways, amazing song, AMAZING artist - one of my favorites.

And yes, love yourself.

In many ways this "theory"/theme corresponds to the behaviour observed in clinical narcissism. It's generally not healthy, though, IMO, to think with the vampire metaphor.

Also see:

> Atreyu - The Crimson

> Self-compassion/kindness is when you become your own sustainable bloodsource of self-esteem and it is critical for your survival and success.

I think this is the opposite of what the article was saying. The article says that instead of looking for "self-esteem" from your successes (and avoiding failures), you should stop chasing self-esteem altogether, and instead choose self-compassion.

> it is critical for your survival and success

I think the article is trying to say "It's okay not to succeed, go easy on yourself."

There was an article about procrastination that really stuck with me and it argued something similar: One of the reasons we put off work is because we don't look at our "future selfs" as the same person or even as someone you feel sorry for. Basically, we think "I don't give a damn, let my future self deal with the consequences!". By thinking of your future self compassionately, you can much better motivate your current self to do work you'll depend on being finished at a later date.

This might sound weird but I try this sometimes. "Thanks, past self, for having done this on time, now I can enjoy the weekend because I'm done with this tedious work!" You don't have to literally talk to yourself or anything, but it's IMO a healthy state of mind. It's also the only way I've found to directly tackle the underlying problem of procrastination instead of just telling yourself to "not be lazy, stupid!".

> we don't look at our "future selfs" as the same person

I often think of this geeky comic when the subject comes up: http://existentialcomics.com/comic/13

hilarious comic, new to me, thanks for the link! :)

I think there's economic theory that relates to this idea: discounted future utility.

e.g. $10 is most useful right now, slightly less useful a day from now, and much less useful a year from now. This is for real reasons -- inflation -- and psychological reasons -- I'm more excited about getting that $10 now than in a year.

There are equations for this stuff but it's been a long time since college.

You can replace $10 with other "goods" like time, sleep, relaxation, etc.

There's one more component of self-compassion helping with procastination. Procrastination is mostly caused by the fear of failure, - once we feel how serious the situation is, the monkey in us can't stand the tension and escapes into dark playground of denial and guilty pleasures. TFA mentions how self compassion decreases fear of failure, thus removing the main trigger of procrastination cycle.

My wife made the observation a few years back that anytime she thought, "fuck it" while procrastinating or avoiding responsibilities that you could replace it with, "fuck you, future self"

That phrasing helps immensely. Sometimes it's worth it to push out the pain, but usually it isn't.

I often do this. Both forward and back. But I also have a slightly warped sense of Self and what consciousness is.

I often will consider my past and future as a separate entity or person than myself today in the present. And acknowledge things theyve done good or bad. Or to be kind to your future self as if you are doing a favor for a close friend.

Your viewpoint doesn't seemed warped but rather uncomfortably accurate. Only the present really exists.

I maintain an open dialog with my past and future selves. Now how grateful I will be to myself in the future is definitely a motivating factor when there are things I want to accomplish that require doing things I don't want to do. And I do it out loud.

I have a bad habit of staying up too late at night. What has been helping me is instead of from thinking about the last time I did so and was tired the next day I try to imagine tomorrow's me, and think of how much better I will feel if I make sure to get a good night's rest. So this is somewhat of the reverse of what you describe. It's explicitly trying to develop empathy for my future self so that I behave in ways that are beneficial today.

Also seen in the Jerry Seinfeld bit about night guy and morning guy.

Anyway you could try to dig up the article and link to it? Sounds like a great read and I would appreciate it.

I fundamentally agree with the basic insight of this essay, but I'd like to add that we should strive to be those friends to each other so we don't need to "auto-sympathize" to such a degree. If the people that you value don't value you for how hot your girlfriend is, or how much money you make, then you won't feel the compulsion to build yourself up that way--to such a degree. Of course, the pervading culture still makes it difficult to ignore those sirens.

And of course, social media plays a huge role in this reduction of the complexity of emotional life to more superficial things, to what can fit in a camera lens or a blurb.

The kind of self-esteem that people have, I imagine, must be like malnourished populations that are also obese. They don't have any lack of social interaction quantitatively, but they're still emotionally/spiritually hungry.

We only spend so much time with our friends, while we talk to ourselves all the time, mostly in very unfriendly manner. This self talk is the basis of Default Mode Network and you can start to notice it after a couple days of total silence. Great friends are great, obviously, but we also need to internalise them.

"This self talk is the basis of Default Mode Network"

That idea interest me. Can you elaborate it? Maybe some link? Thanks.

Please look up Judson Brewer and Gary Weber (sorry for brevity, I'm on the go).

EDIT: actually this is an excellent resource for the HN crowd, 100% BS free. It explains DMN and much more: https://www.coursera.org/learn/science-of-meditation

I found this to be a good starting point: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/01/why-your-mind-is-always...

Friendship and community work better than both. I was actually in the middle of finding evidence to post, but its so numerous it really isn't necessary. Form good unconditional friendships and your happiness will exceed to new heights.

How do you form good unconditional friendships you ask? Hey, I didn't say I had all of the answers. One thing I might add is that, at least in my experience, a bad friendship is actually worse than being alone (though one might hesitate to call it a friendship to begin with), so tread carefully.

> Form good unconditional friendships and your happiness will exceed to new heights.

I think human relationships come with conditions. If there is not some reciprocation of affection, support, time, kindness, etc, then what you have is not a positive relationship, usually for either side, though they may not see it. I think we see good relationships as "unconditional" because the reciprocation comes easily and without calculation, but there are still conditions.

Sure, sort-of. I can't kill my best friend's wife and expect to maintain his friendship. So that's a condition.

It's unconditional when it doesn't feel like there are conditions, and when your friend doesn't require anything extra of you beyond the things you do.

If you just want to argue some petty semantics, then your point stands.

Well, I was with you until "petty semantics". I suspect most of us have seen a relationship that is toxic. Relationships where one person carries the emotional weight. Both parties might even think everything is ok, though usually one party feels the burden. If you are going to tell me "that's not a friendship", I would argue that's petty semantics.

It's incumbent on all of us to evaluate our relationships and make sure we're doing our part and not being either the one taken advantage of or the one taking advantage. Indeed, I would argue the "conditions" are what makes it a friendship and that being aware of those conditions is actually pretty healthy. As I matured I found myself noticing a number of my relationships were not healthy. Without that self-reflection, I think I might be much worse off today.

Unconditional friendship is shit.

Your friends who are unconditional friends are not good friends. If you value your temporary happiness over personal growth, and friends who will help you become a better person, then you are chasing a false sense of self worth. Do you really want to feel artificially good about yourself by surrounding yourself with `yes men`?

Sometimes your friends will make you feel bad, and that's okay. Sometimes you should feel bad.

When my friends make me feel bad, they're still my friends. (Speaking for myself)

I think that good, unconditional friendships and stable communities teach and model self-compassion - seeing others look at us with "that's cool, I've made mistakes too" opens the way for us to say that about our own weaknesses.

> How do you form good unconditional friendships you ask? Hey, I didn't say I had all of the answers.

So, in the category of "It works for me, YMMV.":

I am active in two hobby related clubs, one is a local ham radio club, the other is a local robotics club. Both consist of a self-selected pack of nerds that share a common interest. The members of both tend to be quirky individuals... I suppose I am, too. Both communities are large enough that I have formed lasting friendships with compatibly quirky individuals from each.

The common interest anchors the relationship, so any peripheral differences can be glossed over or ignored while working together to solve a particular problem together.

Whether it's self compassion, self confidence, self esteem or some combination of them, what needs to be supported is a sense of agency. That sense that if one really needs to make a change or pursue an opportunity, that they have the wherewithal to do so.

Wherewithal might be 'on my own' or with assistance or guidance from others. It might require creativity or just persistence. But without it, we feel helpless, hopeless and ultimately dependent and depressed.

How can people who lack a sense of agency develop it in a healthy way?

That is the thing about self compassion.

My understanding of compassion is that it is more than trating yourself as a best friend -- that is a short-hand if you have diffculty generating loving-kindness for yourself.

Life does not always give you a choice. You are not always in control (though one should still keep their wits about them). A sense of agency can again, augment the false sense of self, no more different than self confidence or self esteem.

Self compassion is different. It is loving-kindness directed to oneseld whether one is doing great or doing bad, on top of the world or hiding in deep shame, heroically rising above or writhing in guilt, having a strong sense of agency or lacking it.

It is much more painful to recieve loving-kindness when you are wounded. Loving-kindness doesn't soothe away pain so much as bring it into greater attention and allow the pain to be felt, accepted, and change can take place. It is only then that there is a transformative effect.

It can be difficult to generate loving-kindness towards oneself if you've lived a lifetime of self-judgement and self-harm. You might have forgotten what it felt like.

The principal at my kid's high school called it "Self Advocacy". Kids need to have the mentality that they are in control of their lives, they are expected to stand up for themselves, and they need to seek help or speak out when they need something or see a problem.

She was pretty harsh on helicopter parenting, and she did a good job setting expectations with parents, teachers and staff that the students really are becoming young adults in high school and they need to be given respect and responsibility.

Her speech was pretty impressive, and I doubt my explanation is doing it justice, but it was the first I'd heard the term and it really struck a chord with me.

> The principal at my kid's high school called it "Self Advocacy".

Reminds me of a book "When I Say No I feel Guilty", which suggests assertively stating what you desire to others -- even if it's "Because that's what I want and I don't have a good reason" -- as opposed to trying to struggling to frame everything in terms of "Because That's How The World Works".

Not so sure about it. When you are compassionate you often understand how things had to be the way they happened, that everything was determined - at least to some extent. When you see the power of cause and effect there's no place for blame, just compassion.

Albert Ellis (founder of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) railed against the concept of self-esteem most of his career. He remarked that you should rate your actions, not yourself as a person. This seems even more significant when you realize how important failure is to mastery:

> Striving, by its nature, often results in setbacks, and setbacks are often what provide the essential information needed to adjust strategies to achieve mastery. (from the book on learning Make It Stick)

The self serves as a useful model for behavior, but it changes so much based on context. A universal self-esteem makes no sense when you accept the fact that a human being cannot ever exist in isolation (I always exist in relation to my environment).

Once upon a time I came to the conclusion that self-esteem was the worst invention in history.

Heh. My problem is that I am so damaged that when I become friends or find girls that care for me unconditionally, I devalue that relationship because it feels un-earned.

Something that comes un-earned to me has no value.

This extends to my relationship with myself. I'm hard on others so it only makes sense that I'm hard on myself.

This is what happens when your parents get divorced and you're raised by a shitty step mom. Not that my own mother was that great to begin with (cheated on my dad etc.)

Personal thoughts: Perhaps some of the people offering you unconditional kindness are doing so from a position of emotional wellbeing. They offer their kindness in the hope that you use their kindness as a model to find your own wellbeing. There is an unspoken hope, that one day you will be strong enough to be unconditionally kind to others.

It’s a pay-it-forward kind of model. And if you choose to you can absolutely “earn” (or at least repay) every bit of kindness that’s offered to you. By stepping up and also being kind to others in need.

The good thing is that you have self-awareness about it, so you can identify when your mind or emotions are basically playing tricks on you to make you feel that way. Everyone has their quirks, and there are lots of people whose experiences growing up cause all sorts of emotional reactions that don't always map to reality, but as long as you're aware of it and understand it you can manage it and gradually recover from it (speaking as someone who had a ridiculously alienating childhood and absorbed all the baggage that comes from that when becoming an adult).

For sure man, appreciate the words. I've been working on this with a therapist for a long time, it's only now starting to make sense or I am only now starting to internalize it.

Stuff is hard.

But you have a choice in most of these sorts of things.

For example, you can decide that by simply being human, one deserves to be treated well as a standard, taking that away when someone earns the right to be treated lesser.

You can decide that you earn someone's affection simply by being yourself around the person. That's more work than folks let onto.

You can decide that sure, the past was shitty - but you've worked and persevered nonetheless and earned the things you have. You can choose to see that while those folks were shitty, others around you haven't been. You can choose to not be a victim to the past. People do it all the time.

You can choose to be a bit easier on yourself. This isn't easy and takes a bit of detachment and reminding yourself that you tend to be hard on yourself so that you can set more obtainable goals.

You can choose to get therapy to help you with these things. You've already the self-awareness of much of this, which puts you steps ahead of others.

Look, I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to reply, but this advice is a prime example of how some people just don't understand mental health.

This sounds an awful lot like the "happiness is a choice" speech. If self improvement and changing deep seated thought patterns were as easy as just choosing and deciding to act and think a certain way, the world would be a much better place.

The truth is it is a lot more complicated than that - it takes effort, practice, and guidance over a long period of time to actually enact these choices and decisions.

I do choose to fix this, I do decide to be easier on myself, this is why I've been seeing a therapist weekly for almost a year.

That is exactly why I wrote the last line, as there are lots of choices and not everyone can just snap out of it. This is my own fault, as I probably should have written more. It isn't that I've not suffered from depression - I've taken medicine for it for a while after my ex's suicide attempt because it got bad - normally, mine is just a depressive bend on life (dysrhythmia as some call it). But in the end, I had to decide these things for myself. I had to change my life, and it took years. This doesn't make any of this untrue. No other thing has worked. Yes, it takes reminding myself that perhaps, maybe, I'm expecting too much of myself. Yes, it takes practice. But it sure as hell beats expecting folks to act like my ex, who on top of being schizo-affective also turned out to be fairly abusive. I left him about 10 years ago, which kicked off a bunch of choices that vastly improved my life, then started looking at the general outlook.

To be fair, though, I'd have said many of the same things in your response 6-7 years ago. One day, it just clicked.

On a different note, happy to hear that you are getting help. I hope things have eased up over the last year for you and that they continue to do so.

Kindness and caring isn't a finite resource that has to be "earned". If you begin caring for others by default, you might find that mindset disappears.

I hear you man, and that's a good point. It's just a lot easier said than done. I've been working on this stuff for over a year and it's just now starting to sink in, but barely.

Hey, at least you have recognition of this, so you can begin to try to account for it. You are way ahead of many in that regard.

Friendship isn't earned, it is discovered and built up :)

>This is what happens when your parents get divorced and you're raised by a shitty step mom

No, this happens when you accept that you are a victim and declare that you have zero control over your emotional shortcomings because of a past event. And it will continue to happen aslong as you reinforce this in yourself.

You have no clue how this works and you clearly didn't read the article.

It's not about identifying yourself as the victim etc., it's about identifying patterns that you're not even aware of.

My comment was now in retrospect - I didn't even at the time consider my childhood to be especially bad until after therapy.

This post is riddled with misunderstanding and you have provided a classic example.

> My problem is that I am so damaged

At what age do you want to stop seeing yourself as a victim?

This is such a tired trope in the realm of mental health that it's become cliche.

CHOOSE to be happy and you will!!! Embrace change!!

What a load of crap, you shouldn't be commenting on things you aren't familiar with.

Go stay up for 6 days in a row and then tell me how well you function, how well you can make sound decisions and control your thoughts.

This is very similar.

My comment judging myself and about my childhood is in retrospect after now having spent a year in therapy. It's really brought these things to light and now that I am aware I can attempt to fix them.

And I can assure you fixing them is a lot more fucking work than making some trivial declaration that I choose to be X or choose not to be Y.

What a fucking a joke to hear people talk about this when they have no clue.

Let me test a pet theory:

You're probably a cat person, and definitely not a dog person?

In hindsight, I guess "pet theory" made this sound like a joke question.

What always blows me away is when people who've been watching their minds most of their lives and lived through the most amazing insights we can imagine, witnessing directly how the mind creates the world, how self is an illusion etc. (what neuroscientists can only state from intellectual perspective) tend to say: compassion is the highest form of wisdom.

Kristin Neff, the author of the research in TFA, brought these terms directly from her buddhist experiences AFAIK. Karuna and Meta (compassion and kindness) are very important mind "algorithms" in the Buddhist framework that apart from social and behavioral effects also have quite significant cognitive function. It allows to see things so much clearer, when you understand how complex and interdependent the reality is and how little control over reality we all are.

It's especially telling when you look at the natural progression of these mind states that one is encouraged to develop: Compassion -> Kindndess -> Symphatetic Joy (appreciating wellbeing of others) -> Equanimity.

Reading this stuff is always eye opening for me. but actually making it a part of your thinking and perspective is a whole other ball of wax. Often, I end up just forgetting entirely as the days pass - not the content, because I can often recite that upon demand. But the actual adoption of it into ones own mindset.

Very often, I've found myself going "oh yeah, i'm trying to do that!". Along with several other things as well. this is largely what drove me to build my project to adopt such changes in perspective (http://willyoudidyou.com).

And in addition to yourself, it's good to show compassion to others. But it's definitely easier to do this for others once you have done it for yourself.

For this, start small. My mindset on this sort of thing changed largely by taking up a sport (I'm a capable athlete, but not stellar). I screwed up a lot. Instead of beating myself up about it, I looked at each "failure" (by some metric, varied by sport) as an opportunity to learn. It's exactly what I'd tell a friend or child in that situation. Pick yourself up, brush off the dirt, examine what went wrong, try again. Ask others for help and feedback, it may be embarrassing at first, but it's better than making a fool of myself every time by doing it wrong or poorly.

Failure is an option, because we aren't perfect. We will fail, and how we carry on afterwards is the part that matters. Developing this attitude in one area will carry over to others. Professionally, I had a terrible habit of thinking (impostor syndrome) that I should know what I was doing, wouldn't ask for help, suffered from analysis paralysis, etc. This personal growth helped me out tremendously there.

wow, great advice for where I am right now, trying to launch a service. Lots of emotional ups/downs, opportunity for failure - which can, in the right light, be seen as an opportunity to grow. Asking for help from others... definitely something I am working on, and have gotten better about.

I find a lot of my hesitations disappear when it comes to my project. Shyness just isn't an option. You have to keep pushing it no matter what if you want it to be something. This has had some interesting side effects for me - seeing another, much stronger and resilient side of me come out to make my project a reality.

But yeah, baby steps are everything. Otherwise I just get overwhelmed or discouraged - but small wins can turn into bigger ones, and failure is certainly an option!

Thanks for the comment.

If you want to work on this the analog way, one thing that helped me is mantras. It's actually very simple - if you really want to hold on to something then boil it down to 5 words or so, and mentally repeat them until they feel like well-chewed gum. Repeat them every once in a while at completely random moments with no context, you're trying to generate a mental tic.

Eventually the thing you're trying to internalise becomes a mental habit, and starts to pop into your head all on its own at just those moments when you need it most.

Mantra's is a great concept, and I think you're on the right track. I think I've unwittingly implemented some of my own, like commitment. That is definitely something that i've tried to adopt.

But simple? I wish it were so, for me. My thoughts move in too many directions, and i can so easily deceive myself, that there were a great deal of things that were not just mantra but voices screaming in my head to do something that would rarely/ever get done. And attempts to undo them were themselves undone with time; which made it all just very stressful.

But you know, surrounding the concepts of behavioral and cognitive changes are a number of old school/new school concepts, such as this, that I think are worthwhile to explore more.

thanks for the thoughtful comment

> Reading this stuff is always eye opening for me. but actually making it a part of your thinking and perspective is a whole other ball of wax.

I think this is a good description of the effect of LSD.

A lot of the concepts that come up in your mind are things you have probably herd before, but in that moment you feel like you not only have understood their meaning, but also internalized it - attached an emotion to it so to say.

That's why I think it has such potential in psychotherapy: There might be a lot of useful concepts that you might have rationally understood, but actually 'discarded' them on an emotional level.

I've never tried drugs but the sudden emotional understanding you describe is all too familiar.

Looks like a neat project; that might help with forming some better habits for myself.

FYI, the top portion of the homepage is wider than my phone's screen, but I can't scroll sideways to read all of the text. Let me know if you want a screenshot...

It's helped me a lot. I'm much more consistently doing self-care habits i've struggled all my life to do. Of course, I still struggle sometimes to do it, but trending wise i'm much better off than i've ever managed.

Thanks for pointing out the display issue, I'll push up a fix!

willyoudidyou.com looks like an awesome project!

Thanks chris! I appreciate the feedback. It really helps to hear when faced with the indifference of the internet, for anyone launching a project.

I think it's a question of balance, depending on how strong a position you are.

If you are in a position of weakness, feeling sorry for yourself, recovering from something you are judging yourself on - then you absolutely should start with self-compassion, being kind to yourself.

To continue in this mode would ultimately hit your ambition and drive, so if you are in a bit of a stronger position mentally, a higher gear, then boosting your self-esteem is more important.

What if you find that your ambition is rooted in a lack of self-compassion and you don't need achievement as much as you thought you did? You seem to be starting from the position of thinking you know what you really want.

That would be a very interesting conclusion. It might turn out that actually, you don't Want (in the intrinsic sense) that 80h per week job, or that fancy expensive house. Perhaps a caravan in the woods is enough.

I might be misreading your subtext, but it sounds as if you're implying that ambition is a universal pro.

>it sounds as if you're implying that ambition is a universal pro

The GP was implying that I think, I mean that it might not be the case.

I guess being self compassionate when you are doing great does not bring a big benefit, but neither does it hurt. However as the article mentions, it's hard to have self esteem when you are not doing that great.

As a PhD student I have this imposter syndrome feeling whenever I hit a wall. Being self compassionate and realising that almost every PhD student hits one or more walls during their PhD has helped me to cope with this.

Loving-kindness while one is doing helps one see through complacency and turning into an asshole. It also naturally start bridging into loving-kindnes for others.

I think one of the points of the article is that you don't need to "boost" self-esteem, which comes on its own. What you are boosting instead are your self-importance and narcissism.

I would draw an analogy to "boosting" stock price. When you are doing everything right, your stock price rises on its own. But you can also do self-defeating things to "boost" it nominally.

I don't know, at the end of the day what are ambition and drive really doing for you? Maybe you don't need it. You can just be you and get what you need.

It feels quite good to live an active, goal oriented life in comparison to a more tentative or even goalless one. I've tried all three and it would appear that the mind and body respond better to the former.

It's interesting that both building high self-esteem and negative self talk (2 directions, same dimension) seem to be the basic activity of Default Mode Network - the mode of the brain activated during mindless mind-wandering. Usually people spend most of their lives in this state. The amazing part is that there's strong positive corelation between the DMN activation level and how miserable we feel. Judson Brewer has done lot of great research on this. Most meditation techniques go directly against DMN and sometimes result in turning it off for good (look up eg. Gary Weber - https://youtu.be/QeNmydIk8Yo) .

Most boys think of themselves as attractive and this is stable?

Is this statement true for most of you?

I was a fat kid (and fat young adult) and always thought I was unattractive. Even though it may not have affected me as much as it would had I been a girl, it remains prominent in my self image

In my experience, mostly no. But that could have been painted by the fact that I, too, was the fat kid for most of my youth. Despite that, I found that I could sometimes buddy up with a more attractive guy with either a better physique or social skills. I was a loser, but I could do that because I naturally treat everyone the same. Anyway, even attractive young men seem to view themselves as lesser creatures whose esteem would be improved by obtaining an attractive female. True, that often boosts one's esteem, but there's little self-love in that picture. Of course some guys do have a level of independent self esteem, but it is surprising how many attractive men don't think highly of themselves.

As far as stability, I think it has to do a lot with your physical and mental health. I noticed that most of the guys I knew who were out of shape and had basement dweller habits tended to stick with self-hating tendencies. And some people who didn't have key periods in their life, like having a mate or living on their own, have stayed that way after about age 26.

I find the terminology a little muddy in this article, as I would not characterise the "narcissistic" behaviours described therein, and the expected rewards, as having anything to do with self-esteem. In my book, self-esteem is inherently intrinsic; appreciating the unconditional value that you, those around you, and every living creature on Earth possesses.

This talk given by Irish comedian Blindboy Boatclub (of Rubberbandits fame) describes the concept as simply, succinctly, and beautifully as I have ever heard.


There seem to be various definitions around. Even though a Psychology professor is cited, already at the beginning self-esteem and self-confidence are treated similarly. I really like the following definition of self-esteem: the feeling of (a) being in control of your basic needs and (b) deserving to feel good. This also solves the paradox stated, it just means that you should maintain a certain self-worth.

If your self-worth is too low, you may be used by other people. If it's over the top, you may act arrogant. So yeah...

Self-confidence is more like the

Well, this article brings a very insightful perspective into view. It's not often you come across content that might profoundly affect your world views!

Also, at the opposite end of the spectrum here is a reference to a show called 'Black Mirror' with an episode which is about the need to constantly be seeking other peoples approval (for self-esteem boosting):


I highly recommend watching this, very sobering.

Yeah the anti-dote to Facebook.

There's an awesome book by Kamal Ravikant that relates to the idea of self-compassion: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Yourself-Like-Your-Depends-ebook...

> try talking to yourself like you would your best friend.

So swearing at myself, basically? Strange advice.

Your best friend should probably consider looking for a new best friend :^p

BestFriend is not necessarily a reflexive relation to begin with :p

fairly sure you meant symmetric *<:o

I assume that reflexive allows for differences in connection strength, where symmetric implies equal connections on both sides.

So to speak.

Oh dear. And it's not even that late

But it's also true that not everyone is a friend to themselves.

Best friends are the ones with who you can have a transparent discussion. Including a reality check, which can be harsh. If they don't do it, who will ?

If you aren't self compassionate you probably have harsh criticism covered pretty well all on your own.

That's not the tone I got from the post to which I replied. As they put it, 'Strange advice' - as in, 'Why would I treat myself as poorly as I treat my best friend?' I took it for a joke post (hence ":^p").

I'm going to assume you read the read the article and know the answer to your question.

To me, your comment reads as a cheeky way of saying that not all people are fluent in overt compassion and that this is fine.

I would agree, as long as there is an underlying implied compassion in these relationships, and that both parties have understanding of this. We are all human at the end of the day, and the need for social support is universal.

You are quite right. My comment was made tongue-in-cheek. Healthy verbal abuse is part of all of my best friendships.

Self-compassion and compasion is generating the feeling of loving-kindness. The "best friend" advice was meant to be more relateable.

>There’s nothing wrong with being confident.

This is obviously false, counterexamples are everywhere you look.

Being overconfident is a problem. Being confident isn't. Confidence is the (internal) certainty that you're in the right on something. Overconfidence occurs when you lack the ability to reexamine that position, and leads to ill effects (shattered ego after failure, posturing rather than persuading, inability to correct your course when in error).

When doing any task, you need to be confident that what you're doing is the correct thing to do, even if it's only an experiment and you accept that it may fail. When designing or writing a program, I choose a path, and proceed confidently. When I hit a dead end (a bad design, an unsolvable problem), because I'm not overconfident, I'm able to reexamine my choices and correct. If I lacked sufficient confidence to begin, I'd be stuck at the design stage trying to decide between the twenty different frameworks available, analysis paralysis. Or I'd be second guessing myself at each stage and progress would be remarkably slow.

When going out on the field or into a ring for a sport, you have to be confident in each movement so that the movement is fluid, deliberate. Lack of confidence induces hesitation, and hesitation is more likely to lead to failure (by some metric). Which creates a feedback loop continuing the reduction of confidence and the increase in hesitation, resistance to progress.

I think a better way of framing confidence and overconfidence is your ability to feel impacted by other people around you. If someone has reached the point where other people's reactions, thoughts, feelings, seem to hit a kind of armor and gets ignored or shrugged off, he is acting like an asshole.

It is one thing to feel confident while at the same time, one feels the connection with other people. When someone uses the feeling of being "right" as a shield, it veers into asshole territory.

It's possible to go too far toward the other extreme, though. People react to confidence.

This is why there's York and Zach in Deadly Premonition!


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In which a new set of overconfident, simplistic solutions harshly criticize the previous set of overconfident, simplistic solutions. If only we had known what we were doing when we unleashed the dark force of self esteem we could have stopped bullying!

I'm sure being patient and understanding with yourself (and with everyone else) is an approach to life that has a lot of benefits, but these articles are nothing more than pornography for our narcissistic idea that we have this huge power to shape who our kids are by simply embracing a new outlook from a paperback or using new words.

I'm always dismayed at how easy it is to make an armchair dismissal of research in social sciences.

It's probably because they can use the in-group primitives of the field to construct internally-consistent conclusions that are obviously false or silly to both casual observers and people who try to reproduce them systematically

if the social sciences held themselves to the standard of the hard sciences this problem couldn't exist

I feel like if social sciences held themselves to that standard we'd end up with eugenics? There's some inherit benefit to recognizing that social sciences aren't strictly 'hard-logic' sciences.

and I feel like worrying about the social consequences of the hard logic you uncover while studying social issues is a fundamentally flawed reasoning

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