March 24, 2022
What is self-compassion? Why do people struggle so much to show themselves the same kind of compassion that they regularly show to others? How can parents find a successful middle ground between authoritativeness / harshness and permissiveness / love? Should our love for ourselves be unconditional? What's the difference between shame and guilt? What should we make of people who are neither compassionate nor cruel to themselves because they simply don't practice self-reflection? What factors during childhood lead to higher or lower self-compassion in adults? What religious, cultural, socioeconomic, or other factors contribute to differences in self-compassion? How can we still treat ourselves compassionately when we feel legitimate guilt over mistakes that have moral dimensions? Are there differences in self-compassion between men and women? What are the various components of self-compassion? How does compassion differ from related concepts like pity, sympathy, empathy, etc.? Why is it so important to us to have our feelings validated by others? Is it possible to have too much self-compassion? Do extremely antisocial people — like psychopaths or sociopaths, who typically seem not to have compassion for others — have self-compassion? Narcissists seem to "love" themselves, but is that the same as having compassion towards oneself? What are some common misconceptions about self-compassion?
Kristin Neff is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on self-compassion nearly twenty years ago. She has been recognized as one of the most influential researchers in psychology worldwide. She is author of the bestselling book Self-Compassion. Along with her colleague Chris Germer, she developed the Mindful Self-Compassion program, taught internationally, and co-wrote The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. Her newest book is Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive. For more info, go to self-compassion.org.
JOSH: Hello, and welcome to Clearer Thinking with Spencer Greenberg, the podcast about ideas that matter. I'm Josh Castle, the producer of the podcast and I'm so glad you've joined us today. In this episode, Spencer speaks with Kristin Neff about compassionate parenting, self-compassion, and differences in compassion across cultures.
SPENCER: Kristin, welcome.
KRISTIN: Hello, Spencer, nice to be here.
SPENCER: So your work has been really influential for some people I know. I think I have three friends. I can think of those who were really touched by the work you do, and they really felt it was life changing.I've been excited to have you on the podcast for a while. So thank you so much for coming.
KRISTIN: Oh, yeah, it's great. Good to hear.
SPENCER: Now, it's hard to talk about self-compassion without talking about you because you're so linked to that concept. So can we just start keeping it simple, what is self-compassion?
KRISTIN: Self-compassion is basically just turning compassion inward — treating yourself with the same warmth, kindness, and support that you would naturally show to a friend when they were struggling.
SPENCER: It seems like such a basic concept, yet so many people struggle with [laughs] actually doing this. Why do you think it is that people have such difficulty treating themselves with the kindness that they would show to a friend or family member?
KRISTIN: There's actually both cultural and physiological reasons. Culturally, you were raised to think that it's good to be compassionate and kind to others, but [laughs] we weren't really taught that it's a good thing to do with ourselves. In fact, we're afraid it's gonna make us lazy or self-indulgent or unmotivated or selfish. Part of it is just overcoming these cultural mysteries because none of the fears are true. That is also a physiological reason, which is what happens when we fail or make a mistake, or something difficult happens is to feel threatened. We go into fight, flight, or freeze mode – we find ourselves trying to control ourselves or we flee into shame, so other people won't judge us or we freeze and get stuck, we ruminate. When your friend feels bad about themselves, or they lose their job, you aren't personally threatened, so you don't go into fight, flight, or freeze mode, but you can go into care mode more easily. I think that's basically why.
SPENCER: That was really interesting. So on that first point, it seems a lot of people have the view that they can kind of push themselves into doing things. If they do bow down a test, they can embrace themselves, and that will cause them to do better next time. It's sort of like it's relevant to this distinction of different ways of parenting. There's a form of parenting that says, “You should make your children be obedient. That's actually really good for your children, and it will get your children to behave well. They will make them into good adults and effective people.” Another view says, “No, you should treat your children with nurturing, compassion, and you should be the source of unconditional love for them. That's actually how you benefit your child.” I think this is really hotly debated, right? Actually, people genuinely disagree about the right way to parent. So I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that.
KRISTIN: The parenting literature actually is pretty clear on this point. Basically, you need a middle ground — yes, authoritarian parenting works, which usually you use corporal punishment, not just punishment, but actually using the rod so to speak. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Although it works to motivate children, it unfortunately leads to a lot of bad side effects like depression, anxiety, fear of failure, and psychopathology, later on. But parenting that's like too permissive parenting, which is indulgent– do it everyone, I love you unconditionally, without any clear expectations or boundaries – that's also a problem because children need clear expectations and boundaries, and they will know the limits. What they know is that authoritative parenting is the most effective, which means, you're unconditionally loving and supportive, but you also draw boundaries, you also like to say,“This is okay,” “This is not okay,” and that's what self-compassion is — a suitable thing, self-compassion is self-indulgent. If you're harming yourself, because you're letting yourself off the hook all the time, you're being compassionate, right? Compassion is concerned with the alleviation of suffering, and if you're causing yourself suffering by being indulgent, you're no longer helping yourself. So again, with self-compassion, we're more motivated, we want to do well, but the thing is that we want to do well because we're inadequate or we'll hate ourselves if we don't. We want to do well, just simply because we care, we want to reach our full potential. You might say, “The source of the motivation, the source of the boundaries come from love, as opposed to harsh self-criticism, and is much more effective.”
SPENCER: Let's take an example –suppose a child doesn't study enough for their math test and does really badly. On the one hand, you could have a harsh parent that's going to scold them, going to give them a punishment – maybe physically, maybe say they can't go out and play with their friends or whatever.
KRISTIN: Or disapproval, “You're stupid, lame ass.” makes me cringe, doesn't it? Doesn't it makes you cringe and we think about a parent doing it, isn't it what we might say to ourselves, “Stupid, lame ass!” [laughs] Think of what it would do to your child, how it makes you cringe, and yet things would have similar effects happening when you call yourself that.
SPENCER: Absolutely. The effects of doing that to yourself 40 times a day. It's like you're in an abusive relationship with yourself; of course, you're unhappy.
KRISTIN: Many people sadly are.
SPENCER: That's one reaction. The other extreme –we have the fully permissive, unconditional love response. It's like, “Oh, it doesn't matter. You're wonderful no matter what,” etc, etc, which makes the child feel better, but sets them up for future failure. So, what is this middle ground?
KRISTIN: The idea is, “I love you unconditionally.” For instance, I can give you an example of my own son. He's autistic, and he was homeschooled for many years. When he first started public school, he didn't really know how to study [laughs], so the first big exam he ever took, it was a world and geography exam, he came home, totally failed it. There's a few approaches I could have tried. One was like, “Oh, you stupid moron,” which I would of course, never say to my son, and “You're grounded.” Would that help?— No, of course it won't help. He would just be more nervous and even be more likely to fail next time.r I could have said, “Oh, don't worry about it. You know, sweetheart, it's okay, it's only a test. I love you.” That wouldn't be helping him because he needed to learn how to study — this is a new skill. He knew he needed to get a graduate in high school, which he's about to do, by the way, this year. So said, the first reaction is “Oh, man, give me a hug. I know, you feel so bad. It's terrible to fail. But everyone fails. What's important is how can we learn from this? Let's figure out what you know that maybe didn't go so well when you study and how we can improve it.” And I got him tutors, I talked to his teachers , and figured out how to better help them learn how to study so that he could do better in the future. That's what compassionate parenting is, and also self-compassion. In other words, it's okay to fail, just because we failed doesn't mean that we're failures doesn't mean that we're unlovable. We're still lovable, we still accept ourselves as people but because we care, we want to learn from the failure and do our best next time. That's why it's so effective, it's like, you can try not from the place of fear, but from the place of unconditional love and support. Support is key, permissive parenting and being self-indulgent.You aren't actually setting yourself up for success. Compassion says, “What can I learn? What can I do? How can I help myself reach my goals?”
SPENCER: There's a seeming paradox where on the one hand, you want to accept who you are and not have this friction against yourself. On the other hand, you want to become a better version of yourself. So I'm curious to hear your thoughts on kind of navigating that paradox?
KRISTIN: You can accept yourself unconditionally without accepting all your behaviors unconditionally, right? [laughs] There's a difference-- just like with our children, hopefully, we love them unconditionally, but some things that they do are not good, they aren't healthy, they aren't helpful. We really need to make that distinction with ourselves. You know, we're acceptable and lovable, whether we fail or succeed. We want to succeed and we don't want to fail, precisely because we care. You really can disentangle our behaviors, what we're doing from our intrinsic worth as human beings. Now, think about a newborn baby, when a newborn babies comes into the womb, we don't say like, “Okay, well, maybe after you go to college, you get straight A's, and maybe after you get married, or maybe after you earn a certain income, then you'll be worthy of love.” That child is intrinsically worthy of love, just because they are human beings. Nonetheless, certain behaviors are so good, we want to help it you know, we want to work on stuff to help that child learn and grow — it's very similar with ourselves. The bottom line is unconditional love. We don't use our self-love like a whip, to say, “You aren't going to be loved unless you get it right.” We use our love as a motivator – I love you, therefore, I really want you to get it right. What can we learn from this? How can we grow? How can they help?
SPENCER: I think the distinction between yourself and your behavior is just so wide, because you're able to say, “Well, I can always work on making my behaviors better and better, but that doesn't mean I have to feel bad about myself,” and sort of to wade through that paradox.
KRISTIN: You know, it's interesting – there's research on shame versus guilt. So guilt is “I did something bad,” and shame is “I am bad.” Guilt can actually be helpful. If you've really been harmed, it's good to feel guilty about it. Then you'll be motivated to try to fix the situation, but shame is not helpful. Shame is to say, “I'm a horrible person.” First of all, I'm not much used to anyone when I'm just lost and ashamed. Shame actually makes it harder for you to see yourself clearly, to see what happened clearly, and to take the steps to repair it so that it's a kind of similar distinction between guilt and shame.
SPENCER: This might just be a semantic thing, but I've heard another way of cleaving apart shame and guilt, which is that guilt is when you don't live up to your own standard, and shame is when you don't live up to what you view as society standard. Do you think there's something to that as well, or do you think that's missing the mark?
KRISTIN: All these things are just what you're referring to, right?. They're our field of psychology, typically, shame and guilt are quite used that way, but you can think that just, interjected guilt, and [laughs] just like that there's the source of the guilt and the shame, and there's this difference between guilt and shame. It depends what researchers you're talking about and how they're using the terms. We can call them Bob and Sally if you want, right? They're just terms. What it's pointing to, it's all real. I do think that with self-compassion, what we know is that it's actually positively linked at low levels of guilt. You feel a little guilty, positively linked, the more attempts are made to repair situations. I don't know the exact literature about whether the guilt or the shame comes from inside or outside, but in general, what we found with self compassion is that it's more intrinsic and less controlled by what other people think of you. It's really more about being your authentic self, and what you think of yourself that matters.
SPENCER: Is the idea –if you have self-compassion, then with someone who doesn't like who you are, or tries to push you to be someone different, you're less likely to be motivated by that, because you're like, “Oh, but I think I am good. I think I'm worthy of love as I am. I'm happy to change my behaviors,” but you're kind of not trying to chase their approval for your kind of intrinsic worth.
KRISTIN: Exactly. What the research shows is that it's negatively linked to what's called contingent self-esteem based on social approval. Most people –they get their self-esteem, it's contingent on whether other people like them, but the more self-compassionate you are, your sense of worth isn't so no longer contingent. It doesn't depend as much on social approval. One of the other big findings, self-compassion is strongly linked to authenticity because usually the reason we aren't authentic is because we're afraid people won't like us, but when your self-worth isn't dependent on other people liking you, then you are more able to be your authentic self.
SPENCER: It's super interesting. So what are some other benefits of trying to learn to be more self-compassionate?
KRISTIN: The benefits are just the list goes on and on. Basically, in terms of psychological well being, people are less depressed or less anxious or less stress, or they're less likely to consider suicide as a way to escape their pain, and they're more emotionally resilient. They're more motivated, they're happier, they've got better life satisfaction [laughs], and they're more hopeful about the future, and they've got better physical health, because again, mentally, you're well, and calm and peaceful, you can sleep better, and you can have better physical health. Really just, it's just enormous – the benefits that have been associated with self compassion.
SPENCER: So I have a mental model of how this works — I'm really curious if you agree with it, or if you disagree — which is basically making an analogue to living with someone who's like berating you and telling you, you're bad all the time. If you yourself are doing that, in your own mind, that's going to make you more likely to be anxious and depressed — for very obvious reasons, you're just constantly getting all of this negative feedback about being a bad person, and there's something wrong with you. In my experience, some people live with that inner voice that's doing that, and other people don't, and so I would predict that for people who do have that negative inner voice constantly beating themselves up, they're going to get huge benefits for self-compassion. But whereas people who don't have that just find it not good not to be harmful, but just that they may not get much benefit out of learning self-compassion techniques.I'm curious to hear your reaction.
KRISTIN: We do generally find that people who are low in self-compassion, gain more from learning the skill. It's kind of obvious — if you already have the skill, then you aren't gonna get as much learning it. Although, even people with relatively high levels of self-compassion — strengthening the skill, making it more solid — when that really big issue comes up, you kind of know what to do in that situation. Again, it's more powerful to learn a new skill if you aren't very good at it, so to speak, but it doesn't mean it's a waste of time, if you're already quite self-compassionate. It just helps to make it explicit as well. People may generally be pretty compassionate and warm with themselves and not beat themselves up. But if they don't know explicitly what they're doing that they haven't, like, developed concrete tools and techniques, then again, maybe when the big stuff happens, when a big failure happens, they may not have the tools in place needed to respond productively.
SPENCER: There's an interesting thing going on here, where some people are low in self-compassion – they might beat themselves up and stuff like that – and some people are high on self-compassion, where they, you know, they may be really good at understanding of themselves, and so on. We'll go in later to more about what that looks like to be having self-compassion, but it seems to me that also there, there's sort of an orthogonal scale going on here, which is something about – do you even reflect things on yourself at all? Some people might fail at a math test, and you're like, “Oh, yeah, well, I just didn't study hard enough. Okay, cool. And you study hard next time.” So they're not even like they're not being self compassionate or on self compassion, but they're just not even using themselves as a reflection of themselves, right?
KRISTIN: Actually, I'm just writing this in a paper self-compassion forms the bipolar continuum. [laughs] The features of the bipolar continuum is that it goes from negative one to plus one and there is a zero point in between. So you can be kind of neutral – you're hard on yourself or uncompassionate, be honest, compassionate either, wouldn't be really orthogonal. We'll still point down the continuum, but it's right in the center of it.
SPENCER: For it, I guess what I'm trying to point out is something about how you react to situations in the world, like, do you even believe they reflect on you? So if you fail the test, you think, “Oh, this says a lot about me?” Or you say, “Oh, no, this is just about the fact that I'm studying, and so I just need to study more.” I think this is related to issues like growth mindset, like what does it say about you if you do badly at something?
KRISTIN: Exactly, self-compassionate people have more grit and a growth mindset — precisely for that reason. Because if you're self compassionate, you're less likely to interpret it as saying anything about your intrinsic ability, and you're more likely to look at it from what can I learn from this, but it's not that self-compassionate people take it personally. So people who are uncompassionate tend to take it personally, people are more self-compassionate, they take it less personally. In fact, one of the features of self-compassion is awareness of common humanity – the fact that things are just part of the human experience. They're less self focused, they don't take things personally because they frame their experience in part of the larger interdependent whole.
SPENCER: One thing I've noticed with friends, is that some of them seem to just have a positive aspect towards themselves — just the same way you might think about a restaurant you like, and you're just like, “Oh, yeah, like that place.” You just feel good when you think about it, or a person you like — and some of them seem to, like, have that towards themselves, when they think about themselves, they just have this positive glow about themselves. Others seem to have this sort of negative feeling about themselves – like there's something off about themselves, or something bad about, which feels very low-level, and, I would say subconscious is sort of an intuition about how good or bad they are. I'm wondering how you see this interact with the shorter, more explicit stuff, like how you talk to yourself, or if you have any research on this?
KRISTIN: This is kind of research, and basically, what you're talking about is the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem. When I first introduced the construct of self-compassion to psychology, I introduced it as a healthy alternative to self-esteem. Because what you're talking about is that feeling of “Am I worthy or not?” We know that it's better to have a positive sense of worth and a negative sense of worth. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to get high self-esteem through not very healthy ways — either if sometimes they put other people down, so they feel better about themselves, or they have like an inflated self use, they don't see themselves clearly, or they get they have high self-esteem when they succeed, but it deserves some with when they fail, or bullying, for instance. Some people bully other people, by something [laughs]. Self-esteem is good, in general, they have a sense of worth, but most people get their high self-esteem from not very healthy ways. What we know from when we compare in research will be compared to self-compassion and self- esteem head to head. First of all, there is overlap. Because when you have high self-compassion, you're also going to have high self-esteem, but its intrinsic value is unconditional. It's not contingent on other people liking you or looking a certain way or, getting succeeding in school or work or whatever. Therefore, it's much more stable, and what we notice is that if you give people interventions like one group, you say, “Okay, try to write some words of kindness to yourself,” like you would a good friend or in a validating your pain, remembering that you aren't alone, and another group is a write about their 10 best qualities [laughs]. Self-compassion is actually more effective compared to self-esteem in terms of various outcomes, like increasing body image or well-being outcomes. There's pretty solid literature showing that again — there's nothing wrong with self-esteem, but it's better if it's intrinsic. Again, “I am worthy, but my behaviors – maybe give us a little work on those; focus on those.” [laughs]
SPENCER: That's really interesting. You talked about self-esteem as being about worthiness? Could you unpack that a little bit – what is it known about what people are evaluating there? This is a social phenomenon, like “How worthy am I” especially?
KRISTIN: If there's so many sources, self-esteem and self-worth — and again, the words get a little fuzzy depending on particular scholars who are using them — a lot of it comes from how you are raised right very simply. If you were raised, securely attached, if your parents made you feel lovable, and worthy, then you're more likely to have that sense of being lovable and worthy as an adult. Some parents do raise their kids securely attached, and their kids still hate themselves. It's not just can't totally blame the parents. Certainly, that does make a big difference. There's again, there's different sources of self-worth, there's intrinsic self-worth, there is extrinsic self-worth, other people liking you, as you liking yourself. There's a success base. Appearances are actually, for most people, the number one — so sad, isn't it? — the number one predictor of a sense of self-worth is how attractive you think you are.
SPENCER: Wow, that's interesting.
KRISTIN: And know how attractive you think you are based on how attractive you think other people think you are. [laughs] Right? It's all fairly complex, but if you're interested, I've written some papers about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion and done a fair amount of research on it.
SPENCER: Awesome will be great to include one of those in the show notes.
SPENCER: This brings me the question of how does self-compassion or lack of self-compassion develop? Because if you imagine a baby, I assume at some age, you don't have a sense of yourself [laughs], and then eventually it totally develops. What do we know about how someone ends up being the sort of person that is very uncompassionate to themselves versus someone who grows up and becomes compassionate themselves?
KRISTIN: Obviously, again, you don't want to totally blame the parents, but people who grew up securely attached — so the parents consistently meet their needs, they're more likely to meet their own needs, as adults are more likely to feel they're worthy of getting their needs met.
SPENCER: Could you define securely attached, for those that don't know the terminology?
KRISTIN: Secure attachment is basically when infants are still secure in their parents' love and support — parents are, again, they're consistent, they're supportive, they're helpful, they're consistently loving. Some kids grew up in negligent parents who are kind of just not even there, they can't trust other people are going to meet their needs, and they can't trust that they're worthy.Other people's parents are ambivalent, sometimes they are there and sometimes they're not – that's another type of secure attachment that leads to like, really wanting a new relationship and clinging to it so hard that you end up driving people away. There's a whole literature on secure attachment. But basically, we know people with secure attachment are more likely to have self-compassion. People who grew up with parents who are very critical of them tend to internalize those messages. Again, for instance, my son was definitely raised securely attached. I talked about self-compassion from the time he was little (he's still very self-critical). I'm getting through it now, but he went through a phase of it, and I think a lot of it is just biology. In the sense that he was so afraid of them, other people judging them or getting things wrong, that he would go into “threat defense mode,” and he wouldn't, they beat himself up hoping to control his behavior, because even though I never modeled that, he kind of saw it in cartoon — just this kind of instinct to lash out when something's wrong, that he would fall into — again, we've worked through it, and he's doing much better now. But some of it's just this instinct to fight our problems, and when our problems are ourselves, we find ourselves thinking that's gonna give us control. Think about it, your inner critic knows what shouldn't be right, it's like the inner critic assumes that control is possible – I should be able to get it right, you know, the back of the inner critic is tall. [laughs] So that can feel almost comfortable and feel safer for some people to be very self critical than it is to be kind of open to the reality that sometimes we try our best and we fail, it's just kind of the way life works.
SPENCER: If I think about the form of parenting, where you give, like harsh criticism or punishment and so on, I guess my thinking on this is that it works for some kids in the sense that it gets the desired outcome. For some kids, you give them tough love, and they actually achieve at high levels, and for other kids, it totally doesn't work, they become reactive, or they just mentally break down. However, even in the group that actually it works for, in the group that it leads to high achievement, it might create a lot of anxiety and negative feelings and so on the same way, you can get a dog to do tricks by punishing the dog, but it tends to make the dog really hate [laughs] you and make the dog and happy. Whereas if you reward a dog, it makes the dog enjoy doing training. It makes the dog like you and wants to be around you and so on. I'm wondering if you apply this to yourself. For some people, I can imagine actually giving themselves tough love might actually work to help them achieve things which might reinforce this as a model. On the other hand, even if it's working to help them achieve things, it might actually be making them unhappy at the same time. If they could switch to different strategies, it would be better.
KRISTIN: I would disagree with your use of the term tough love. There is the fear side of self-compassion, which I would call tough love — the kind of momma bears self-compassion, like the parent can be really tough with their kid out of love. The key is they let their child know that their child is loved. If you do it because you think your child is stupid or disappointing, that's not love, that's just punishment. You really can tell the difference, you know, so self-compassion can be fierce and it can be tender — it is true. I think people probably respond differently to different messages depending on where they are. But the bottom line is, is it loving or not? Compassion is loving, self-criticism is not loving, it's harshs, it's judgmental, it's belittling.
SPENCER: That's fair enough.
KRISTIN: Yes, some people have gone through law school, med school with harsh self-criticism, even that very unloving, mean type and they do succeed. But it can lead to [laughs] [inaudible] that can undermine happiness.
SPENCER: Right, so then, what would you say to someone who finds that they're able to successfully use harsh self-criticism to get themselves to do things? They're actually by berating themselves to actually get themselves to perform at a high level. Yeah, what would your advice be to them?
KRISTIN: I would say, have you tried having very high standards that using encouragement as opposed to braiding yourself, because what the [laughs] research shows is that it's more effective — again, because the unintended consequence of berating yourself or shaming yourself or any of these things, is it definitely increases anxiety and anxiety undermines performance. It can lead to things like procrastination because you don't want to face something that you might feel that whereas again, you can have very strong forces. We teach self-compassion, the high level athletes, their performance standards are very high. If you're a high level athlete, and you miss a shot, and you just like to beat yourself up, you might blow, you can get anxious, you didn't get off your genuine blow the game to your entire team. But if you just say, “Oh, well, it happens, okay, I'm gonna try again, I'm gonna keep going.” If you don't let it derail you, and self-criticism definitely can derail you, then you're more likely to keep focused on your high goals. And again, maybe your performance isn't good enough, maybe you want to be the very best, but this fish performance isn't where you want it to be doesn't mean that you're unlovable or unworthy. It is kind of detaching your sense of worthiness from your performance. For some people who aren't high level athletes don't have to perform [laughs] at the top of their game, I like to use the phrase that “The goal of practice is simply to be a compassionate mess.” Right? Sometimes, that's all you need to do. It's like, okay, you see, try your best, of course, you try to succeed, but it's okay to fail, it's okay to be a mess. What's important is that you're a compassionate mess. When you have compassion about it, when you do fail, you're actually much more likely to pick yourself up, try again, and do better the next time.
SPENCER: It's interesting, because I think for everyone who manages to succeed by being really harsh with themselves, you also find these people that are really harsh themselves, and yet, it's clearly not working, yet, they seem stuck in that methodology. Where they just keep breaking themselves hoping that somehow it's gonna lead to better performance, even though it's not. I'm wondering, why do people get stuck in these kinds of loops, where they keep doing that themselves, even though you think that they have abundant evidence, it's not effective?
KRISTIN: Well, yeah, but not many people know about self-compassion, it's not talking about traits in our culture, or being unkind to change that, obviously, but not something people think about is a good thing to do. There are all these myths that it's gonna make me lazy, it's gonna make me self-indulgent, or selfish. We are supposed to be compassionate to others, not ourselves. Even though of course, the more compassion we give ourselves, the more resources we have to come to others. It's not like a zero sum game, but people just aren't really aware of their options. When they do become aware of it — it's actually not rocket science. The interesting thing is, people already have the template for how to be compassionate to those that care about them. All we have to do is use that template with ourselves, so they know, you know, what tone of voice you use, we know what language to use. It just sounds a little weird at first, but if you're used to beating yourself up, it feels a little strange to say something like, “Hey, it's okay. You tried your best. I'm here for you. What do you need right now?” just a little weird, but you get used to it after a while and then you start really welcoming those supportive messages.
SPENCER: Do you think there's a moral moment for some people where they think, “Well,I messed up, so I should feel bad. Like, if I don't feel bad, let's say for example, they've done something that hurt someone else, and then they're like, I should feel guilty and bad about it and I should be making stuff up because that's just punishment for my badness.
KRISTIN: Yes, feeling guilty is probably an appropriate response. Also, shame still arises naturally when you've hurt someone, if you're a human being, shame will arise. The difference is instead of identifying with it, therefore, “I'm the bad person, I'm not worthy of a kind response, I should be punished.” Actually what that does is it makes it harder to try to repair the situation. If you're just wallowing in shame and all your resources are consumed [laughs] by thinking about how bad you are, what resources do you have left to actually say, “Wow, I feel so horrible. What can I do to try to make it up or try to fix it?” Self-compassion doesn't preclude feelings of guilt or even shame coming up, but it's more like, “Okay, well, this is part of life sometimes, as human beings, we do this. Can I turn toward it as opposed to trying to hide from it, or getting stuck in it? Can I turn toward it? Can I experience it? And really importantly, can I learn and grow from it?” And that's what's going to be most helpful to other people is if you actually learn and grow from it, repair your mistakes, and commit to not doing them again.
SPENCER: Have you noticed any gender differences in self-compassion, either and how much self-compassion people have are and how being uncompassionate to the self-manifests?
KRISTIN: It's interesting. First of all, compassion is part of the female gender role. And actually, women tend to have a much higher level of compassion for others, at least self-reported than men. 85% of the people who come to my workshops are women because compassion is like a female thing, men think it's touchy feely, and we aren't that interested. Ironically, women have slightly lower levels of self-compassion than men do. hat's not only based on sex, it's based on gender role orientation, women who are more androgynous you don't see that difference. What's happening here is that men feel more entitled to get their needs met, because women are raised to be compassionate to others than to be self-sacrificing, and always put other people's needs over their own, they're less likely to meet their own needs with self-compassion. So that's why I kind of say self compassion is a feminist act as well, because they're saying, “Hey, I'm not going to subordinate my needs, and give up everything's important to me for other people, I'm gonna meet my own needs. Also, not instead of that, in addition to that, I'm going to be my authentic self.”
SPENCER: That could suggest there could be different reasons why men and women might not be into self-compassion or not do it naturally –women because they might be pressured to like, put their compassion outward instead of inward, and then men because they view compassion is kind of this wishy washy soft thing in general.
KRISTIN: We don't have hard data on this, but from what I've observed, there's two lists of self-compassion that work a little differently for men and women. Men are more likely to fall into the myth that self-compassion is weak. Why is it weak? Because it's a female thing. And females are weak. It's kind of based on and rooted in patriarchy, but they really think “Oh, it's gonna make me soft,” right? It's compassion soft, and you need to be hard. What we know from the research is self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of strength coping resilience we have available. When you go into battle, who's going to make you stronger? If the voice inside your head is like an ally, “I got your back, how can I help I'm here for you” or are the voices and enemy cutting you down? Clearly, when you go into battle, being an ally is gonna be stronger than being an enemy, but men aren't so aware of that — so that puts them off. With women, it's more that they're afraid it's gonna make them selfish, right? They will, because they're so trained to always focus our compassion, they're afraid that they're kind of themselves that somehow will take away from their ability to give to others, when in fact, it just gives them more resources to do so without burning now.
SPENCER: Shifting topics a little bit, I know that you've studied different factors of self-compassion. Could you walk us through what these different factors are and kind of, can you define them for us?
KRISTIN: So your self-compassion — and thanks for asking, because it's not just being kind to yourself, it's actually more complex — there are three main components of self-compassion. In addition to kindness is also mindfulness and common humanity. Mindfulness (a lot of people have heard of mindfulness) is the ability to like, be aware of what's happening as it's happening, and not really resist the fact that it is [laughs] happening. When we're in pain, oftentimes, we do one or two things, either we don't want to acknowledge it, we just like stiff upper lip it, or else we wallow in it, like we get sucked into it, because it's so awful, we kind of almost drown in it,which process I call over-identification. Self-compassion, we need to be able to turn toward it and acknowledge that we're hurting in some way, and it's like, we can't give ourselves compassion, if we don't even acknowledge [laughs] there's something that's compassion for us, we got to pause and say, “Wow, this is really hard.” But to do it in a kind of balanced way that doesn't wallow in the pain either, because then we've got no space from which to give ourselves compassion. We need mindfulness, and then again, we need kindness, as opposed to harsh self-judgment. Also really important, what differentiates self-compassion from self-pity is other people (pity is a separate stance.) If I pity you, I'm looking down on you, I feel separate from you. If I have compassion for you, it's like, “Hey, I've been there. I feel connected to you.” With self-compassion, we actually feel connected to the rest of humanity in our imperfection in our struggles. In other words, it's not like poor me, what was me? It's saying, “Hey, this is part of the human experience. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone struggles.” Some people struggle more than others. Absolutely, it's not like it's all the same. But nonetheless, every human being suffers in some respects, that every human being is worthy of the compassionate response. And this connected approach to suffering is really what prevents it from me wallowing in self-pity?
SPENCER: Do people tend to feel better when they realize that their struggle is a struggle that like many people have had before them and many will have in the future?
KRISTIN: Typically, it's kind of a tricky one. In general, feeling isolated, like there's something wrong with you for having particular struggle or feeling like I'm the only one in the world that has made this mistake, that usually makes their suffering worse, because it's like, not only are we struggling, we feel all alone, and it's like adding insult to injury. For most people, it helps remember that nothing wrong with this is part of being human and other people feel this way too. Some people, they can struggle with this, because if they immediately think, if other people struggle with this too, and maybe even worse than me, then they're going to invalidate their own pain — then that's actually not helpful, because compassion is about validating your pain, especially with mindfulness. This hurts, this is worthy, the compassionate response seems to be a little careful in teaching this, because some people can misinterpret the remembering of common humanity as saying that their pain isn't valid or worthy of a compassionate response.
SPENCER: Imagine you have a terrible day, and you're like, “Oh, man, I just had a terrible day. But there are people who are starving to death right now, I can't feel bad about my day.”
KRISTIN: Right, you don't want to invalidate your pain. Even if you stub your toe, it's not a big deal. But you get it, it's going to be more productive to say, “Oh, you stubbed your toe, then you stupid idiot, you stubbed your toe”, [laugh] it can be small suffering can be big suffering. And it's not about comparing the amount of your suffering to those of others. It's just about remembering that, “Hey, this is part of the plan I signed up for, what it felt like when I was born to this world, it was like, nothing will go wrong, till the day I die.” Somehow everyone else is living a perfect life , and it just means imperfect to struggling. Those types of thoughts, which we kind of fall into irrationally, actually make us feel alone and isolated and much, much worse than we need to.
SPENCER: This is something that I view is a little mysterious, and never fully understood, which is often when people are upset, they want their emotions validated. I also in this way, I like having my emotions validated. But I don't quite understand why we humans are this way. Why do we need people to tell us our emotions are okay to feel? Do you have any thoughts on that? Or would it be reasonable to feel the way we do in a given circumstance?
KRISTIN: I do think people — they kind of fall into the illusion and think everything's supposed to be perfect all the time. This was to be happy, they aren't supposed to be sad, they're supposed to be free, they're supposed to fail. When you have emotions like this, just we're afraid that people will think yeah, that I'm complaining that it's not worth it's not worthy of a compassionate response, that there's something wrong with me. We either validate our own emotions or have been validated by others, what it's kind of saying is, “Hey, this is normal. It's natural, and it's worthy of a compassionate response.”
SPENCER: You mentioned there, six subscales for self-compassion is the idea that there's a kind of two ends — there's like three different constructs.
KRISTIN: You really want to know it's a bipolar, multifaceted continuum. It ranges from judgment to self-kindness, feelings of isolation to feelings of common humanity, over identification to mindfulness. Although it doesn't split up neatly as three distinct constructs, the outcome kind of operates a monitor system, that basically you've got uncompassionate responding to maybe neutral responding to compassionate responding. There's six subscales that represent the positive and negative elements of each. It's kind of complicated psychometrically, it took me a long time to figure it out. I finally made brilliant statisticians who, who figured it out, helped me figure out the best way to model the self-compassion scale in terms of its factor structure, using structural equation modeling. Basically, what we find is that there's one general factor of self-compassion that comprises six specific factors.
SPENCER: It's a little surprising to me that you break it into six, you're saying that the negative side and the positive side, like isolation versus common humanity and self-centered reverse self-kindness, they're actually distinct from each other rather than just being on one continuum?
KRISTIN: When I first created the scale, I thought that they would be just basically each one like the unitary continuum, but they don't seem to be. It's hard to know, there may be some method effects — but maybe it's also like, there's something different about them. In that, for instance, we know that self-judgment kind of comes from the “Threat defense system”, whereas self-kindness comes from the mammalian care system. They aren't exactly the same, but they operate holistically as the system that ranges from uncompassionate to compassionate responding. It's a fairly complex construct, but what we know — for instance — methodologically one way to look at how it works is by doing a self-compassion mood induction you put people in the self-compassionate mind and you see what happens, what changes. And what you see is if you have people that say, right to themselves with mindfulness and common humanity and a sense of kindness, their levels of self-judgment, isolation and over identification, change, in total tandem with their increase in the year, this week, positive factors.There's almost like, people move along this continuum, but it's not totally static, a simple single, unitary. It acts unitary, but it's not a unit dimensional construct. It is complicated, and I will tell you about those benefits. The downside of that is man, they're like scale wars. There are so many articles questioning the factor structure, the scale this and that, so that's the downside.The upside is it works (It really works.) Because when you teach people self-compassion, all you really have to do is teach them to bring in the three positive element — almost like how to bake a loaf of bread — give them kindness, common humanity, mindfulness, and what you find is their self-judgment, sense of isolation and over identification decrease. This is really what happens when people learn how to be self-compassionate in a way that's very helpful and stable and really transformative for lives.
SPENCER: Is it just basically, the more the better, or is there any downside to like maxing out these three components?
KRISTIN: It's kind of an oxymoron, because self compassion is about alleviating your suffering. If there's a downside — what that means is, there's some suffering [laughs] — it's kind of an oxymoron, because if it gets to the point where you're causing yourself suffering, you're no longer alleviating your suffering. You might misuse self-compassion, you might think you're being self-compassionate, when you just hit that snooze button for the seventh time, “Oh, I deserve it.” And really, if you're harming yourself, you're going to get in trouble at work, or it's going to get in your way that you actually aren't being self-compassionate. But you also — when the mind is a tricky thing, we can definitely fool ourselves into thinking we're being self-compassionate, when maybe we really aren't helping ourselves. So you also have to keep an eagle eye out for that.
SPENCER: One thing I wonder about is people who seem to have no compassion. Some very small portion of the population — I don't know the exact numbers — but maybe 1% of women.
SPENCER: Yeah. 2% of males,maybe? Maybe they have no compassion for others. And I'm wondering, do they have compassion for themselves? I've never thought about that before.
KRISTIN: I've thought about it — we have no idea that's never been tested, it'd be really safe to find the [laughs] sample of psychopaths and give them the self-compassion scale.Yeah, I don't know. It's hard to imagine they would. Also it's hard to know, like, if they took my self-compassion scale, would they understand the items correctly? They even know what it means, like common humanity? would they think kindness is just like doing whatever they want, as opposed to, a sense of maybe love which might be more inclusive of others? so I don't know, it'd be really interesting to find out. If they did score high on the self-compassion scale, I would suspect it's because they have a superficial understanding of what the items mean. Because to put it this way, if you are really rooted in common humanity, you really understand it, then you also can have compassion for others almost by definition. If you don't care at all about others, you can't really have a sense of common humanity.
SPENCER: If someone was telling me that they were talking to somebody sociopathic, and the person was asking them all these questions like, “What does it mean to care about someone?” and things like this, but there's a lot of [laughs], if you are missing elements that almost everyone has, you learn to try to understand them on an intellectual level so that you can model them or behave as though you have them, because otherwise you stand out. It's an interesting question like, how would they interpret questions about compassion if they can't feel compassion? Maybe they're just kind of guessing how most people would respond rather than actually kind of intuiting their own response.
KRISTIN: Another interesting question is that we don't really know you this narcissist, do narcissists have self-compassion?
SPENCER: I was just gonna ask that. I am so curious. [laughs]
KRISTIN: We don't know. But a few people have raised it, it hasn't really been studied. It's not linked to narcissism, just self-report level (if you take a narcissism scale) but in terms of people who've been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, I'd be really interested to see how they score. I wouldn't guess it, they probably score high on self-kindness, but not mindfulness for common humanity. They probably score very low on self-judgment, they might score high in isolation — I don't know, it'd be very interesting. I'm sure the patterns would be different. That's yet to be done.
SPENCER: Super interesting question. That's a good segway and asking, like, so what are some other unknowns around self compassion, or interesting research directions that you'd like people to explore?
KRISTIN: One of the things that hasn't been done, I'd really like to see it done, is we don't have any sort of cutoff scores like clinical indicators to know like, when is self-compassion level low enough to where it really indicates it could be some some problems here, and this person really should learn it. At what point is enough, it's kind of as you're implying, maybe at a certain level, you have enough self-compassion, and you should spend your time developing other skills like maybe how to play the violin or [laughs] something like that. We don't have any cleanup, cynical cut-off scores that really can be identified. For maybe for a therapist, you can get a lot of therapists that do get that clients and self compassion scale. But no scores would indicate necessarily what it means in terms of being higher, lower at risk or protective against psychopathology. That'd be a really good direction.
SPENCER: I guess you'd want to know what scores expose you to more risk of mental health disorders and things like that, and what scores are not contributing?
KRISTIN: Exactly. What scores are actually protected — that'd be really useful research hasn't happened yet, I would like to see that happen. Another thing that hasn't been done nearly as much as I would like to see is actually group differences in self-compassion — this is a tiny bit down in terms of past cultural differences. But so little research has been done, I would even hate to discuss the findings, because there's like one sample the British people and one sample of Korean people, we have no idea if it's just a sample, or if this is generalizable, but really like to know, like are there cultural differences in the amount of self-compassion, or their ethnic differences, or their religious differences, or their differences based on other identity factors? That I think it'd be interesting to know — we know a little bit about gender (that's the one we know about the most) even though we don't know a lot about so that we can actually start seeing well, what are maybe some of the cultural factors that are either facilitating or standing in the way of people being more self-compassionate — I think that'd be great. We're starting to do more and more experimental research; that's already happening. But really, so far the field is over-reliant on self report measures, which are, they're almost a problem. You never exactly know what they're measuring, and it's kind of very inexact. More and more are doing experimental studies, what happens when you train one group versus another group in self-compassion, see what happens, that would be really interesting.And also on the intervention front. I did develop with my colleague, Chris Grammer, a pretty solid empirically supported intervention program called “Mindful self-compassion” that teaches skills of self-compassion effectively. What's happening is we're developing lots of adaptations, like routines for children, or for parents, or for couples, or for athletes, or for healthcare workers, or for people in the workplace. They really like to see more adaptations. So you might say, adaptations to particular types of suffering [laughs]. Suffering encounters, a teenager is different than the suffering you encounter is someone who's elderly or maybe sick. So, actually tailoring interventions so that in a group that the interventions are taught in a group to that group, you can actually really explore that sense of connectedness and common humanity with other people who are dealing with the same type of suffering you are and seeing where that leads as well.
SPENCER: Is that available online? Can people take that?
KRISTIN: Absolutely, if you go to the centerformsc.org, you can take all sorts of training online. Also, if you can also link to it from my website, just Google self-compassion, you'll find me. As you say because I got it early, like Google, “Oh, Google algorithms pointed me first.” You can link to that site from my website, but our training is widely available now. We actually have soft MSC teachers in every continent except Antarctica. It's really widespread and you can definitely find training if you're interested.
SPENCER: That's fantastic. Before we wrap up, I just wanted to share a little bit about your own story with self-compassion – how you came to study this and were you the sort of person who had self-compassion when you're younger? Or did you lack it actually piqued your interest in it?
KRISTIN: I wasn't a particularly harsh self-critic — you might say it was kind of average. But what had happened was — and I write about this in my first book, but I got in divorce, and it was a really messy divorce in my last year of graduate school, like all sorts of personal drama happened. I was also really stressed about after six years of graduate school to get my PhD, where to get a job — [laughs] it's pretty hard to get a job, the PhD and academic job. It was just a basket case, I wanted to learn mindfulness meditation (because I've learned that mindfulness was good for stress.) Fortunately for me, I went to a meditation group that practiced in the tradition of a teacher named Thich Nhat Hanh — many people have probably heard of him. He's a Vietnamese Zen master, who talks a lot about self-compassion. The very first night I went, the woman in the group talked about, “It's important to be compassionate to yourself, as well as others.” And I was like, I wasn't a particularly harsh self critic, but it never even dawned on me that I could actively be kind [laughs] to myself as I was going through this really tumultuous time. I just started like, saying, “It's okay, Kristin, you did the best you can, I'm here for you. Just because you made some mistakes, doesn't mean you're a bad person, how can I help you?” I really just try to be kind of detailed. The whole pain was some tenderness and the warmth of some care. It made a radical difference, so really, I came to this personal practice, because I knew it worked, that worked for me. My research is kind of just like trying to empirically show to other people that I already know.
SPENCER: Do you, these days, get self-critical thoughts? Or do they kind of diminish over time? And if you do get them, could you maybe give us an example of how you would handle them?
KRISTIN: I don't really have many self-critical thoughts, like, I call myself names, but shame still comes up. Let's say, you think after 20 years of doing this stuff, I wouldn't ever be reactive.t's my worry, if you met my mother, you would understand [laughs] these reactive. I mean, after sending that email, and then after cringing, I can't believe I hit send, the feelings of shame will come up, for sure, it exists, actually – just these are evolutionary emotions,right? “Oh, I can't believe I'm cringing, or I can't believe it.” But instead of saying, “Yeah, thinking that if I beat myself up, it's gonna help prevent it happening again, what I'll do is I'll just, for instance, I'll just put my hand on my heart and allow myself to feel the pain of it, feel the pain of the shame.” And then I will say things like, “Yeah, that really hurts, maybe hurtful to the person, we really just need to keep on trying. Next time, remember, we had a plan, you're gonna send it to a friend [laughs] before I could do this plan, and they're gonna read it, so let's just keep trying.” Again, I don't call myself names, I feel the pain, but I also feel the love for myself, again, that kind of that compassionate mess, I am a mess, I'm still a mess, but I can be warm and compassionate to that mess. In some ways, I've come to value that the more compassionate I am to myself, the better I function. That actually helps me, I'm still working on some of these behaviors that are probably still worth working on to the day I die. It certainly helps make change. If I'm kind of supportive, for instance, or just to slow myself or being so stupid or so mean for sending that email. The next time I get triggered, I'm probably going to be more likely to send me an email [laughs] just to like, take out my pain on someone else. I've learned that it really does help, but it won't make it perfect. So if you're looking for a panacea, magic dust that's gonna make you perfect. This they did [laughs], but it will help you embrace your imperfection in a way that makes it more manageable.
SPENCER: So try whenever possible to make the pegas episodes useful to people. I'm wondering, what are some concrete things that people who are listening to this want to be more self-compassionate? I definitely recommend reading your books, and we can put notes to those in the show notes. But what else like what kind of specific strategies do you recommend people try to apply?
KRISTIN: One easy one is when you notice that you're really beating yourself up, or maybe that you need some support, you can say, “What would I say to a friend right now if someone I cared about was in the exact same situation I was in?” And so if you wouldn't say what you said to yourself to your friend, you can probably imagine, [laughs] maybe, that's for yourself. You can just try saying what you'd say to a friend to yourself, it may feel a little awkward, but it's not the end of the world. In other words, you can use the template you've already developed on how to be supportive to others with yourself just by asking, “What would I say to a friend in this situation?” Another thing you can do is what's called the self-compassion break. Basically, just intentionally calming in the three components of self-compassion. First, being mindful is knowing “Hey, this is hard. I'm hurting right now,” common humanity, “I'm not alone.” You notice I'm not the only one who feels this way. There's nothing wrong with me for having this happen, it's kind of part of human existence. Then some words of kindness. If you want to know what those words are, you can think, oh, what can I say to a friend. Bringing in those three elements intentionally really strengthens the kindness that especially the common humanity, and mindfulness that kind of stabilizes it. The third thing doesn't involve any words at all, is a physical touch. I mentioned that often, I'll put my hand on my heart, the reason we do that is because we know touch is actually one of the primary ways for human beings to communicate care. The first two years of life before we have language, parents communicate care, love and support through touch, what we know is that touch, especially if it's compassionate touch, it actually, like lowers cortisol levels, it increases heart rate variability, it actually changes your physiology, so that your body feels more cared for starts to calm down. And that can actually pave the way for your mind to follow.
SPENCER: That's really interesting. It reminds me of how hard it is to tickle yourself. [laughs] Or there's these things where it's like, it seems like it's hard to do for yourself.
KRISTIN: That touch actually works, there seems to be a big difference between self-touch and the touch of others. We often do self-soothing gestures and think we will put her hands on her face or put her hands on her heart. But if you do it intentionally with the intention that I'm doing this to show myself and my body that I care, it actually can be a pretty powerful way to care for ourselves, and it is touchy feely with these physiological scientific reasons why. Get over it? [laughs]
SPENCER: Manly version [laughs]
KRISTIN: Check yourself on the on the shoulder and say, “Fuck up. Here for you, dude. Got your back dude. How's that? I got your back.” But guys as well, manly guys who put their hand on their shoulder, just come to show support and solidarity. Football players are touching each other constantly. [laughs] Partly because touch is a way to communicate care and solidarity and support, it absolutely can think of a manly version. [laughs]
SPENCER: It's awesome. All right, last question for you. What are some misconceptions about self-compassion that you've encountered, and how would you address those?
KRISTIN: There seem to be five main misconceptions that come up no matter what culture you're talking about. One is that it's going to make you weak, when in fact, what the research shows is it makes you stronger, more resilient, more able to cope. When is it selfish? Again, that's based on the zero sum model. Like, I give five units of compassion to myself only like two leftovers for you, where that's totally false. We know that the more compassion we give ourselves, the more resources we have to give to others. Another myth is that it's going to make you self-indulgent, you can just let yourself off the hook, go easy on yourself, you can eat anything you want, sleep in and not take care of yourself. In fact, if you care about yourself, you're more likely to exercise and eat. We'll take the more difficult decision, if it's going to be good for you in the long run, even if it doesn't feel so good in the short run — so that's a myth. Another myth is that it's a form of self-pity. People think that really self-focused wallowing and self-pity stance, but because self-compassion actually means you're less self focused, because it's not about me being bad, it's about “Hey, all human beings mess up.” [laughs] Less self focus leads to less self pity. The number one by far the number one block, self compassion is a belief that it's going to undermine your motivation, and that's because so many people use self-criticism as a motivator — and again, the research is very clear. It's a more effective motivator than self criticism because you're undermining yourself with anxiety with fear of failure, etc. you could actually give yourself the support you need to learn from failure and to grow.
SPENCER: Now, a lot of people who work with animals say, “You should use reward not punishment, it's just as much more effective in the long-term.” And I think this is very analogous to that.
KRISTIN: It's not exactly like rewards because rewards are extrinsic. It's worse. That can actually undermine things like, if you give your kids treats whenever they succeed, then they don't actually own it for themselves, they do it just to get the treat. It's not so much like you're giving yourself a treat, you're not giving yourself a punishment, but it's really intrinsic motivation. You're doing it because you care, because you want to achieve, because you want to be your best self. It's actually the most sustainable form of motivation.
SPENCER: I guess what I mean, there's that punishment tends to be self-undermining.
KRISTIN: Yes, intrinsic positive motivation is the most effective for yourself and for other people.
SPENCER: Kristin, thank you so much for coming on. This was a joyful conversation.
KRISTIN: You're welcome, Spencer. Thanks for having me.
JOSH: Before we wrap up the episode, though, here is this week's listener question. A listener asks, “What do you spend most of your professional time doing?”
SPENCER: I spend most of my time running Sparkwave, which is a startup foundry, and what that means is we come up with ideas for new products or companies. We build the first version of them and house and in some cases, we will even raise money for them and spin them out into separate entities. For example, we created the “Company Mind” which makes an app for helping people with anxiety and we spun that out and it's now its own company. We also created Clearer Thinking and a handful of other products as well. Basically, my job for most of my time is running Sparkwave which involves many different tasks from thinking about strategy to managing our teams to recruiting new people, and so on and so forth.
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