Feeling Self-Critical? Try Mindfulness

By Emily Nauman | March 10, 2014 | 0 comments

New research shows that mindfulness may help us to stop comparing ourselves to other people.

Many of us feel great about ourselves when we focus on how much success we’ve had in comparison to others. But what happens when we don’t succeed? Self-esteem sinks.

Our Mindful Mondays series provides ongoing coverage of the exploding field of mindfulness research. Our Mindful Mondays series provides ongoing coverage of the exploding field of mindfulness research. Dan Archer

New research shows that developing mindfulness skills may help us build secure self-esteem—that is, self-esteem that endures regardless of our success in comparison to those around us.

Christopher Pepping and his colleagues at Griffith University in Australia conducted two studies to demonstrate that mindfulness skills help enhance self-esteem.

In the first study, the researchers administered questionnaires to undergraduate students in an introductory psychology course to measure their mindfulness skills and their self-esteem. The researchers anticipated that four aspects of mindfulness would predict higher self-esteem:

  • Labeling internal experiences with words, which might prevent people from getting consumed by self-critical thoughts and emotions;
  • Bringing a non-judgmental attitude toward thoughts and emotions, which could help individuals have a neutral, accepting attitude toward the self;
  • Sustaining attention on the present moment, which could help people avoid becoming caught up in self-critical thoughts that relate to events from the past or future;
  • Letting thoughts and emotions enter and leave awareness without reacting to them.

The results, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, support the researchers’ predictions: students with these mindfulness skills indeed had higher self-esteem. However, this study did not clarify whether mindfulness causes self-esteem, or whether those with mindfulness also had higher self-esteem because of some other factor.

In order to find out if mindfulness directly causes higher self-esteem, the researchers conducted a second study. They instructed half of the participants to complete a 15-minute mindfulness meditation that focused on the sensation of their breath. The other half of participants read a 15-minute story about Venus fly-trap plants. All of the participants completed questionnaires that assessed their level of self-esteem and mindfulness both before and after they completed the 15-minute task.

Consistent with the researchers’ predictions, those that participated in the mindfulness meditation had higher scores in mindfulness and in self-esteem after meditating, while there was no change in these dimensions for those that read the Venus fly-trap plant story.

Because the only difference between the two groups was whether or not they participated in a mindfulness exercise, these results suggest that mindfulness directly causes enhanced self-esteem.

The authors write that because the effects of the mindfulness exercise on self-esteem in this study were temporary, future research should examine if mindfulness interventions can lead to long-term changes in self-esteem.

However, these findings are promising. The authors write, “Mindfulness may be a useful way to address the underlying processes associated with low self-esteem, without temporarily bolstering positive views of oneself by focusing on achievement or other transient factors. In brief, mindfulness may assist individuals to experience a more secure form of high self-esteem.”

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

 
About The Author

Emily Nauman is a GGSC research assistant. She completed her undergraduate studies at Oberlin College with a double major in Psychology and French, and has previously worked as a research assistant in Oberlin’s Psycholinguistics lab and Boston University’s Eating Disorders Program.

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  

Greater Good Events

Mindful Self-Compassion: Core Skills Training
International House
December 9-10, 2016


This workshop is an introduction to Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), an empirically-supported training program based on the pioneering research of Kristin Neff and the clinical perspective of Chris Germer.


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

How Pleasure Works By Paul Bloom Bloom explores a broad range of human pleasures from food to sex to religion to music. Bloom argues that human pleasure is not purely an instinctive, superficial, sensory reaction; it has a hidden depth and complexity.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement