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"Resilience" and the importance of self compassion

  • Article
A pink image of a microphone, with the words Kaplan’s Learn Better Podcast

We often see resilience as pushing through adversity, but it is important for us to discover how it can help us learn to become more adaptable, flexible and not fear failure.

This week our Learn Better Podcast host, Stuart Pedley Smith, Head of Learning at Kaplan, explores the connection between resilience, compassion and overcoming failure.

Our guest, Kirsty Lilly, is a Mental Health expert who specialises in helping people develop their compassionate self. Kirsty talks about the importance of resilience when it comes to failure and how self compassion is integral to this.

With many people often using a harsh inner critic to motivate themselves, Kirsty explains that this can often lead to increased stress levels. However, when you utilise self compassion in times of failure, you can coach yourself through it, learn from it and be comfortable in trying again.

Most people who do well at things that have had several stages of failure, but had the resourcefulness and the resilience to persevere.

- Kirsty Lilly

Key topics

Resilience and compassion

When we talk about resilience, in general we mean the ability to be adaptable, flexible, and understanding. Taking away what you can learn through difficulty.

Often, it is seen as pushing through adversity, but this can become quite unhelpful as we can find it very difficult to acknowledge when we have reached our personal capacity.

Looking at compassion from a human evolutionary perspective, we see this as sensitivity to our own, or others, distress and the commitment to alleviate or prevent that distress.

A compassionate identity is one that is helpful not harmful. There are three underlying qualities of compassion: courage, wisdom and a sense of comfort with your own body and mind.

Self compassion in failure

It is important to think about how you are going to treat yourself when disappointed and look at what is really going to help you get through it and move on. A harsh inner critic can actually make you more stressed about the situation and discourage you from trying again or even taking risks in the future.

Whereas an inner compassionate self is an ally and can coach you through the difficult times and help you learn from your mistakes and failures. This can then help you be more confident in trying again and tackling future challenges, not being frightened of failure.

Stress and compassion

There are three main emotional regulation systems: threat (designed to protect us), drive (gives us motivation and energy) and soothing (a place of groundedness). A lot of people are stuck oscillating between drive and threat and don’t take a lot of time to grow the soothing side of things.

This soothing centre is where compassion plays a role, helping us to down regulate the threat, not get rid of it all together. Making sure we take time to rest and help ourselves see clearly and become more balanced in these three areas. Rather than just staying in drive mode, where we know people experience burn out.

Micro practices

To help you discover what your balance looks like, Kirsty recommends implementing micro-practices throughout the day. Often when we are tackling problems we motivate ourselves by focusing on rewarding ourselves at the end of the day, whether that be a big walk, hot bath or watching your favourite show.

However, it can be more beneficial to implement small practices throughout the day rather than powering through one big activity. It can be very simple, practical things like getting up and away from your desk, doing some breathing exercises whilst you wait for the kettle to boil, going outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air.

Interested in hearing more?

Tune in now to listen to the full conversation (episode 13) and learn more about a career in accounting and how to put your best foot forward when applying for your next job.