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Self‐reassurance, not self‐esteem, serves as a buffer between self‐criticism and depressive symptoms
Abstract and Figures
Objectives Several studies suggest that self‐criticism and self‐reassurance operate through different mechanisms and might interact with each other. This study examined the hypothesis that self‐reassurance serves as a buffer between self‐criticism and depressive symptoms in a way that self‐esteem, which is rooted in a different motivational system, may not. Design We hypothesized that self‐criticism would be correlated with high levels of depressive symptoms, but that this association would be weaker at higher levels of self‐reassurance abilities. We also hypothesized that self‐esteem, a self‐relating process based on feeling able and competent to achieve life goals, would not buffer the relationship between self‐criticism and depression. Methods Self‐criticism, self‐reassurance, depressive symptoms, and self‐esteem were assessed in a sample of 419 participants (66% females; Mage = 33.40, SD = 11.13). Results At higher levels of self‐reassurance, the relationship between self‐criticism and depressive symptoms became non‐significant, supporting the buffering hypothesis of self‐reassurance. Despite the high correlation between self‐esteem and self‐reassurance, self‐esteem did not moderate the relationship between self‐criticism and depressive symptoms. Conclusions Results support the growing evidence that not all positive self‐relating processes exert the same protective function against psychopathological consequences of self‐criticism. Implications for psychotherapy and the validity of using compassion‐focused interventions with clients with self‐critical issues are discussed. Practitioner points • Self‐reassurance and self‐criticism are distinct processes and they should not be considered positive and negative variations of a single dimension • Different types of positive self‐relating do not show the same correlation with depressive symptoms. • The ability to be self‐reassuring protects against the psychopathological correlates of self‐criticism while having high self‐esteem does not. • Compassion‐focused interventions are promising avenues to help clients counteract the negative impact of self‐criticism on mood.
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