Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2012 Sep;38(9):1133-43. doi: 10.1177/0146167212445599. Epub 2012 May 29.


Can treating oneself with compassion after making a mistake increase self-improvement motivation? In four experiments, the authors examined the hypothesis that self-compassion motivates people to improve personal weaknesses, moral transgressions, and test performance. Participants in a self-compassion condition, compared to a self-esteem control condition and either no intervention or a positive distraction control condition, expressed greater incremental beliefs about a personal weakness (Experiment 1); reported greater motivation to make amends and avoid repeating a recent moral transgression (Experiment 2); spent more time studying for a difficult test following an initial failure (Experiment 3); exhibited a preference for upward social comparison after reflecting on a personal weakness (Experiment 4); and reported greater motivation to change the weakness (Experiment 4). These findings suggest that, somewhat paradoxically, taking an accepting approach to personal failure may make people more motivated to improve themselves.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Empathy*
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Self Concept*
  • Young Adult