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When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade: Self-Compassion Increases Adaptive Beliefs About Failure

Abstract

Two studies were conducted to examine how self-compassion relates to beliefs about failure. Study 1 (N = 252) showed that, after controlling for self-esteem, trait self-compassion correlated positively with the belief that failures are learning opportunities and part of life, and negatively with the belief that failures are aversive and something that must be avoided. In Study 2, participants (N = 124) first recalled their weaknesses, then wrote either (a) a compassionate message toward themselves (self-compassion condition), (b) a description of their strengths (self-reflection condition), or (c) a list of Japanese prefectures (control condition), and completed measures of state self-compassion and beliefs about failure. Self-compassion manipulation increased positive responses to the self (comprising self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness components of the Self-Compassion Scale) relative to control, which in turn, predicted a stronger belief that failures are learning opportunities. Self-reflection manipulation also predicted this adaptive belief by increasing the positive responses relative to control and, more importantly, it also increased negative responses to the self (comprising self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification components of the Self-Compassion Scale), which, in turn, predicted the beliefs that failures are aversive and must be avoided. In sum, this research confirms that people high in self-compassion hold adaptive beliefs about failures; it also suggests that one could promote adaptive beliefs by increasing the positive responses to the self and decrease maladaptive beliefs by decreasing the negative responses to the self.

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Notes

  1. Those who dropped out did not differ from the rest of the participants on any of the study variables (p > .154).

  2. Following Sekiya and Kodama (2012), we dropped data of participants who chose 1 or 2 on a 5-point scale of the clarity of their recalled personal weaknesses.

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Correspondence to Yuki Miyagawa.

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Miyagawa, Y., Niiya, Y. & Taniguchi, J. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade: Self-Compassion Increases Adaptive Beliefs About Failure. J Happiness Stud 21, 2051–2068 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00172-0

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Keywords

  • Self-compassion
  • Beliefs about failure
  • Self-reflection
  • Self-esteem
  • Learning
  • Growth