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

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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 someone more attractive, successful, or intelligent than we are. And even when we do manage to grab hold of high self-esteem for a brief moment, we can't seem to keep it. Our sense of self-worth goes up and down like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lockstep with our latest success or failure.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many experts believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion. The research of Dr. Kristin Neff and other leading psychologists indicates that people who are compassionate toward their failings and imperfections experience greater well-being than those who repeatedly judge themselves. The feelings of security and self-worth provided by self-compassion are also highly stable, kicking in precisely when self-esteem falls down. This book powerfully demonstrates why it's so important to be self-compassionate and give yourself the same caring support you'd give to a good friend.

This groundbreaking work will show you how to let go of debilitating self-criticism and finally learn to be kind to yourself. Using solid empirical research, personal stories, practical exercises, and humor, Dr. Neff—the world's foremost expert on self-compassion—explains how to heal destructive emotional patterns so that you can be healthier, happier, and more effective. Engaging, highly readable, and eminently accessible, this book has the power to change your life.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 19, 2011

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About the author

Kristin Neff

62 books650 followers
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 Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive and Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. In conjunction with her colleague Dr. Chris Germer, she has developed an empirically supported training program called Mindful Self-Compassion, which is taught by thousands of teachers worldwide. They co-authored the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook and Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program: A Guide for Professionals. Her newest work focuses on how to balance self-acceptance with the courage to make needed change.

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Profile Image for Thomas.
1,463 reviews8,570 followers
March 27, 2021
*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, understanding, and compassion in order to break free from my childhood. Kristin Neff's Self-Compassion has taught me many valuable lessons, including what specific behaviors and thoughts comprise compassion, as well as how to apply those principles to myself - one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. A quote that shows Neff's three tenets of self-compassion:

"As I've defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness - that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate."

Oftentimes we take the idea of being kind to ourselves with a grain of salt. We nod our heads when people tell us about the perks of positivity, and we smile and listen to our friends when they need help, and because of society's pressure to achieve a lot and express so little, we lose touch with our internal selves. Neff's book offers practical suggestions to increase self-compassion that transcend mere self-esteem enhancers or ineffective tricks. She delves into the specific ways self-compassion can aid in our own happiness, our relationships with family and significant others, and our general interactions with the world around us. Neff strengthens her argument by citing many studies, and she draws upon several facets of psychology - social comparison, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, group identity, and much more - to add cohesion to her ideas. One of my favorite quotes about why we need to accept our thoughts and feelings:

"Thoughts and feelings arise based on our history, our past experiences and associations, our hardwiring, our hormonal cycle, our physical comfort level, our cultural conditioning, our previous thoughts and feelings, and numerous other factors. As discussed in the last chapter, there are untold prior causes and conditions that have come together to produce our current mental and emotional experience - conditions beyond our conscious choosing. We can't control which thoughts and emotions pass through the gates of awareness and which ones do not. If our particular thoughts and feelings aren't healthy, we can't make these mental experiences go away. However, we can change the way we relate to them."

One of my favorite books of all-time and perhaps my top read of 2015 so far. Recommended to anyone who has had to deal with an internal self-critical voice, as well as to those who want to augment their self-compassion for any reason at all. In my opinion, Self-Compassion serves as the ideal self-help book: it blends original insight, personal experience, research and previous work in the field, and it relays its message in a respectful and easy-to-comprehend way. 5 stars without a doubt.
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews564 followers
August 9, 2021
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 ground she covers in the book: I was introduced to Neff via this video, and still think it is superb.


She also briefly mentioned the issue of compassion towards others, and I realised that for me this was a far more interesting topic, and something I would definitely like to learn more about.

Finally, I end with my usual collection of notes.
Profile Image for Travis McClain.
Author 3 books25 followers
August 11, 2020
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-coddling, rejection of accountability, and a genuinely laughable thoughtlessness about the circumstances of others. Here are some key highlights:

Let's start on page 9, in a section titled "Compassion for Others". The very first sentence establishes the hypothetical scenario: "Imagine you're stuck in traffic on the way to work, and a homeless man tries to get you to pay him a buck for washing your car windows."

This is the sentence that establishes who this book's audience is--and isn't. This is for a reader for whom the indigents of society are unsightly nuisances. Realizing that the homeless man is worthy of compassion isn't presented as the establishment of some basic, bare-minimal decency. It's just a set-up for a literal "But for the grace of God..." epiphany.

I kept waiting for her to say something to any readers who had been, or were, that homeless man. Nope. Not a word. Why should she? He's not her audience. He's merely a prop to help her audience feel better about themselves. She's not even ashamed of using him that way, never apologizes for dehumanizing him in such a shameful way to humanize her reader, who is certainly not that homeless man.

This all reminded me of a song Tim McGraw recorded for his 2001 album, Set This Circus Down, called "Grown Men Don't Cry". It's about a guy who sees a poor woman and her son living out of their vehicle and it makes him sad. He thinks about trying to say something encouraging to her, but instead sits there and cries and decides to just leave. Then he goes home to his big, nice house and his family and everything is cozy and he cries about how good he has it.

This, for me, was a watershed moment in country music. There was a time when country music was about that woman and her son. Now, it's about the suburbanites who have emotional reactions to seeing that woman and her son. Poor people don't buy $65 concert tickets, after all, so why sing to them?

Neff shares later about how hurt and angry she was when her father abandoned their family while she was young to go join a hippie commune. That's a perfectly fair and understandable reaction for her to have had. She shares that he returned later, and...

"One day when I was about eight, after using the word Dad in the course of asking him some question, he turned to me and my brother in all seriousness and asked that we please not call him Dad anymore. He wanted us to use his new name, 'Brother Dionysus,' because 'we are all just brothers and sisters at the end of the day--children of God."

She shares that this cemented for her that she had truly lost her father, and again; that's a perfectly understandable thing for her to have felt. But then she goes on to say:

"So for more than twenty years I found myself in the awkward situation of not knowing how--on those rare occasions when he was around--to address him. I couldn't bring myself to use his ridiculous hippie name, so ended up using no name at all."


This is page 32. As with the homeless man on page 9, I kept waiting for her to rescue the passage by saying something like, "Later, I recognized that, while my pain was legitimate, I was being every bit as judgmental and dismissive of him as I've written an entire book telling you not to be about yourself." Nope. No such self-awareness. Passing judgment on others is cool, apparently. I couldn't help but wonder if her rejection of someone's "ridiculous" new name would extend to someone who hadn't hurt her. What about someone who is transgender and transitions? Also not one of her readers, so the hell with them, too. They can join the homeless man on page 9.

Throughout the book, Neff acknowledges that a key concern voiced about self-compassion is that it's just a way to let oneself off the hook and absolve oneself of accountability. I was hopeful when she first broached the subject that maybe this would be where I would finally find something I could use. Nope.

Her illustrative story is about how she had an affair during her first marriage, was busted, and left her first husband for the other guy, who in turn did not leave his wife for her, and then died of cancer. This is all recounted on pages 195-199, but the short version is that she basically decided that feeling bad for devastating everyone involved was a real downer so, y'know, fuck it. She decided to forgive herself for the decisions she'd made, and that was that. She was able to start feeling good again! Yay!

Look, I'll grant that there does come a point where we've processed whatever transgressions we've committed, felt appropriate remorse, and hopefully at least tried to rectify some of the damage, if possible. We do make mistakes of all kinds; some with the best of intentions, some through carelessness, and yes, others we make knowing full well what we're doing and do it anyway.

A big part of my problem with the way Neff presents self-forgiveness is that it isn't separate from forgiveness from those we've wronged. It's in lieu of that altogether. Other people may not even want to forgive us, so we should just do it for them and get us back to feeling good! When she does make mention of being forgiven by the others involved later, she presents it as though it was something made possible by her having forgiven herself first, attributing others making their peace with the events to her deciding to stop feeling bad about it.

Despite telling us repeatedly that, no, self-compassion isn't about letting yourself off the hook, Neff only talks about instances where she decided to forgive herself and move on to feeling good again. In her philosophy, there seems to be no such thing as appropriate remorse. One should simply never feel bad in the first place because it sucks to feel bad. That is an unearned forgiveness.

Neff also insists that self-compassion isn't about babying oneself. I can't even take that seriously, because whenever she gives an example of how she talks to herself when giving herself compassion, she starts with "poor darling...." The first couple of times I encountered this, I tried to translate to something I might say to myself ("Okay, yes, this sucks") but once I finally gave up on this being a book that knew or cared a reader like me would thumb through it, I stopped bothering.

That brings me to another recurring problematic matter for me: Neff's characterization of the trials and tribulations of life as transient. It is certainly true that the events themselves may well be temporary, even relatively brief, but there's no awareness shown for when things can be permanent.

There's a key passage in which she talks about being overwhelmed by finding out her son was diagnosed autistic. Aha! Here's where she will be humbled into something more than telling herself she should feel good. Nope. She talks about being frustrated and going through the "Why me?" phase. I'll even cut her some slack on that. It's common and understandable that an initial reaction to discovering a certain kind of diagnosis of one's child will be one of resentfulness.

So she talks on pages 78-79 about being embarrassed at the playground during one of her son's meltdowns, and I'm thinking, "Okay, here's where she'll tell me she finally realized that she hadn't been truly compassionate for her son because she was so preoccupied with how unfair it was for her to have an autistic son." Nope. Instead, her big epiphany was that she should comfort herself because other families have their own issues, too, and it's okay that she has hers.

That was the closest I found to anything in this book that spoke to me as someone living with Crohn's disease; a chronic, incurable physical illness that has derailed my entire life. I've had to give myself pep talks during especially rough flares before, reminding myself that I've gotten through all the others, that I'll get through this one, too, etc. It doesn't occur to me to say, "I'm sorry, poor darling, I know this is unfair," which is very nearly verbatim what Neff says she says to herself about things throughout the book.

But there will not be a day when I can say, "Hey, remember that time I had Crohn's disease?" I'll still have it tomorrow, and the day after, and every day until I die. And between those flares and blockages, I'm still in dire financial straits because of not being able to work. That poverty is as permanent as my illness. I'm not all of a sudden financially comfortable when I'm not flaring. I'm still poor even when my guts are calm. Saying, "I'm sorry, poor darling, I know this is unfair" about that daily life part of Crohn's may be the closest thing to a usable example of self-compassion I found in the whole book...and I had to piece that together myself, because it didn't occur to Neff to address people like me directly.

Neff does acknowledge poverty sucks, but says so little about it that poverty doesn't even merit an entry in the index. Paris Hilton, however, has her own entry, because on pages 142-3, she's cited in a rambling bit about narcissists not trying to overcompensate for self-loathing, but truthfully genuinely thinking themselves to be fantastic.

There's an entire bit near the end about gratitude with a hypothetical scenario that just has to be read in its entirety to be believed (pages 251-252). It reminded me of those commercials that show a side-by-side comparison of life with their product and life with a competitor's product. Both oversleep. The one with the competitor's product spills their coffee, can't get the leash on the dog for a quick walk, the dog relieves itself on the sidewalk instead of the grass, they've forgotten the bags for the dog anyway, and get to work too late for the meeting. The other version, however, decides to feel gratitude for the extra sleep, takes their time, puts their coffee in a no-spill container, gets the leash on the dog the first try, remembers the bags, and gets to work still a little late, but before the meeting starts.

All this for being grateful for oversleeping? Come on, already.

When it came time to end the book, Neff decided the best way to connect one last time with her reader was to talk about how she and her husband took their autistic son to ride horses in Mongolia with some shamans to try to treat his autism because he threw temper tantrums and wasn't potty trained. I swear to God, I'm not making this up. It starts on page 258.

There was a fleeting moment where, again, I hoped something recognizable was about to be shared when she said that her husband had asked for an advance so he could write a book about the experience and they hadn't heard back from anyone. They maxed their credit cards to pay for it themselves.

And then there was a fucking bidding war that paid for everything and made them rich, to boot.

The kid made his first friend and started controlling his bowels, and so they started going on annual pilgrimages to visit with what Neff calls "traditionalists". My friend calls it "treating people of color as magical healing stones". Unsurprisingly, I'm with my friend on this one.

By time this was over, all I could think of was a moment in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where the titular character (played by Kristen Bell) has had it with her self-absorbed "eclectic" rock star boyfriend, Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand). She concludes their fight by yelling:

"And you know what? Let me tell you something about these tattoos, okay. That is Buddhist, that is Nordic, that is Hindu, that's just gibberish. They are completely conflicting ideologies, and that does not make you a citizen of the world, it makes you full of shit!"

I think it says something that I could far more easily relate to the fictitious characters in that movie (a rock star, a TV star, and a TV composer) than I could the real person who wrote Self-Compassion.

I forgot to mention the one positive thing I have to say, which is that somewhere early in the book, Neff gives her reader a prompt for a letter to write one's future self. It's been two years and I damn sure don't have the book around so I can't say what the prompt even was or I'd spare you having to look for it. I don't remember what it entailed, but I do remember that it took me a good hour or so and that I felt it was a genuinely constructive exercise.
Profile Image for AJW.
332 reviews12 followers
December 21, 2012
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 written by a positive thinking guru looking to make a fast buck. Kristen Neff courageously shows how she applied the lessons of self-compassion to her own life with searing honesty. My only criticism is that I found it hard to relate to the personal examples given of applying the lessons of self-compassion as they all seem to come from a rather narrow (and comparatively privileged) strata of society. I would loved to have read far more examples of how self-compassion can help those from oppressed minority groups. But this criticism doesn't invalidate the message of the book. There are insights from this book that I'm going to carry around in my heart and mind for the rest of my life.
Profile Image for Jennifer Louden.
Author 29 books234 followers
October 18, 2011
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 time we get hurt. This mantra is a sturdy sweet in-between place.

Another good idea from the book: self-compassion is made up of self-kindness (being gentle and understanding with yourself rather than harshly critical and judgmental), recognition of our common humanity (feeling connected to others in the experience of life rather than isolated and alienated in your suffering) and mindfulness (holding your experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring or exaggerating your pain).

You need all three to be truly self-compassionate. You want to hold all three equally.

Good for therapists, coaches, newbies to self-care.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
86 reviews8 followers
August 29, 2017
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 older men, yadda yadda. This was meant for a different demographic obviously...I'm going to take a little compassion for myself and dunk your book in the library drop box today!
Profile Image for Catherine.
Author 3 books5 followers
February 14, 2014
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 training. I had already had an introduction (and a personal practise) of compassion through meditation (Kabat-Zinn method, also an american author who adapted the method for non-religious purposes). So her life examples didn't really add to what I had learned from reading a couple of books from spiritual leaders having practised meditation for decades. Instead, it left me a bit confused. I understand her intentions to illustrate the concept with daily life examples, but reading that she was having fights with her husband to the point that they had to leave the room before facing each other again... left me really perplexed. Really, is that what happens after practising self-compassion for so long!?

I could have dealt with that, if the scientific story had been strong but I found this aspect also weak. The author used scientific data to illustrate her point rather than writing a fair and logical (scientific) discussion of the concept. I expect from a PhD author a critical mindset, a discussion of concepts: the pros-the cons, limits of current approaches and models. The still unknown. Instead, the author addressed the topic as if self-compassion was the universal solution to many issues.

This is not possible. Most probably, self-compassion based training or therapy doesn't work for some personalities or pathologies. Who does it really help? how much and what techniques work best? what are the best methods to teach self-compassion? And how are the answers to these questions answered by research (versus clinical and anecdotic observations)? Instead of discussing openly, the authors takes the 'religious' approach: this is my belief, and this are the data that support it. :-(

I do think that self-compassion is a very intersting (and healing) concept, but would not recommand this book, neither as an introduction to the concept, nor as a scientific introduction. I am starting now the book from Germer, which looks more promissing.
Profile Image for Cherish.
106 reviews29 followers
August 14, 2021
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 to the test and watch the documentary for myself.

Unfortunately, this documentary is exploitative and extremely harmful to those on the spectrum. Neff and her husband are highlighted as doting parents while allowing a crew to film the most intimate moments of this little boy's life (his meltdowns, himself in a state of undress while on the toilet or being cleaned, etc.), forcing him to fly thousands of miles away from his home, to ride on horseback for days on end, letting him watch while they themselves are whipped over and over again by strangers (which would give anyone PTSD), allowing shamans to bang drums and ring bells in his face while he cries, and that's just in the first 30 minutes before I had to turn it off out of sheer terror for this child. The parents then exclaim that somehow the ritual worked because once it was over and everyone had quieted down he no longer cried. Of course he'd stop crying, his parents and himself are no longer being tortured!

The way that Kristin and Rupert talk about their son Rowan is also heartbreaking, the way they make it all about how they feel and what they want. They describe their "grief" and "shame" at his diagnosis, and his autism as a "tragedy". Neff, in Self-Compassion, describes Rowan as being practically nonverbal, which would be frustrating to any parent; however, in the documentary he speaks in full sentences and is very clear about what he wants, especially when around horses or other animals, and therapies of this type have been proven to be very helpful for autistic people of all ages. These parents saw how well their son responded to animals and instead chose to torment him by taking him out of his safe spaces and into a setting with complete strangers with no reputable sources or credentials.

While I appreciated the overall message of self-compassion, I believe that a much better source of the same information can be found almost anywhere online. By looking up "self-compassion techniques" I found dozens of websites offering the exact same (if not more) information. This book honestly doesn't need to exist.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
16 reviews1 follower
June 29, 2020
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 is that almost everyone crosses eventually because we all suffer.

This completely ignores that being judged by the color of your skin often results in far more serious issues than feeling bad about yourself. Saying we all suffer so we can all focus on having that similarity ignores systemic racism. It’s wrong to uplift this flawed mentality; there’s a way to normalize negative feelings about yourself without touting dangerous ideas.

Another baffling moment is later in the book, when she argues that a woman trying to fit in size 2 jeans when she naturally cannot will end up feeling hungry, frustrated, and dejected. This is true!!! But then she turns around and says they would have been better off downplaying the importance of looking model-skinny in the first place, because “after all, most men say they prefer curves.”

This puts way too much importance on how men feel about how women look. That’s an unhealthy mentality. The whole situation should have nothing to do with preference or putting any type of body against another type of body.

There also seems to be conflicting messages. In part four, she says that people who lack self compassion are still compassionate for others. However, earlier in the book, she talks about how lacking self compassion often results in taking things out on other people, giving examples of her yelling at her husband or her friend because of lack of mindfulness and self compassion.

Furthermore, while I agree that self-compassion is important, she talks about it as if it is a cure all. Things are written in a very black and white manner, as if life is extremely bad without self compassion or great with it, as if there’s no grey area.

This book feels like it was written by a friend who is projecting her own issues onto other people. Many of the relationship examples were hard to relate to, as they were examples of super toxic behaviors. She makes a lot of assumptions of the reader having heated arguments with others, which of course some people experience, but the book felt written for those people only and no one else who may struggle with self compassion despite healthy communication with others. She also ends up coming off as very judgmental,, often saying the line “you know the type” when describing a behavior.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,134 reviews1,398 followers
January 7, 2020
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 direct quotes, other paraphrased as I listened to the audiobook):

"There is more to me than the pain I am feeling right now. I am also the heartfelt response to that pain."

"Core components of self-compassion:
- Mindfulness: be here now, acknowledge what you're feeling, experiencing without judgement
- Shared humanity: everyone suffers, not feeling isolate yourself, not think that only you are suffering
- Being kind to yourself: be gentle and kind to yourself instead of critical and judgemental"

"Self compassion mantra for moments of anxiety/strong negative emotions:
This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need."

"Do I want to feel better than others, or to feel connected?
Does my worth come from being special, or from being human?
Do I want to be perfect, or to be healthy?"

"Self-criticism... can lead to psychological tricks designed to prevent self-blame in the case of failure, which, in turn, makes failure more likely. The tendency to undermine your performance in ways that create a plausible excuse for failing is known as self-handicapping. One common form of self-handicapping is simply not trying very hard. If I don't practise ahead of time for my neighbourhood tennis match, I can blame losing the match on my lack of practice rather than being a bad tennis player. Another common strategy is procrastination. If I mess up on a work assignment that I didn't start preparing for until the last minute, I can blame my failure on my lack of preparation rather than my incompetence. ... Self-criticism can lead us to shoot ourselves in the foot."

"Being comfortable with the idea that you might fail even when you try your best. Trust yourself to be understanding and compassionate when you fail."

"Learning goals instead of performance goals -- better in the long run. By losing our fear of failure (caused by self-criticism), we become free to challenge ourselves. At the same time, by acknowledging the limitations of being human we're better able to recognize which goals are working for us and which are not and when it's time to take a new approach."
13 reviews9 followers
May 16, 2014
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 squeamish to say any v-words.) with vodka (couldn't you get really drunk really fast from doing that?). After washing her lady bits, the author and her husband consent to be whipped by the shamans. So that their son would be healed. Of autism. Because that's how this stuff works. Good thing she has a PhD in psychology. Call me closed minded, but I just can't respect a person who is that ridiculous, (I am sending myself compassion for being closed minded - ha!) especially when she claims that this "healing" worked.
Profile Image for Terence.
1,114 reviews345 followers
February 13, 2023
Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff is a book I wanted to read far sooner than I did, but it is always unavailable at my library and I couldn't bring myself to buy it...because I can be extremely cheap at times. Even now I was only able to read it because it was available on Hoopla which is absolutely not my favored way to read a book.

Self-Compassion has been referenced regularly in books I've read about Vulnerability and Acceptance. The varying authors agreed that Kristin Neff is the leader in the field and others have studied her and come to their own conclusions from her initial work. I certainly recognized these factors as I read the book because there were many familiar principles explained in different ways. Even then I still encountered some useful tidbits that I will do my best to incorporate in my life.

Below are a few tidbits I found helpful:

"You don't want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will make you stop beating yourself up."

"The best way to counter self-criticism, therefore, is to understand it, have compassion for it, and then replace it with a kinder response."

"Because of our innate tendency to move away from pain, it can be extremely difficult to turn toward our pain, to hold it, and to be with it as it is. This is why so many people shut themselves off from their emotions. It's a very natural thing to do."

"...one of the best ways to forgive someone is to recognize the causes and conditions leading the person to act as they did."

"...self-compassion allows you to widen your outlook so that you can fully appreciate and acknowledge all aspects of life, the bad as well as the good."

"Flattery seems a lot better than insults, of course, but how many of us really take the praise in? Own it. Delight in it."

"Our sense of self may be so infused with feelings of inadequacy that it becomes frightening to see ourselves as worthy and valuable. Ironically, this can feel like a sort of death to us, and our negative sense of self will try hard to survive."

"What really matters is that our hearts and minds are open. Rather than continually evaluating, comparing, resisting, obsessing, and distorting — we simply open. Open to seeing ourselves and our lives exactly as they are, in all their glory and ignominy. Open to the love of all creation, ourselves included, without exception."

I find books like this impossible to review well. The aspects I'm struggling with and searching for could be extremely different than what others struggle with. With that let me just say I came to this book literally to learn to be nicer to myself. The quote about beating yourself up for beating yourself up in hopes you'll stop beating yourself up, is unfortunately a frighteningly familiar habit of mine. I'm very much a work in progress. I don't take compliments well as I'm usually looking for something else to fix or improve on. I'm more comfortable with the idea of being average or inadequate than being good or great.

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff is a good book with a lot of practical advice on being kinder to yourself. I'm working on putting down my judgments to see things as they truly are right now, the self-compassion aspects seem out there compared to where I am. I may have to revisit this sometime later when I'm better equipped to take in the message.
Profile Image for Scout Collins.
571 reviews49 followers
March 17, 2018
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 working on your self-esteem. She tried to show why self-esteem isn't a worthy pursuit with cherry-picked studies and her own argument trying to show why self-compassion is better. While I agree self-compassion is a worthy pursuit, self-esteem and self-compassion go together (no matter how much the author tries to convince herself otherwise). This was my biggest problem with the book that made me drop the rating from 4 stars to 3. People are more persuasive when they present the truth, and are not so obviously biased. If the author had not so heavily attacked self-esteem, I would have given the book 4 stars for sure. I ended up thinking about it a lot and was even going to put it on my Would Buy list.

The author uses exercises, personal stories, studies (some questionable) and her opinion to craft a book that encourages you to look to yourself where you may usually look to others - for support, understanding and compassion. This is an unusual concept and I liked reading more about it. However, the author seemed to put almost too much emphasis on going to yourself for help and not enough on going to other people for support too. She also focused on in-the-moment feelings (feeling anxious, sad, etc.) but didn't put much value on dealing with the underlying causes of those feelings. I think dealing with both are important, but this book mostly focuses on in-the-moment.

Good Quotes
“Self-compassion is a gift available to anyone willing to open up to themselves. When we develop the habit of self-kindness, suffering becomes an opportunity to experience love and tenderness from within… We don’t have to wait until we are perfect, until life goes exactly as we want it to… But who is in the best position to know how you really feel underneath that cheerful façade? Who is most likely to know the full extent of the pain and fear you face, to know what you need most? Who is the only person in your life who is available 24/7 to provide you with care and kindness? You.” (Neff, 60).

“Once you feel in touch with the painful emotion in your body, send it compassion. Tell yourself how difficult it is to feel this right now, and let yourself know you’re concerned about your well-being. Try using terms of endearment if it feels comfortable for you, like “I know this is really difficult, darling,” or “I’m sorry you’re in such pain, dear.” (Neff, 115).

Questionable Quotes
“Everybody makes mistakes at one time or another, it’s a fact of life. And if you think about it, why should you expect anything different? Where is that written contract you signed before birth promising that you’d be perfect, that you’d never fail, and that your life would go absolutely the way you want it to?” (Neff, 11).
>> Who would expect that their life would always be perfect and they'd never make a mistake? Not anybody I know...

“Please try to be as emotionally honest as possible and to avoid repressing any feelings, while at the same time not being melodramatic.” (Neff, 16).
>> Sounds kind of judgmental, like the author did at some other points in the book.

“[O]ne study looked at people’s reactions to an awkward and embarrassing task—being videotaped while looking into a camera and making up a children’s story that began ‘Once Upon a Time there was a little bear…’“ (Neff, 123).
>> How is that awkward/embarrassing?

“Correcting Your Child While Encouraging Self-Compassion
Let’s say your son Neil tells his younger sister Mary to shut up while he’s playing his favorite video game. Instead of snapping ‘You are so rude Neil! Why can’t you be nicer to Mary?,’ you can try saying “I realize you were irritated by having your game interrupted but you hurt Mary’s feelings when you told her to shut up.” (Neff, 211-212).
>> It appears Neff hasn't read up much on the best parenting books and experts in the field, or she would have read Faber & Mazlish. You are not really listening or accepting when you add a 'but' afterwards. "You're sad, but do this!" doesn't make people feel understood. It's good she's attempting to acknowledge the child's feelings in her recommendation, but she's still missing what she needs to have the child properly heard.

“For some reason I often wake up at about four am in a negative, anxious mind-state. While I lie there in bed my mind swirls with fear and dissatisfaction, focusing in on everything that’s wrong with my life. Because it happens so regularly, I’ve learned to envision this mood quite literally as a storm passing in the night… Instead of taking the mood too seriously, I try to ground my awareness in my body: the weight of my body on the bed, the feel of the blanket on top of me... I try to remember to be in there here and now, and just watch the storm pass over. And sure enough, I eventually fall back asleep and wake up in a much better mood. This is the power of mindfulness.” (Neff, 113).
>> That is hard to go through. Unfortunately, this is an example of just dealing with the emotions-of-the-moment but not dealing with the underlying cause of WHY are you waking up at 4 in the morning, extremely anxious, regularly? That is not normal or healthy - and it is worth looking into so it can be dealt with.

In this book, the author had misinformation and incorrect ideas about self-esteem and narcissism. She tore down the pursuit of self-esteem, always trying to strongly push self-compassion instead as if it was a completely different and separate concept. She would mention a study where people with supposedly 'high self-esteem' (or people who just thought they had some good qualities and that's it) didn't do better than those who had self-compassion. The quotes below say it all...

First, how does Neff define self-esteem? “At its core, self-esteem is an evaluation of our worthiness, a judgment that we’re good, valuable people… Self-esteem, in other words, stems not only from our own self-judgments, but also the perceived judgments of others.” (Neff, 138 - 139).

Now, onto the quotes.
“Those with low self-esteem often can’t even tie their shoes in the morning.” (Neff, 136).
>> First of all, not true. Second of all, where did you get this idea? 😨

“In one influential review of the self-esteem literature, it was concluded that high self-esteem actually did not improve academic achievement or job performance or leadership skills or prevent children from smoking, drinking, taking drugs or engaging in early sex. If anything, high self-esteem appears to be the consequence rather than the cause of healthy behaviours. The report also challenged the assumption that bullies act as they do because they have low self-esteem. In fact, bullies are just as likely to have high self-esteem as others.” (Neff, 137).
>> Why would bullies, who bully because they don't feel good about themselves (low self-esteem) and need to put others down to feel better, have as high self-esteem as others? It's just common sense that they WOULDN'T. This author just has her mind set on trying to destroy self-esteem for the reader by claiming bogus things like this.

“Narcissists have extremely high self-esteem and are quite happy most of the time.” (Neff, 141).
>>Neff later said that many people think narcissists hate themselves and are insecure, but this is TOOOOTALLY wrong because of one study. Narcissists in fact have low self-esteem and ARE insecure (as many people correctly think). Why would someone who truly feels good about themselves constantly need praise and attention and approval, as much as narcissists do? They wouldn't. Doing a quick Google search brings up tons of results confirming this. Neff mentioned one study. The internet has thousands confirming the common-sense conclusion that narcissists couldn't possibly be secure and have high self-esteem.

“Trying to help a narcissist by telling her to love herself more is about as effective as throwing oil on a fire.” (Neff, 143).
>> Um, since when has telling someone to love themself suddenly exonerated all their self-esteem issues? Never.

“By sacrificing ourselves to the insatiable god of self-esteem, we are trading the ever-unfolding wonder and mystery of our lives for a sterile Polaroid snapshot. Instead of reveling in the richness and complexity of our experience—the joy and the pain, the love and anger, the passion, the triumphs and tragedies—we try to capture and sum up our lived experience with extremely simplistic evaluations of self-worth.” (Neff, 152). “The need to see ourselves as superior also makes us emphasize our separation from others rather than our interconnectedness., which in turns lead to feelings of isolation, disconnection and insecurity. So, one might ask, is it worth it?” (152).
>> Why can't people with high self-esteem experience joy, pain, love, anger and passion??? Who said self-esteem is trying to "capture and sum up our lived experience"??????? I'm sorry, what?!

“High self-esteem, it should be noted, did not appear to do a whole hell of a lot for couples. Self-esteem was not associated with happier, healthier relationships… In other words, the results of our study suggest that self-compassion plays an important role in fostering good relationships, but that having high self-esteem doesn’t necessarily help.” (Neff, 229).
>> I wonder if the study was biased, AT ALL. People who both feel good about themselves wouldn't have a healthier relationship than two people who felt badly about themselves? I don't think so.

“Self-esteem, on the other hand, is more ego-focused, magnifying a sense of separation ad competition between the needs of each partner.” (Neff, 229-230).
>> If two people feel good about themselves (having high self-esteem), why on earth would that 'magnify a sense of separation and competition'? Please answer me that, Kristin Neff.

“Self-esteem tends to be predicated on separation and comparison, on being better than others, and therefore special.” (Neff, 275).
>> Nope. Self-esteem tends to be predicated on self-appreciation and being happy with who you are and your own qualities and traits. Nothing to do with competition, if we're talking about feeling good about yourself for the right reasons. Since when does someone with good self-esteem say to themselves, “Compared to X person, I’m more Y (pretty, funny, etc.) than then them! I’m better than them! I’m so great!”??? No, those with high self-esteem can appreciate that they have good qualities, unrelated to anybody else, without comparing themselves to anyone.

“Self-appreciation, in contrast, is based on connectedness, on seeing our similarities with others, recognizing that everyone has their strong points.” (Neff, 275).
>>And how does appreciating yourself somehow magically get you connected with everyone else in the world, and thinking about the good qualities of others?

Good things
- The personal stories were interesting and good additions to the book. I appreciate author honesty & life stories.
- Book was not boring, & easy to get through.

Bad things
- Does the author only know of two religions – Buddhism and Christianity? She talks at length about Buddhism and quotes Jesus during the book, but never once mentions any other religion.
- Does not deal with cause of issues very often. Just deals with in-the-moment.
- Author does not understand self-esteem at all. She equates self-esteem with being arrogant, and even a narcissist.
- Gave a quote from the Bible about ‘God’ creating the world as an example of gratitude. Keep religion out of it please

Would recommend to...
Actually, although I had some problems with the self-esteem part of this book, I did enjoy it and it was a worthwhile read. I would recommend it to those who read self-help books and are looking for a distinct and unconventional approach to self-help. Basically, would recommend it to everybody to see what they think for themselves!
Profile Image for Lisa.
21 reviews2 followers
August 2, 2014
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.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZB...). Her book did not disappoint. It is a guidebook for living with more compassion for oneself and for others. So often we feel afraid that if we are kind and compassionate towards ourselves we will become lazy. I know I fall into this trap pretty much every day! Neff discusses this trap and why it is not only unhelpful but also false. Practicing self-compassion can actually lead us to live happier and more fruitful lives (emphasis on the happier!).

Neff writes with the warm and compassionate quality to be expected from the bearer of her message. She supports her views with scientific evidence and life-experiences, which she references throughout. She also gives you exercises to do along the way in order to help you find compassion for yourself and start using meaningful practices to become more self-compassionate. Many of these exercises I'm actually still working on and will probably revisit over and over in the years to come!

What I like most about Neff's work is her attitude towards suffering. I am always suspicious when authors imply that suffering can/should be avoided or even eliminated entirely. Suffering is a part of life, a necessary one, even if it is difficult. To endeavor to completely avoid it would be very unhealthy (not to mention impossible). Thus, I find that the writers who resonate the most with me are those who seek to help their readers deal with the inevitable suffering they will face in life. Neff does exactly this. In fact, the idea of hers that I love the most is that when we are well-practiced in the art of self-compassion, our suffering can become an opportunity to feel loved and support from within ourselves. That is a wonderful thought to me! The ability to console oneself during life's difficult moments is something to strive for, and I feel certain that reading Self Compassion has given me a good start to leading a happier, healthier, more compassionate life.
Profile Image for QOH.
483 reviews21 followers
March 10, 2013
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 would have been more persuasive if details had been provided. Social science experiments are squishy, anyway. I can't take it on faith that because these college students acted this way on one day that we can generalize out to the rest of the population on any other day. If you're going to talk studies and experiments, then show me the numbers.

(To be fair, there are sources listed in the back of the book. But most people reading the book are probably not going to have access to journals and wouldn't take the time to look the studies up themselves. Also, reading the sources, you discover how much the author cites her own work.)
Profile Image for Zaphoddent.
417 reviews51 followers
December 17, 2013
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 cancer plus she meets a new man while she was on her one year spiritual journey ,but this is really not a pattern of jumping from one man to the other. Where's the taking some responsibility for something, anything. I'm all for self compassion but this shouldn't be an excuse for blaming others for life choices - come on that's just not right.

I find myself asking -What's she bringing to the table? I don't see anything that isn't already generally known. Can't believe this is a therapist. She's just too preachy on her own inner greatness with her underlying judgmental tone.
Profile Image for Beverly Fox.
83 reviews17 followers
February 12, 2019
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 washes in very shortly afterwards nowadays that brings with it all the components of this practice: mindful awareness of the pain, accepting that it is simply a part of life, and love and compassion for myself for experiencing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a zen monk who has transcended the negative thinking endemic in our culture. But I am a hell of a lot more forgiving for my own perpetually flawed human experience than I ever was before. And the practices that support that- my daily metta practice, my positive journaling, my loving and forgiving self talk- have become the most important aspects of my experience. They’ve become foundational the same way sleep and human contact are.

And the way that I teach my clients, the practices I emphasize and the core truths I try to help them see are all based in this. Being compassionate- rather than the best problem-solver or coach- has become the single most important thing I try to cultivate in my counseling and it has drastically altered the I way I relate.

I’ve been recommending this book in larger and larger circles to the point where I now see it as more of an owner’s manual for the human life than a self-help book. I don’t know anyone- ANYONE- who wouldn’t greatly benefit from this practice. But most importantly, I have and do and will.
Profile Image for Mindfully Evie.
Author 2 books173 followers
August 30, 2017
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! It is a truly stunning and eye-opening book.
Profile Image for Jacob.
86 reviews14 followers
April 30, 2023
The core of Self-Compassion is entirely compelling. As a piece of writing, however, Neff's book is uneven.

While Self-Compassion includes helpful exercises, too much of the book consists of Neff making the hard sell about the power of self-compassion. For readers who come to the book already converted to Neff's side, or for those who may be converted early, these extensive passages that attempt to persuade the reader of self-compassion’s legitimacy have little to offer. Unfortunately, that's much of the book; much of the book that could instead speak in a mature voice to a better-conceptualized reader about the complexities and predicaments of self-compassion and happiness.

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.

While Self-Compassion suffers stylistically because it lacks a strong voice, it suffers in content because it rarely plunges deep into difficult truths about self-esteem (i.e., you're probably not that special) and paradigm shifts that self-compassion necessitates (i.e., life is full of suffering, so take the wise path and accept that).

The end result is a cogent argument that asks readers to leave behind self-esteem for self-compassion, but treats readers who are already in that process as a secondary audience.
Profile Image for Li.
257 reviews18 followers
October 8, 2012
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 why. If I am suffering, I need comfort. This book spoke to me in a way that I did not even know I needed. I have been pushing love and comfort out of my life for so long, being strong, not needing anyone because I thought there was no one I could depend on. This is most definitely not the case. I have lots of love around me, but most importantly I have that love inside me for me. This book brought awareness to my needs and taught me simple ways to comfort and love myself moment to moment.

Comfort with words, mantras and physical comfort of just holding myself and giving loving touch to my body. Learning to love, accept and embrace me as who I am at this moment.

As I moved through the book, there were some parts that I did not respond to and could just skim, and others I relished.
6 reviews
September 28, 2012
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 approach to dealing with our "flaws".

It doesn't have a ton of scientific evidence, but since those types of studies can easily be biased, I don't mind. I can trust Neff not only because of her experience, but also because her arguments are (for the most part) sound and thought-out.

I'd say you can benefit from this book if you are willing to approach it with an open mind. You may also have to spend some time analyzing how you can practically apply this to your own situation. But, definitely interesting and worth the read!
Profile Image for Emily Briano.
424 reviews110 followers
September 28, 2016
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 power of love (not fear) to change my habits and work towards treating myself with the same kindness and mudita that I give freely to others.
Profile Image for Shaza ╭♥╯ Hashish.
182 reviews199 followers
April 29, 2022
الكومباشن هو بالبلدي أن الواحد يحن على نفسه و يتعاطف مع نفسه و يطبطب على نفسه
كريستن نيف خدت الموضوع لنواحي مختلفة في الحياة مابقاش موضوع حب نفسك و ابعت لنفسك بوسة في المراية .. خالص
الكتاب مليان تمارين فعالة و تمارين تأمل guided meditation تهدف لتمرين
ال self compassion
و تأثير دة على الحالة العقلية لينا كل ما كنا حنينين على نفسنا و متقبلين للعيوب و ممتنين للمميزات
الكتاب داخل في كل حاجة تربية اطفال، علاقات ، جنس، شفاء بصدمات الطفولة، الصورة الجسدية و اضطرابات الاكل، التعامل مع الاطفال ذوي الاحتياجات، التعامل مع شعور المنافسة في الشغل و شعور عدم الكفاية
الكتاب مميز حبيت فيه التنوع يعني كل شابتر بموضوع جديد في إطار ال self compassion
موجود كتاب صوتي على scribed
Profile Image for Deb.
349 reviews79 followers
January 6, 2013
**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 destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation. At the same time, self-compassion fosters positive mind states such as happiness and optimism. The nurturing quality of self-compassion allows us to flourish, to appreciate the beauty and richness of life, even in hard times.” (pp. 12-13)

Still thinking that beating yourself up with self-criticism is more effective than comforting yourself with self-compassion, and that self-compassion is really just a form of self-pity or self-indulgence? Then, just take a look at some of the facts. In comparison to self-critical people, self-compassionate people:
• Tend to be less anxious and depressed (p. 110)
• Are significantly less likely to suppress unwanted thoughts and emotions (p. 117)
• Have better emotional coping skills and are better able to deal with life challenges (p.123 )
• Demonstrate less severe symptoms of PTSD (p. 124)
• Are more self-accepting regardless of the degree of praise they get receive from others. [Those with high self-esteem (and low self-compassion), on the other hand, only thrive when the reviews are good, and may resort to evasive and counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing any unpleasant truths about themselves.] (p. 155)
• Have steadier and more constant feelings of self-worth and have less social comparison and need to retaliate perceived personal slights (p. 156)
• Are more likely to have learning rather than performance goals are therefore more willing to take learning risks that foster learning and growth (p. 170)
• Tend to be more authentic and autonomous in their lives (p. 173)
• Are better able to create close, authentic, and mutually supportive friendships (p. 190)
• Are more likely to be emotionally attuned to their children (p. 213)
• Have happier and more satisfying romantic relationships (p. 229)
• Experience more positive emotions in their lives—such as enthusiasm, interest, inspiration, and excitement (p. 255)
• Are much more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives (p. 255)

After exploring the three key components of self-compassion (self-kindness, common humanity, and present mindfulness), the author shares ways to gradually develop your ability to be more self-compassionate. But, if you’re worried that you’ll never be able to replace your self-critic with a more compassionate self, you might take comfort in her (appropriately compassionate) approach:
“We don’t need to be perfect to feel good about ourselves, and our lives don’t need to be any certain way for us to be content. Every one of us has the capacity for resilience, growth, and happiness, simply by relating to our ever-arising experience with both compassion and appreciation. And if you feel you can’t change, that it’s too hard, that the countervailing forces of our culture are too strong, then have compassion for that feeling and start from there. Each new moment presents an opportunity for a radically different way of being. We can embrace both the joy and the sorrow of being human, and by doing so we can transform our lives.” (p. 283)

As a therapist, I’ve often said that if I had to give one prescription to people, it would be self-compassion. I feel like this book is the metaphorical pill form of that prescription. (The author’s poignant, accessible, and compelling writing style makes the dose easy-to-swallow and immediately effective!) So, not surprisingly, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

It’s true that wherever you go, there you are. And, being able to have self-compassion for yourself wherever you’re at makes all the difference in life.

Open this book, open your heart, open your life. It’s the compassionate thing to do.
Profile Image for Azar.
42 reviews29 followers
October 30, 2022
Highly recommended, giving good vibes, hope i can apply the mentioned exercises in my real life :)
Profile Image for Zoe.
763 reviews175 followers
May 8, 2017
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 compassion more. The book was very easy to read and relate to. The missing star in my rating is due to the lack of "practical" suggestions. Not that the author did not try to offer practical suggestions. She did and frequently so. It is just that the suggestions seemed a little too "new age" to me and I have trouble imagining what good it does me to tell myself that "it is a moment of suffering". I fully embrace the message the author wants to deliver. I just wish there was a more "tangible" way to go about it. But that alone is a self-defeating thought. Now I am talking in circles. To sum it up: be kind to thyself and do not beat yourself up even if it was true that you could have done better. Accept imperfections. Everybody makes mistakes. And it is ok if I do.
Profile Image for Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym).
593 reviews55 followers
May 10, 2011
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 topic
b) hot author (Her author photo cannot be hurting sales.)
c) great publicist (I first heard about this book in a NYTimes article.)

All that said, I very much want to see the documentary about her family's horse trip to Mongolia to treat symptoms of her son's autism. Fascinating.
Profile Image for Vui Lên.
Author 1 book2,392 followers
November 19, 2020

The Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) là một trong những nhánh thực hành chánh niệm trong chữa lành và kết nối với chính mình khá phổ biến và có nhiều giá trị.

Khái niệm Compassion (từ bi/trắc ẩn) thường để dùng cho người khác hơn là với chính bản thân mình. Đó cũng là lí do việc thực hành trắc ẩn không phải là một thực hành dễ dàng. Thiếu sự trắc ẩn với chính mình, chúng ta khó tạo ra được năng lượng để có thể lan tỏa tới bất kì ai.

Cuốn sách này được viết dễ hiểu, kết hợp với nhiều trải nghiệm cá nhân + nghiên cứu chuyên sâu do chính tác giả thực hiện. Hi vọng là sớm có bản dịch để nhiều người được tiếp cận hơn với khái niệm này.
Profile Image for Diane.
100 reviews11 followers
January 2, 2012
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.
5 reviews1 follower
September 1, 2020
Really struggling with this book. I was highly recommended to read this after Compassion Fatigue workshop through my work. I very much agree with the importance of self-compassion, but was shocked to see how much of diet culture has permeated into this book. I’ve noted multiple mentions that if you didn’t have a size 2 waist you therefore are hard on yourself and that this alone would equate to self hatred; mentions that a size 6 may not be the ideal size but still worthy of self compassion (but not to worry as men enjoy curvy women?!?); added the description of Irene being overweight alongside lack of self esteem? I’m still trying to connect how weight was a relevant descriptor for the example. And this was not in the self-compassion to your body section. These examples did not sit well with me at all. I was very off-put as well with her assigning psychiatric diagnoses to folks to explain presentations (is not a PhD is psychology or health field to be able to do so)- such as using Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton on the same level of the Columbine Shooters for narcissism. I’ve also noted there seems to be a strong connection that someone (particularly women) needing to be in relationships to find inner peace.

For a book that is supposed to be encouraging kindness and self-compassion I am finding is barbed with judgement and over worn stereotypes that only seek to reinforce the very reasons we need to practise self-compassion.

With all that being said, there are some very good exercises provided, and I do think they add value to the practice of self-compassion. I feel that it is important to flag that is more for the “worried-well” than the moderate/severe end of mental illness/ struggles.
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