Are you too hard on yourself?

I’m betting you are, at least at times. I sure am. In fact, most driven, highly productive people seem to be quite unforgiving of their own errors. They don’t like failing or making mistakes, and they often engage in emotional self-flagellation after any missteps.

Friends and family (my wife, in particular) tell them to be kinder to themselves, but they worry that if they ease up on the gas, they’ll lose their drive. “If I’m going to hold myself to a high standard,” the thinking goes, “failure should be painful.” This has been my personal belief for many years, and I know I’m not alone.

I was therefore intrigued to read a New York Times article about recent research in psychology that suggests that self-compassion may actually increase productivity compared to self-criticism. As Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher at UT Austin, puts it, “Research shows that the No. 1 barrier to self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge, and all the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite.”

If a little self-compassion isn’t going to turn us into unproductive couch potatoes, well, it’s hard to argue against being a little kinder to ourselves.

I guess my wife was right.