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Message from the President Keith Toms
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Message from the Editor
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EPO presses pause on proceedings that depend on the plausibility referral to the EBA
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DraftKings Persuades PTAB to Invalidate Competitor’s Mobile Gambling Patent
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Self-Compassion for Lawyers: Dispelling Doubts & Getting Started
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Letter of the Editor
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Survey Regarding Support for Change of Boston Patent Law Association Name
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A stylish direction: how IP can support ethical fashion
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The Copyright Clash Between Artists: A Quiz
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Case Law Committee Meeting Summary - CalTech v. Broadcom
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Writing Competition announcement
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Members on the Move
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List of Officers and Board of Governors and Committees
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Volume 53, Issue 2

Self-Compassion for Lawyers: Dispelling Doubts & Getting Started

By Tracey Meyers, Psy.D., LCL MA Staff Clinician
Self-compassion really refers to three main aspects or components. One is mindfulness, being able to actually be present with what is here rather than pushing it away, suppressing it, minimizing it. The second is kindness. How do we talk to ourselves? Can we bring a sense of gentleness and kindness to ourselves? Almost like imagining you would talk to your best friend. And the third part of self compassion is shared humanity, recognizing we're not alone, we're not the only one that feels this way.
The research on self-compassion suggests that when we practice it on a regular basis, we actually can feel more resilient, better able to manage life stressors, less depression and less alone. These are really important as we navigate these difficult times.
Self-Compassion v. Self-Esteem
Self-esteem can be defined as a global evaluation of self-worth – judging yourself as a good person or a bad person. Self-esteem is not a bad thing; it’s how we get our self-esteem that can be problematic. Self-esteem is often based on comparisons with others (feeling “special and above average”) and tends to be contingent on success.
Self-compassion, however, does not entail evaluations of good or bad, but simply involves relating to yourself kindly, especially when you fail or notice personal shortcomings. This means that self-compassion is always available – it doesn’t desert us when we fail, and it fosters feelings of social connectedness rather than social comparison.
Research shows that compared with self-esteem, self-compassion provides a more stable sense of self-worth over time and is less contingent on things like physical attractiveness or successful performances. Self-compassion is also linked to less social comparison and narcissism than self-esteem (Neff & Vonk, 2009).
Common Misgivings
It’s important to know it’s normal to have doubts or concerns; they are common and natural. In addition to the misgivings mentioned below, you may also notice that self-compassion makes you uneasy because you wonder if:
  • It will open me too much to the pain in life.
  • I will feel pathetic or needy.
  • It will cause old hurts to resurface.
  • It’s hard to practice.
  • I feel I don’t deserve it.
Utilizing guided meditations will help to experience the benefit of these practices and ease discomfort around not feeling like you deserve self-compassion.
1. “Self-compassion is a form of self-pity.” Self-compassion remembers that everyone suffers (common humanity) and doesn’t exaggerate the extent of suffering (mindfulness), so is not a “woe is me” attitude. Research shows that self-compassionate people are more likely to engage in perspective-taking rather than focusing on their own distress (Neff & Pommier, 2013). They are also less likely to ruminate on how bad things are (Raes, 2010).
2. “Self-compassion is weak.” Self-compassion is a strength that offers resilience when faced with difficulty. Research shows self-compassionate people are better able to cope with tough situations like divorce (Sbarra, Smith & Mehl, 2012), trauma (Hiraoka et al., 2015), or chronic pain (Wren et al, 2012).
3. “Self-compassion is selfish.” By including oneself in the circle of compassion (a humble agenda!), our sense of separation from others is lessened. Research shows self-compassionate people tend to be more caring and supportive in romantic relationships (Neff & Beretvas, 2013), are more likely to compromise in relationship conflicts (Yarnell & Neff, 2013), and are more compassionate toward others (Neff & Pommier, 2013).
4. “Self-compassion is self-indulgent.” Compassion wants long-term health not short-term pleasure (just like a compassionate parent doesn’t let their child eat all the ice cream they wants, but says “eat your vegetables.”) Research shows self-compassionate people engage in healthier behaviors like exercise (Magnus, Kowalski & McHugh, 2010), eating well (Schoenefeld & Webb, 2013), drinking less (Brooks et al., 2012) and going to the doctor more regularly (Terry et al., 2013).
5. “Self-compassion is a form of making excuses.” Self-compassion provides the safety needed to admit mistakes, rather than needing to blame someone else for them. Research shows that self-compassionate people take greater personal responsibility for their actions (Leary et al., 2007), and are more likely to apologize if they’ve offended someone (Brienes & Chen, 2012).
6. “Self-compassion will undermine motivation.” Most people believe self-criticism is an effective motivator, but it actually undermines self-confidence and leads to fear of failure. Motivation with self-compassion comes from the desire for health and well-being. It provides the emotionally supportive environment needed for change. It can be useful to consider the motivational impact of a harshly critical versus kind and supportive coach to make this point. Research shows that self-compassionate people are no less likely to have high personal standards; they just don’t beat themselves up when they fail (Neff, 2003b). This means they are less afraid of failure (Neff, Hseih, & Dejitthirat, 2007) and are more likely to try again and to persist in their efforts after failing (Breines & Chen, 2012).
Practicing Self-Compassion
Our next 4-part series on Mindfulness & Self-Compassion Tools for the Legal Profession begins on Tuesday, May 10th, 2022! Lawyers, law students, judges, and other legal professionals are invited to learn the powerful practices of self-compassion to find a greater sense of happiness, joy, social connectedness, and life satisfaction and decrease secondary traumatization and burnout in this 4-week thematic class designed for the legal profession. We will meet weekly for one hour to build the skills to begin a sustainable meditation practice, each Tuesday from May 10th through 31st at 12pm. This series is free & confidential.
We’ve also published 4 guided practices (here) that you can do on your own on a regular basis. These practices are designed for you to explore: What is self compassion? And how can you apply that to yourself to alleviate anxiety, low self esteem, perfectionism? And also what to do when you're really gripped with a difficult or painful emotion. The four practices included are:
  • An affectionate body scan so it's bringing attention to the body with gentle kindness.
  • An affectionate breathing practice where we really focus on breathing in and breathing out with kindness, and we use some phrases that can help support that inner dialogue.
  • We have a practice called a self-compassion break which is what to do in a moment. Maybe you only have a couple of moments where you need to give yourself a little bit of kindness. So it's a gentle short practice around that. It also includes self-compassion touch, including different touches that might be nourishing when you're feeling under stress.
  • Finally a practice called RAIN. RAIN stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurturance, and this particular practice can be very helpful when you're struggling with a painful emotion.
Feel free to use those practices either sequentially, trying each of them maybe one after the other, or sticking to one for a period of time, and then moving on to the other. These are practices designed for any time of the day, so you could do it during a break, during lunch, first thing in the morning, in the evening. The most important thing is just setting aside the time for yourself to bring compassion into your life.
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