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The role of self-compassion in entrepreneurship

8 min read
Art Martori

Entrepreneurship can be quite the roller coaster ride. One minute you're on top of the world, the next you're plummeting downward, questioning your life choices. It's a journey that demands resilience, grit, and a healthy dose of self-esteem. 

But what if self-esteem isn't actually the be-all and end-all? There's another, often overlooked, ingredient to entrepreneurial success.

That ingredient is self-compassion.

Self-compassion matters a tremendous amount. It's not about being self-indulgent or wallowing in self-pity. Rather, it's about treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you'd extend to a good friend. 

It's about acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes, and that's okay. It's about being mindful of your emotions, without letting them control you. 

We’re diving deeper into this concept today to see how it can benefit you as an entrepreneur.

The components of self-compassion

According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading authority on self-compassion, "The more we can accept ourselves, the more able we are to change and take risks and the less anxious we are about failure."

Which actually brings us to our first lesson: self-compassion is made up of three essential components. 

Let’s get acquainted with them now.  

Kindness: Be your own best friend

Imagine you've just had a rough day. A deal fell through, a client was unhappy, or maybe you just made a mistake. What's your first instinct? 

If you're like most people, you might start beating yourself up. But what if you treated yourself like a friend instead?

Self-compassion encourages you to be kind to yourself, especially during tough times. It's about understanding that setbacks and failures are part of the entrepreneurial journey, and it's okay to be imperfect. 

notepad with the words "be kind" written in cursive

Instead of responding with anger and frustration, you respond with kindness and understanding. It means asking yourself something like, “What would be kind right now?” according to Harvard Business Review

This shift in perspective can make a world of difference. It can help you bounce back from failures, learn from your mistakes, and keep going even when the going gets tough.

Shared humanity: You're not alone

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. It's easy to feel like you're the only one struggling, the only one facing challenges. But guess what? You're not alone. 

Everyone faces setbacks, everyone feels less-than sometimes. This is what we call shared humanity.

Recognizing your shared humanity helps alleviate feelings of isolation. It reminds us that we're all in this together, that struggle is a part of life. 

This realization can be incredibly comforting, especially during tough times. It can help you feel more connected to others, more grounded, and less overwhelmed by your own struggles.

Mindfulness: Keeping your balance

Mindfulness is all about being present, about observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It's like being the calm in the storm. 

When negative emotions and thoughts come up, you don't ignore them or get swept away by them. Instead, you observe them with kindness and understanding, maintaining your emotional balance.

In the context of entrepreneurship, mindfulness can be a game-changer. It can help you stay focused amidst chaos, make better decisions, and handle stress more effectively. 

These three components make up self-compassion. And each one plays a vital role in supporting your efforts as an entrepreneur. 

How does this translate into real-world benefits? And how can you cultivate self-compassion in your own life? We’ll explore that in just a bit.

But first, let's debunk some common misconceptions about self-compassion and explore how it can impact entrepreneurial success.

The misconceptions of having self-compassion

Let's clear the air. There's a common myth floating around that self-compassion leads to decreased motivation or a lack of competitive edge. 

But that's just not the case. In fact, self-compassion can actually enhance motivation by reducing fear of failure and promoting a growth mindset.

And when you actually sit with this concept for a minute, it makes sense. 

If you're constantly beating yourself up over every little mistake, you're likely to be too scared to take risks or try new things. 

But if you treat yourself with kindness and understanding, you're more likely to see failures as learning opportunities rather than catastrophes. This can free you up to take risks, innovate, and ultimately drive your business forward.

So, don't fall for this unfounded notion. Self-compassion isn't about letting yourself off the hook or settling for less. It's about creating a supportive inner environment that fosters growth, resilience, and long-term success.

The true impact of self-compassion on entrepreneurial success

Now, let's talk about how self-compassion can contribute to your success as a business owner. It's not just a nice-to-have. 

It's a must-have for any entrepreneur looking to build a sustainable and successful business.

First off, self-compassion can boost your emotional resilience. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride, filled with highs and lows. 

Self-compassion can help you navigate these ups and downs with grace and resilience. It can help you bounce back from setbacks, stay positive in the face of challenges, and keep going even when things get tough.

But that's not all. Self-compassion can also reduce your fear of failure. When you're kind to yourself, you're less likely to be paralyzed by fear of making mistakes. This can free you up to take risks, try new things.

Woman typing on laptop on desk with books on the side

And the benefits don't stop there. A study published in the Journal of Business Venturing found that entrepreneurs who practice self-compassion are more likely to engage in learning from failure. 

They're more likely to view failures as learning opportunities, rather than threats to their self-worth. This can lead to greater resilience, innovation, and success.

Likewise, self-compassion can also contribute to better health behaviors. According to author Melody Wilding, who was cited in at Entrepreneur, people who practice self-compassion are more likely to stick to healthy behaviors like eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. 

These behaviors can boost your energy, improve your focus, and ultimately enhance your performance as an entrepreneur.

Now, on to the actionable bits. Next, we'll explore some practical strategies for cultivating self-compassion in your own life. 

How to cultivate self-compassion as an entrepreneur

It’s likely you're sold on the benefits of self-compassion by now, but how do you actually cultivate it in your own life and in your business operations? Here are a few practical strategies to get you started:

Practice mindfulness

Start by simply noticing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When you make a mistake or face a setback, observe how you react. Do you beat yourself up? Do you get swept up in negative emotions? Just noticing these patterns is the first step towards change.

Reframe your self-talk

Try to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a good friend. Instead of being harsh and critical, be kind and understanding. When you make a mistake, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and it's okay.

Connect with others

Remember, you're not alone. Reach out to other entrepreneurs, join a support group, or simply share your experiences with a trusted friend. This can help you feel more connected and less isolated in your work.

Practice self-care

Take care of your physical health. Eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. These basic self-care practices can go a long way in supporting your emotional well-being and resilience.

Seek professional help

If you're struggling with self-compassion, consider seeking help from a professional. A coach or therapist can provide you with tools and strategies to cultivate self-compassion and support your journey to betterment both in your work and personal life.

Two people chatting in a therapy session

Cultivating self-compassion is a journey, not a destination. It takes time and practice. So, be patient with yourself. 

Developing self-compassion can help your business grow

Self-compassion is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs. It can boost your resilience, reduce your fear of failure, and enhance your overall well-being. But more than that, it can transform your relationship with yourself. 

It can help you treat yourself with the kindness, understanding, and respect you deserve.

So, why not give it a try? Start cultivating self-compassion and mark the difference it can make in how you approach your work. For what it’s worth – you’re not alone in this. We're all in this together, navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. 

With that in mind, try embracing self-compassion and unlock your full entrepreneurial potential.