When I was a little girl in the 1950s, my parents were stingy with praise and magnanimous with criticism. To be otherwise would result in a child developing a “swelled head”, which, as all parents knew back then, would be the worst possible thing that could ever happen to any child.
“She really thinks she’s SOMEBODY!” was a phrase delivered with withering contempt by my mother in describing any person whose sense of self-esteem seemed even remotely healthy.
Nobody, according to my parents, likes a kid with a swelled head. The only way to prevent that catastrophe was to be tough on your children, and in turn teach them to be equally tough on themselves. You could thus help them avoid growing up to be spoiled and self-indulgent adults who acted like they were “SOMEBODY!”
But Dr. Kristin Neff, who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, now believes that children who grow up like this end up experiencing little self-compassion when life’s difficulties hit them. Her observations on the importance of developing self-compassion may sound reassuring to those of us living with a heart disease diagnosis. Continue reading