Research: The Role of Self-Compassion in Creativity
Creativity is important for all of us, whether we are completing a business report, writing an essay for school, landscaping our garden, or cooking a meal for friends. Sometimes, however, the higher the stakes become, the harder it is to get started on or to even complete a project.
Research shows that self-compassion can support the creative process. One study found self-compassion to be positively associated with artistic achievement and another study found self-compassion to support creative originality in self-critical individuals.
The importance of self-compassion on artistic achievements (Verger, N. B., Shankland & Sudres, 2022)
In a new study, self-compassion was found to be positively associated with artistic achievement. In this study both the effects of emotional dysregulation and self-compassion on artistic achievement were measured. The results showed that artistic achievements were negatively associated with emotional dysregulation, and positively associated with self-compassion. The study also showed that individuals high in self-compassion displayed the same level of artistic achievement regardless of their level of emotional dysregulation. Whereas, for individuals with low or moderate levels of self-compassion, low emotional dysregulation was needed for displaying the same degree of artistic achievement.
The authors point out that one prevalent part of being an artist is to constantly have one’s work evaluated and judged by others. This process can be emotionally challenging, especially if both the artist’s identity and self-worth is tied to the artistic output. The authors theorize that self-compassion might facilitate artistic achievement by making the artist less emotionally affected by the public evaluation of their work. This greater resilience means the artist experiences less inner obstacles while creating their work.
Self-compassion facilitates creative originality among self-judgmental individuals (Zabelina & Robinson, 2010)
In this study the researchers conducted an experiment where two groups of people were asked to complete a creative originality task. Before completing the task, both groups were asked to write about a challenging situation. The first group, the control group, was asked to just journal about the challenging situation, whereas, the self-compassion group, received a set of self-compassion journaling prompts to support them in bringing self-compassion to their experience. This study showed that compared to nonjudgmental individuals, self-judgmental individuals displayed lower levels of creative originality when they were only asked to journal about the challenging situation, but equal levels of creative originality when they had received the journaling prompts that supported them in bringing self-compassion to their experience. This shows that activating self-compassion before a task can support creative originality.
The authors reflect that self-judgmental individuals are likely to self-impose restrictions on their creative output, and as self-compassion directly counteracts self-judgment it removes the self-imposed restrictions and unleashes the creative potential.
Both of these studies underline the benefits of self-compassion on creativity and artistic achievement. So, next time you get stuck in your creative process, try this simple three-step self-compassion practice:
- Pause.The first thing we do is to just allow ourselves to feel what is present inside of us and acknowledge that we are experiencing something challenging.
- Remember that we are not alone. So many people have experienced something similar and challenging experiences are part of being human.
- Bring kindness to ourselves and our experience, through putting a comforting hand on our heart or saying something kind to ourselves.
If you would like to enhance your creativity through the power of self-compassion, sign up for the MSC Core Skills 4-session workshop starting August 10, 2022, presented by CMSC co-founders and Mindful Self-Compassion co-developers Chris Germer, Ph.D. and Kristin Neff, Ph.D. Learn more or register here or click on the photo.
Verger, N. B., Shankland, R., & Sudres, J. L. (2022). High Artistic Achievements and Low Emotion Dysregulation: The Moderating and Mediating Role of Self-compassion. Creativity Research Journal, 34(1), 68-84.
Zabelina, D. L., & Robinson, M. D. (2010). Don’t be so hard on yourself: Self-compassion facilitates creative originality among self-judgmental individuals. Creativity Research Journal, 22(3), 288-293.