[00:00] Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Ziglar Show, Planet Earth’s source for inspiring your true performance.  I’m your honored host, Kevin Miller, and today we have episode 476, where Tom Ziglar and I talk with Dr. Kristin Neff. She is here because my wife, Teri, had to watch Kristin’s TED talk for her doctoral studies and asked me to watch it with her. That talk now has over 800 thousand views. Kristin wrote a book titled Self-Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. You can find her at self-compassion.org. What hooked me was her commentary on self-esteem. Now, Zig Ziglar was the king of calling us to the necessity of a healthy self-image. But when Kristin divulged the research of how our culture has gone about achieving self-esteem at the sake of others and what it’s done to all of us…I was floored. Especially in realizing I, too, was a victim. Two big focal points you’ll get from this are in relation to

  1. How we tend to equate self-esteem with comparing to or being better than others
  2. How our self-esteem is conditional. We have better self-esteem.

[01:31] Again, folks, this is an interview that will equip you to better address your own self-esteem in a healthy way that will then empower you to be and do what you need and want to do.

[01:47] Because that is our point here…to bring you tools and resources to help you progress in your life, however that looks for you. We want to eliminate the things that handicap and limit you.

[01:56] This issue today is huge. I watched Dr Kristin Neff’s TED talk, then reviewed the book to pull out the big issues, and that is what Tom Ziglar and I discuss with her today.

[02:58] As you listen to this show, you will likely have some thoughts…questions…concerns in how to apply this to your life. Don’t let them just sit there. Send them to us by going to ask.zigshow.com, or email them to ask@zigshow.com. We’ll address them in our upcoming Q&A show.

[03:32] Also, would you bless us by leaving a rating or review in iTunes? Just share something about the show you appreciate or has benefited you. Leaving a rating or review is the number one thing that raises our ranking and helps more seeking people find us.

[04:45] OK, folks, here is Tom Ziglar and me talking with Dr. Kristin Neff to break down the issue and value of self-compassion and self-esteem.

[04:55] Kristin, as you know, I contacted you after my wife, Teri, asked me to watch your TED talk with her. Your talk, nearing 800K views already, was required curriculum in her PHD studies. About five minutes in, I told her we needed you on The Ziglar Show because I knew it was a message our audience needed. So, thank you immensely for being here with us today!

[05:32] In your book and message, you do a lot to redefine, or maybe just correctly clarify, what self-compassion actually is. Can we start there?

[05:48] Yeah, it is important, because it is not really something that is talked about in our culture, even necessarily valued. It is really easy to think about self-compassion and to imagine the feelings and compassion for others, applied to ourselves. How to feel compassion for others, first you have to notice suffering and then respond with care and concern.

[08:05] You already mentioned what my next question was. I read the book, so now I know. I have been under some mis-perception of what self-compassion is, so can you outline those qualities?

[08:25] There are five. The same ones come up over and over again. The first one comes up about people getting self-compassion confused with self-pity. Probably the number one fear of self-compassion which people have is that it undermines our motivation. The people who are more self-compassionate or help others to be self-compassionate, they are more motivated, because they have their own back.

[14:25] I tend to naturally dive into the problem and start unearthing it so we can better understand it. But in these interviews on personal development, I’m trying to get in the habit of starting off with the result. The carrot, the motive. So can we start there…help us see and understand what the payoff to healthy self-compassion is, then we’ll dissect the problem:

[15:02] There are thousands of researchers on pretty much the benefits of self-compassion. So it is more for mental issues, people are less stressed, less depressed, less suicidal, they are happier. There are a lot of people who think that self-compassion is weak. But actually, self-compassion gives you the strength. It basically means supporting yourself in times of struggle. How can supporting yourself be bad?

[18:00] One of the things that we do — it is probably the single most powerful thing that we have — is that we recommend that somebody can change the story they tell of themselves. Right away, I’m feeling a bit defensive. Again, I don’t have a conscious perspective of putting others down, I hope I’m building them up. And in regards to “feeding our positive self-evaluation,” I think of Zig Ziglar’s self-talk cards, which are incredibly popular and life-altering. They are positive affirmations. Not aimed at being better than others but at speaking positives into our self-image. Is it possible to work to bolster our self-image in these ways with some health, or am I blind and we’re…I am…still falling into the self-esteem in comparison to others trap?

[19:08] If you have a positive affirmation about a true quality and you actually believe it. It is very good to appreciate, validate it, and not to see the negative things but the positive. So, if there is some positive affirmation that you actually don’t believe of yourself, it has actually the opposite effect. It doesn’t actually help to give you the confidence.

[27:14] Your book title is about self-compassion. But what caught my attention right away in your TED talk was your taking issue with self-esteem and how we generally work to achieve it. That it’s generally ego-driven and attained by being above average, better than others. It struck a chord with me because…I relate! While I wasn’t brought up with a blatant focus to “be better than others,” there was an expectation to excel. Be the best me I can be. But it seems so hard to not have the measuring stick be, to a degree, in comparison to others. Today, I’m not telling my kids that their focus is to be better than others…specifically…but I have to admit to gauging their performance in relation to others as a measuring stick. You pointing out the errancy of this method is what grabbed me. You are upending a gigantic cultural norm and it feels like… calling us all out to a massive paradigm shift. The blue sky is now red. That’s hard!

[32:03] There is nothing wrong with self-esteem. We want to have the self work. You have to feel worthy. If your self-esteem is predicated on logical possibility, then this is your problem, number one. The other thing is self-esteem tends to be contingent. Self-compassion is, you can say, unconditional work towards self.

[38:50] Something in your talk that brought a laugh because it was funny, but also nailed us all, was in reference to the general belief that most sitting in the audience believe themselves to be above average, but not everyone sitting in the room can be, of course. The numbers don’t work. Which, to me, just showcased we are all living under a grand myth. Of course, you are outlining what this wrong thinking is doing to us individually, but what are the effects you’ve seen this cause in our cultural circumstances? What societal problems has it created?

[39:40] In some way, shifting away from the self-esteem culture is pretty much a miracle shift. I think there are a lot of young people who find interest in finding different ways of doing it.

[41:15] So, let me make this personal and hit on something that’s been a frustration of mine regarding competition. I’m a lifelong athlete and appreciate the discipline, training and teaching of sports. I’ve had all my kids involved in running, racing, cross-country, and track. There is a series of races in our area of Colorado that we participate in. A mantra is “everyone wins,” and they don’t declare a winner and all the kids get blue ribbons. I think it’s ridiculous, personally. It’s not real life. While I do try to focus with my kids on their performance and bettering themselves, their own time and not just their placing in the race, it’s impossible to ignore when my little boy just runs away from the entire field and wins by a big margin. But then I’ve also seen him so disappointed on a day when he doesn’t do as well. How do I foster his personal progression, but tend to a healthy self-mage?

[42:46] Of course, we want to learn ourselves. It is a human race, and we want to achieve certain goals, help save the world, planet…what really matters is what is your benchmark? My level of success is contingent on how I improve, how I learn, how I try my best, not in the fact that I am in the race with someone else. But you can still have your own benchmarks. And if you do still fail, you should think, “How can I improve and win next time?”

[47:38] You then talk about the influence of our culture that has caused much of our critical nature. I want to ask about a specific issue, though. You wrote about “self-criticism as a motivating force.” Could it be true that it is in fact…a motivating force? It can drive us to succeed and excel, even as it damages our self-esteem. Is it possible to expect more from myself and drive myself to more…with compassion? In show ??? Christine Hassler, author of Expectation Hangover, made a point of saying the solution was NOT merely lowering our expectations, having high expectations, but managing them! Can we do that here?

[48:55] If criticism is not working all that we want it to do, obviously, it does not work.  It will for fear motivators. There are intended consequences that fear itself can actually start to bring the good performance. So, the fear is the motivator, the performance anxiety is the number one way to perform better.

[50:16] “Most of us are incredibly hard on ourselves when we finally admit some flaw or shortcoming. I’m not good enough, I’m worthless.” This brings to mind two issues:

  1. Humility, or really, unhealthy humility where we think we are supposed to belittle ourselves and downplay ourselves.
  2. High performance – where we demand much of ourselves and subscribe to the theology that, of course, we are never good enough, and our quest is to daily better ourselves and never be satisfied or complacent.

Can I ask you to address both of those very common perspectives?

[51:10] That is strange, when you think that “I can’t do this, I am worthless.” That is not the best humanity. The best humanity is when you think that “I tried my best, I gave it all, but it is ok if I have not succeeded.” For any endeavor, we should be clear with what my intention is. Are we performing for others or for us? Your intentions to achieve what you wanna achieve, to help others, you need to think, “Why am I doing this?”

[53:15] How do we react to ourselves and our lives…when they are in difficulty? When we mess up, or when we are a victim of something? Is this a foundational self-audit…a tell-tale sign? If you videotaped five incidents through the day of someone, can you usually tell us where they stand in the self-compassion department?

[53:38] Well, you don’t need extra self-compassion. When you say these words, that “he is my friend, I have to do this for him,” you need to think, “How can I save my friend, whom I care about?”   

[54:48] Three components of self-compassion:

  1. self-kindness
  2. common humanity
  3. mindfulness

[55:03] 1 self-kindness – that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves, rather than harshly critical and judgmental. OK, honest admission, that is just a foreign concept, which, to me, feels like a red flag. I tend to think, as a guy, that this issue is harder for guys than women. I’m curious on that…but then also just ask you to give some more clarity on this area for those like me who are almost lost here:

[55:34] Women are actually less self-compassionate than men. It is not always about softness; sometimes you need to pick yourself up and say you are harming yourself, stop it. Really firmly, protecting, supporting yourself more firmly.

[56:35] 2 common humanity – feeling connected with others in the experience of life, rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. My experience with myself and honestly…some of those I am closest with, is we tend towards shame and feeling our sin, lack, weakness…is the worst. Is this part of what you are speaking toward?

[57:13] Just skipping the expectation of perfection. The contract which states, “I am never wrong, I will never fail,” etc., that contract doesn’t exist. The contracts we need to sign are “I am gonna be fully human, I am gonna do mistakes;” humanity is something we all share.

[58:25] 3 mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. I’ve had multiple counselors give me papers that outline an emotional dashboard of feelings…because I generally…ignore my feelings. I have…I’m a work in progress!

[59:25] We usually have two streams, either we suppress our emotions, which is very difficult and we can’t give up on what we need, so suppression isn’t good. The other stream is getting lost in the story line.

[1:01:10] This segment of the book, in all truth, just made me feel — on the audit of self-compassion, I’m a flunky. Which is why you are here; I just wanted a free counseling session. I get an F in self-compassion, but worse, I realize it’s what handicaps my ability to have true compassion for others. But to take a first, baby-step toward my own self-compassion, it seems I should realize I’m in good company. I’m not alone, and be kind towards myself.

[1:02:47] Well, Kristen, thank you, and thank you for walking with us. We do inspire our true performance, but in a healthier way. So thank you again.