Friday, May 8, 2015

Can self-compassion improve wellbeing in teenagers?

Two new studies investigate self-compassion in adolescents.

Teenagers today face many challenges, often including intense expectations and pressures from their parents, teachers, and friends. Sometimes, however, their harshest critics are not any of these other people, but themselves. Could self-compassion help?
Pioneering researcher Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as treating oneself with kindness and care rather than judgment, being mindful of one’s own painful feelings, and understanding one’s suffering as part of the common human condition. While many studies have found it to be associated with well-being in adults, few researchers have investigated if this is true for young people as well. Now two new studies suggest that self-critical teenagers can also benefit from a dose of self-compassion—and this might be especially true for high-school girls.
In the first study, published this year in The Journal of Positive Psychology, Karen Bluth and Priscilla Blanton surveyed students in middle and high school about their levels of positive and negative feeling, perceived stress, and life satisfaction—as well as self-compassion. Overall, they found that self-compassion was associated with higher life satisfaction and lower perceived stress and negative feeling.
Then they compared boys and girls. There were no gender differences in middle school and no differences between boys in middle school vs. high school, they found. But the high school girls were another story.
Compared to both their male counterparts and to the middle school girls, the high school girls felt significantly worse and more stressed out. They were also less satisfied with their lives and much less self-compassionate.  According to researchers, the high school girls “reported being more self-judging, feeling more isolated, and having more difficulty maintaining a balanced perspective in the midst of challenging circumstances.” This finding concurs with other research that has found higher depression rates in adolescent females compared to males as well as lower self-compassion among adult women compared to men.
Although this study couldn’t determine the causal direction of any of these relationships, the authors suggest that a program to build and develop self-compassion in younger adolescents, especially girls, could help prevent the apparent self-compassion decline. Such programs have shown promising results in adults, and could help enhance the emotional well-being of teens as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.
The second study, conducted by Sarah Marshall and colleagues, tried to address the issue of causality by seeing how both self-compassion and self-esteem might relate to well-being over time. Low self-esteem has long been associated with reduced mental health in young people, and so well-meaning adults have tried to increase it. Unfortunately, self-esteem involves comparisons to others, and recent research has found that too much can lead to narcissism and avoidance of growth opportunities.
The researchers surveyed over 2000 ninth graders in Australia, measuring their self-esteem, self-compassion, and mental health. They went back to the same students a year later, asking similar questions. While both self-esteem and self-compassion on their own were associated with improved mental health in tenth grade, the researchers found an interesting interaction: high self-compassion seemed to protect against the harmful effects of low self-esteem.
For the students with high self-esteem, self-compassion levels didn’t make much difference; they all, on average, showed improved mental health the next year. But for those with low self-esteem, low self-compassion predicted reduced mental health a year later, whereas high self-compassion protected against this drop. (Though boys did report higher mental health than girls, on average, this effect was the same across both genders.)
This result makes sense since self-compassion, unlike self-esteem, would allow the students to accept their shortcomings with kindness, rather than judging themselves or avoiding their flaws. High self-esteem can be great, but teenagers—like all of us—often encounter situations that cause them to doubt themselves. In the face of these struggles, the authors propose, self-compassion could be a key to teens’ maintaining a healthy, balanced view of themselves and their lives.
Although more research is needed, it’s clear that self-compassion shows a lot of promise as a way to help teenagers become happier and healthier. Through all the challenges they face, they may not come out on top every time—and that’s OK.

By Emily Campbell

Source: Greater Good

3 Myths of Leadership Development: Part III

In our two previous posts, we've discussed two prominent myths in today's workplace. Myth I, "Leadership is Knowledge," and Myth II, "Leadership Development Should Happen Only with the Top Leaders."

Myth #3: "Leadership Development is about Learning, Not Just Asking"

As we move into the final part of our three part series on the 3 myths of leadership development, our focus is on asking the tough questions. In many cases when building a leadership development model, it is assumed that to learn you have to listen, observe and absorb. This is only partly true -- listening is only half the battle. If the right questions are not asked, then the right information will not be offered. Asking the right questions brings up the correct information needed to build the best leadership development model for an organization. 
Rather than believing what you hear, believe in what you ask. Asking the right questions will lead you to build a Leadership Development model that considers both intellectual consideration of opportunities and challenges, as well as identify the emotional difficulties and areas of engagement employees face within an organization.
Most organizations start with the obvious questions when building their leadership development model: What is working? What is missing?
But the toughest question is frequently not asked: What is unspoken?
Unearthing the unspoken acknowledges the "hidden culture" within an organization. This is the stuff that is asked after the meeting or at the water cooler. It is how decisions are made (or not made) and the "unofficial" way to get resolution to a problem. Asking about the unspoken gives a voice to what is really happening in your organization, above the surface and below it.
Most organizations build leadership development plans around an assumed culture and forget to ask what the unspoken culture is. Failing to do this will render a leadership development model less ineffective than it could be. By openly talking about your company's unspoken culture, be sure to identify and distinguish between the "real versus ideal" cultures. Dig deep into what's unspoken in your organization and make it safe to enable change to occur, from all levels throughout. Now... go make it happen!! 
To recap on all three myths, In Part I, we looked at the myth "Leadership is Knowledge," and unveiled the truth, which involves ensuring your leadership plan provides not only an extension of knowledge, but also the opportunity to provide opportunity to practice applying new knowledge or skills acquired.
In Part II, we looked at the myth "Leadership Development Should Happen Only with the Top Leaders," and found that in order to build one's Leadership Development pipeline, it's best to involve middle management.
Lastly, in Part III, we uncovered that asking the right questions is equally important to learning, and in fact one of the key factors to ignite change in the workplace.

Jim Finkelstein is the President and CEO of FutureSense, Inc. He is a life long student of people and is an Adjunct Faculty member at Sonoma State University in the Executive MBA program. You can follow him on Twitter @futuresense
Melissa Mead is a writer for FutureSense. You can follow her on Twitter at @mloves2run

Source: Huffungton Post