Self-Compassion, Perceived Stigma, and Support Seeking Among Sexual Minorities

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When dealing with issues related to their stigmatized identity, individuals may face a trade-off when deciding whether to seek social support directly. They may suffer short-term consequences in order to receive social support, or may avoid short-term consequences but suffer long-term consequences of decreased psychological well-being due to limited opportunities for social support (Kaiser & Miller, 2004; Swim & Thomas, 2006). Indeed, those who perceive stigma may avoid seeking support directly and seek social support in indirect ways (e.g., hinting, seeking support without disclosing) due to fear of rejection (Williams & Mickelson, 2008). Further, indirect support seeking is related to a lack of social support while direct support seeking is related to supportive network responses (Williams & Mickelson, 2008). The present study sought to examine one mechanism that might explain decisions to seek support directly versus indirectly. Overall, self-compassion is the extent that an individual exhibits self-kindness, recognition of a common humanity, and mindfulness. Previous research has linked self-compassion to increased well-being and positive psychological functioning (Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007; Neff, 2003). Thus, we hypothesized that higher levels of self-compassion would be positively related to direct support seeking and negatively related to fear of rejection, perceived stigma, and indirect support seeking. We collected data from 440 (59% female) sexual minorities through participation in an online survey. Bivariate correlations revealed that self-compassion was positively related to direct support seeking (r = .211; p < .01) and negatively related to fear of rejection (r = -.199; p < .01), perceived stigma (r = -.146; p < .05) and indirect support seeking (r = -.303; p < .001). Self-compassion may serve as a protective mechanism among sexual minorities by enhancing support exchanges.


Charlotte, NC

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