Compassion includes both inward love and kindness toward oneself and outward facing compassion for others; both of which influence our ability to connect with one other. When difficult times arise, compassion allows us not only to witness our own suffering and the suffering of others, but to want to be present with that suffering and to help alleviate the pain.
That nuance in particular — the desire to alleviate suffering — sets compassion apart from related concepts of empathy and sympathy. While the ability to recognize suffering without a clear avenue to change it can be exhausting and may lead people to pull back from engagement, the beauty of compassion is that it brings us together through simple and profound acts toward reducing suffering and pain in our community and world.
Though compassion is not often discussed in terms of academic success, studies have shown that one’s ability to exhibit self-compassion has remarkably powerful outcomes for learning and growth, such as:
- A correlation with an increase in accuracy of assessment and mastery-orientation, and with a decrease in performance-orientation;
- Increasing individuals’ ability to enlist emotion-focused rather than avoidance-oriented coping strategies;
- Decreasing fear of failure and increases persistence;
- Increasing perception of competence;
- Moderating reactions to real and potential failure by reducing perceived adversity of events.