Love thyself, love thy money

There are a few useful definitions of self-compassion, personally I view it as a trait whereby you are mindful of your own constraints, limitations and challenges so that you are comfortable with being kind to yourself. It's about accepting and forgiving shortcomings; living assuredly with your own humanity. Importantly, from this state should stem empathy with, affinity for and willingness to help others; (Welp and Brown, 2013).

Leading researcher into self-compassion and its role in mental health, Dr Kristin Neff makes it clear what self compassion is not. It is not self-pity which is a state  built on disconnectedness and negative self-absorption. Nor is it self-indulgence which is a kind of avoidance behavior whereby the individual will treat themselves to a period of indolence and excessive pleasure. These are avoidance actions that can run contrary to healthy lifestyle choices and impede the individual's ability to acknowledge their shortcomings and address them affirmatively.


Self-compassion should never ever be confused with self-esteem. This is focused on self-worth which in western culture to a large extent depends on validation by others of our individual "specialness; how we look, what we do, how we perform, where we live and how much we earn. Postures turn defensive if individuals have their self-esteem threatened by the doubt and opinions of others. With self-compassion weaknesses are acknowledged, accepted and not railed against. They are not hidden. An individual with developed self compassion has no dependence on external validators. According to Neff,

" research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior as well as less narcissism and reactive anger."

Certainly, there is some evidence to suggest that low self-esteem is associated with deleterious consumer purchasing behaviors; (Hanley and Wilhelm, 1992).

It would be difficult to argue against the development of self-compassion as a positive trait for mental and physical health. Dunne, Sheffield and Chilcot, (2016) found a significant direct effect of self-compassion on physical health through health-promoting behaviours. Certainly, the evidence for efficacy and potential application of compassion as an intervention strategy is well documented by (Kirby, 2016).

So, what's this got to do with design considerations for a project like a mobile app for millennials and their financial advisers? We take it as an opportunity to:

  1. Investigate the role of self-affirmative UI elements in improving app usage persistence
  2. Instrument relevant scales via chatbot to determine any associations between self affirmative behavior and our evidence-based financial behaviors framework.
  3. Investigate the association, if any between self affirmation and self compassion levels in our particular problem domains of personal finance and health and wellbeing.

Depending upon the outcomes we may subsequently design and validate our own behavioral scale; watch this space as depending upon the uptake of our #fintech app for millennials and advisers we may have enough observational data to share by year's end.


Barnard, L. and Curry, J. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15(4), pp.289-303.

Dunne, S., Sheffield, D. and Chilcot, J. (2016). Brief report: Self-compassion, physical health and the mediating role of health-promoting behaviours. Journal of Health Psychology, 23(7), pp.993-999.

Galante, J., Galante, I., Bekkers, M. and Gallacher, J. (2014). Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(6), pp.1101-1114.

Hanley, A. and Wilhelm, M. (1992). Compulsive buying: An exploration into self-esteem and money attitudes. Journal of Economic Psychology, 13(1), pp.5-18.

Kirby, J. (2016). Compassion interventions: The programmes, the evidence, and implications for research and practice. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 90(3), pp.432-455.

Roberts, J., Manolis, C. and Pullig, C. (2014). Contingent Self-Esteem, Self-Presentational Concerns, and Compulsive Buying. Psychology & Marketing, 31(2), pp.147-160.

Sirois, F., Kitner, R. and Hirsch, J. (2015). Self-compassion, affect, and health-promoting behaviors. Health Psychology, 34(6), pp.661-669.

Welp, L. and Brown, C. (2013). Self-compassion, empathy, and helping intentions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(1), pp.54-65.

Dr Daryl Foy

Dr Daryl Foy is a Behavioural Scientist who specialises in the design of effective health behaviour change apps based on evidence including his own validated models for optimising persistent use. He consults to industry on how-to integrate persuasive design into LEAN product development as well as conversational UI. He can be contacted at