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Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  17,261 ratings  ·  1,352 reviews
From leading psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff comes a step-by-step guide explaining how to be more self-compassionate and achieve your dreams in life

The relentless pursuit of high self-esteem has become a virtual religion—and a tyrannical one at that. Our ultracompetitive culture tells us we need to be constantly above average to feel good about ourselves, but there is always
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by William Morrow
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*Edit 3/27/2021: Five years later, and I want to acknowledge the importance of white people in psychology/mental health/etc. acknowledging the cultural appropriation of mindfulness from Eastern spiritual practices/Buddhism. Please see this article for more on that. Still appreciate the notion of self-compassion.

Original review from 5/18/2015:

I turn 20 in a week, and I could not have read this book at a better time. Having been raised in an abusive household, I always strive to live with kindness
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
I'm a busy-buzzy kind of woman, and I found this a waffly and protracted read. I think it could have been ten percent the length that it was. This may be in part because I've realised that I am quite a self-accepting person. If instead you are highly self critical, you might find the detail given in book more helpful.

For most people, rather than reading the book, I would recommend this fantastic 12 minute video done on the subject by Neff, it's also an excellent introduction to the sort of grou
Travis McClain
Mar 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose a lot of those who read this will relate: my therapist lent me this book because I'm reflexively kinda rough on myself. By her own acknowledgment, she hadn't gotten all that far with her personal copy, but thought maybe I would find something in it interesting or helpful.


I went into this to make a good faith effort, I really did. Clearly, I need to rewire some things, and I'm open to finding things that can help with that. What I found here were 286 pages of hypocrisy, self-coddli
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
A good book on a very important topic for me. Self-compassion is learning to love ourselves as we aspire to love those dear to us. It is not loving ourselves as being superior to others (i.e. believing I am better than you and special). I have periods when I hate myself, and most of the time I don't like who I am, so this was a challenging read. I have read a couple of research papers by Kristen Neff so I know this book is written on sound psychological principles. It is not a self-help book wri ...more
Jennifer Louden
Nothing new but a wonderful intro book for someone who has no idea what you mean when you say "Be a little nicer to yourself"

I also like her mantra:

This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is part of life.
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.

Kristen maintains that recognizing our suffering is the first step in learning self-compassion. We can't just keep going forward, pretending nothing happened. And we don't want to through a huge self-pity party every
Jun 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: self-help
It's not often I don't finish a book, but I could not get past the first few chapters even with skimming. The tone of this book was sooooo annoying, i just couldn't take it anymore. The author apparently felt like she needed to dumb down her writing a little too much and all her examples were like of herself or other women who wanted to please their boyfriends or husbands or some crap like that. Barf. I'm sorry, but I just don't really empathize with your multiple marriages and affairs with olde ...more
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Quite a disappointment. The author is a specialist in the field of self-compassion and makes here an attempt to explain self-compassion to a large audience.

The author must be a great person, but unfortunately her book is not strong.

The exercises are not practical and difficult to apply (perhaps because I don't come from the same culture?). I found them superficial.

The examples often taken from the author's life didn't really interest me. I am already familiar with meditation and mindefulness
I think this is the first self-help book I've ever read? It was quite a mixed bag: some of her examples including weight loss, sexuality, and her son's autism felt problematic to me, but at the same time I found the core components of the concept of self-compassion (mindfulness, being kind to yourself, emphasizing shared humanity) and her discussions of the dangers of self-criticism and focusing on high self-esteem very compelling and useful.

Some of the passages that stood our for me (some are
Jun 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
While this book has occasional good advice, it has far more issues.

She argues that we must look at the similarities between humans rather than the differences. In doing so, she talks about “Challenge Day” and an exercise called “Lines that divide us” where painful experiences are called out and if you’ve experienced it, you cross the line. It starts with things like being judged because of the color of your skin and goes to being judged for your clothes, among other smaller things. Her argument
Apr 26, 2021 rated it did not like it
BIG EDIT: While I found the book very insightful and largely helpful, even if I didn't agree with everything in it, the stories that she tells about her autistic son are very problematic. I dismissed it at first because when I finished the book I still didn't know a lot about what it meant to be autistic and I didn't want to speak on others' behalf; however, the story she told that was eventually turned into a book and subsequent documentary both titled The Horse Boy, I decided to put my unrest ...more
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I admit to being a bit of a self-help literature enthusiast. Hey, being a human (especially one living in this crazy 21st century) is hard! If a book can help someone find more peace of mind and skills for living, then I say that's all for the good!

Of all the books on my self-help shelf, Kristin Neff's Self Compassion just might be my absolute favorite. I discovered her book through the work of Brene Brown (whom I also love) and watched her TED talk, which I found very moving (https://www.youtu
Brette Chapin
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was okay to start, but got progressively more touchy-feely, and then got really weird near the end. What I mean by weird is that the author and her husband take their autistic son to Mongolia to be "healed" by shamans. The shamans tell the author that a black spirit or something like that got into her womb with her son, so they instruct her to wash her "private parts" (Who says private parts?! Just woman up and say vagina if that's what you mean. Or vulva. Or genitals, if you are too s ...more
Scout Collins
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars | Have a lot to say about this one!

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself is a unique and interesting approach to dealing with negative emotions. Instead of relying on support and understanding from others, Neff argues you should rely on yourself and equips you with some basic self-compassion practices.

Throughout the book I was mostly impressed with the concepts and ideas, however something bothered me throughout - the author's strong repulsion to the concept of w
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
There's very useful, Buddhist-derived wisdom here, and some very practical tips for forgiving and nurturing yourself, as well as great exercises to do. In that sense, it was a very worthwhile read and it's been very helpful to me.

I was put off by the author's tone (it's breezy) as well as the frequent referrals to her website and use of her own life to illustrate points. By the end of the book, I sympathized/empathized with her much less than I did at the start.

Additionally, the studies cited w
Dec 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
There's a fine line between self compassion and indulgent self pitying obsession. This woman I feel has crossed that line. It just feels like the woman wanted to write about herself and injects here and there some general things on self compassion. This was more a vehicle for her poor little me pity party. The gist of this is her 'judgmental' husband pushed her away so she had an affair. Then she developed self compassion for her affair especially because the guy she cheated with was dying from ...more
Beverly Fox
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, self-help
I am a therapist by profession but it would be a disservice to this book (and more importantly, this practice) to say that it has just changed how I counsel. It has changed how I live.

I practice these techniques as much as I preach them, perhaps more, and it is completely altering how I feel, think and function. When I get hurt, mess up, fall into bad habits my first impulse (because old habits die so hard) is still that self criticism that is so deeply ingrained. BUT there’s a second wave that
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book came to my with a huge pile of other books I picked up at the library recently. ugh. that is how I feel when I take out too many books from the library and feel the pressure building as the days pass by and I don't have time to get to them.

But luckily, I did get to pick up this book and start reading before the time was up. I wasn't really sure what self compassion is or what it would look like. I now understand how important it is to comfort myself when I am feeling bad, no matter wh
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a book that's going to give you a pat on the back, tell you that you're awesome, or that you have a right to feel sorry for yourself...this book is not for you. I think part of me was secretly hoping for that self-righteous confidence boost, but what I got was something better: self-compassion. She won't so much tell you that you're "perfect just the way you are", or conversely that we must un-conditionally accept our faults, but does offer a balanced, understanding approac ...more
Mindfully Evie
Although some of the other books cover “self-compassion”, this book really goes into the depths of it and explains just how important it is. Since reading this book I have really taken the advice to heart, and I am now practising self-compassion daily and it has made such a huge difference to my life. With the everyday pressures in Western Society this book needs to be prescribed to anyone who suffers from self-criticism, stress, anxiety, depression, or physical illness – so basically everyone! ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
**Life is better when you can be kind to yourself**

Given the fact that we have to live with ourselves 24/7, it’s not too surprising just how important self-compassion is to our quality of life. This gem of a book is certainly a testament to that.

In the words of the author:
“Self-compassion is a powerful way to achieve emotional well-being and contentment in our lives. By giving ourselves unconditional kindness and comfort while embracing the human experience, difficult as it is, we avoid destru
Oct 30, 2022 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended, giving good vibes, hope i can apply the mentioned exercises in my real life :)
Jan 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-health
The core of Self-Compassion and Neff's premise are entirely compelling. As piece of writing, however, Neff's book is woefully uneven.

This book's most persistent weakness is the writing, both in tone and approach. Often the book reads like the author is literally speaking to a large group instead of taking advantage of the written word to construct her case. She frequently gives anecdotes that are so flat and tailor-made to illustrate her point they feel entirely fabricated. So for much of this b
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very very important message, one that I need to take to heart. The self critical me still thinks that part of this book seems like sugar-coating for losers who can't do better, but that is more about me than the book. For those who are "hard on ourselves", this book conveys the life-saving message that we must exercise self compassion instead of self criticism, in good times and even more so, in bad times. I am very interested in learning more about the subject and would like to practice self ...more
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
This book is an uneasy combination of airy-fairy (my new favorite phrase) and academia. I believe that's a symptom of this being an emerging field where the standards of how to write about the subject aren't yet clear. Plus, I get the sense the author didn't want to write a popular psych book. I can't really blame her... however, those books sell like hotcakes. Then again, so is this one. (#1244 on Amazon as I type this review.) I think the keys to selling well with a nonfiction book are:

a) hot
Emily Briano
I always joke that I wish I could eat books and have the stories live inside me, but this book is truly one I want to enter into every cell and fiber and corner of my being. I have always been so hard on myself, and now is no exception. This book is so wonderful. It has research, practical activities, and the author's own story woven through to present a convincing case for the absolute necessity of self-compassion for every person in this world. I want to live and breathe this book and use the ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This very helpful book demonstrates that self-compassion is a better path to mental health and happiness than self-esteem. Dr. Neff is an expert on this subject, and uses a combination of western psychology, meditation, and Buddhist philosophy to demonstrate the method. It's a very enjoyable and interesting read, with personal examples from the author's life and exercises to help you put self-compassion into practice. ...more
Cherry (_forevermint)
if the voice inside your head is overly critical, mean, or abusive, this is a must read. For some it's easy to be kind to others but impossible to be kind to themselves, life doesn't have to be that way~ four stars because I gotta read the physical book lol (listened to this on my commute to/from work) ...more
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book teaching Neff's practice of self-compassion.

Neff uses research to back her claims that self-compassion (which she differentiates from self-esteem) leads to greater happiness as well as greater achievement. Far from encouraging laziness or becoming under-motivated, self-compassion frees people to take risks and take care of themselves in ways that promote greater health. In other words, self-compassion is almost the opposite of self-indulgence because when you really care about y
Wai Yip Tung
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
If we can have compassion for others, shouldn't we treat ourselves with just as much compassion, especially when we are in face of inevitable difficulties and failure? Kristin Neff bring out the concept of self-compassion. To be human is to err. So we should learn to treat ourselves kindly as we would treat others, to realized our life are connect to other human beings and to be mindful of our emotions.

I find this a very appealing concept. Rather than review the book in detail, I'd like to share
Nov 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy this book because these problems happen to many, and I'm really happy that this book points to the problems.

The book "Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff, published in 2011, is about the problems in the environment that many people have grown up in this way. This book is very interesting to me because it is the key I have always been looking for and gives another level that I never expected at all, which is a positive aspect. I fully agree with every problem the author mentions. The
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Kristin Neff is Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on self-compassion almost twenty years ago. In addition to writing numerous academic articles and book chapters on the topic, she is author of the books Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kin ...more

Articles featuring this book

Lori Gottlieb is a bestselling writer, psychotherapist, and author of the weekly "Dear Therapist" advice column for The Atlantic. Her new...
88 likes · 7 comments
“Compassion is, by definition, relational. Compassion literally means 'to suffer with,' which implies a basic mutuality in the experience of suffering. The emotion of compassion springs from the recognition that the human experience is imperfect.” 44 likes
“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.” 42 likes
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