Three years ago, I heard the term “self-compassion” for the first time, and I thought it sounded slightly ridiculous and overly fluffy. I quickly dismissed it and went about my business. But then, a client mentioned the book in session, and I gave it a shot. And my life, personally and professionally, has been forever changed.
If I recommend only one book to clients, family, and friends, Kristin Neff’s “Self-Compassion” is it. I don’t want to share all the goodness (seriously y’all, this book is totally worth the read), but here is the basic premise.
Self-compassion involves noticing difficult experiences, sharing kindness, and acknowledging that being imperfect is part of the human experience. Instead of just ignoring your pain or telling yourself to “get over it,” you stop to comfort yourself and remind yourself that everyone struggles.
I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, what? Comfort myself? What in the world?” I know, it seems strange, because for many of us, we know very little about how to comfort ourselves. A previous client once eloquently stated, “My parents spent my whole life teaching me how to treat other people, but they never said a thing about how to treat myself.” Isn’t that the truth?
Self-compassion challenges the notion of self-esteem in saying that we don’t need to figure out how to always feel super-duper-great about ourselves. Instead, we need to learn how to comfort ourselves when we are in the midst of emotional pain. Self-compassion calls us to recognize our pain and suffering and then respond in a kind and compassionate way, easing our pain and reminding ourselves that pain is a part of human life.
Self-compassion has some incredible benefits. It is associated with greater happiness, less depression, and more stable self-worth, and it can be a powerful tool in improving your quality of life. Over the last several years, I have led trainings and workshops for individuals looking to be more self-compassionate with themselves, and the impact has been astounding.
I think this book is particularly powerful for perfectionists, overachievers, and people who tend to be fairly harsh and judgmental with themselves when they stumble or make mistakes. (Self-disclosure: Perhaps this is why the concept of self-compassion has been so profound for me. I didn’t use to be very kind or gentle when in the midst of pain.) As always, I recommended reading self-help books at a fairly slow and steady pace, allowing room to absorb the information and let it marinade for a bit. This book also has some great exercises, prompting personal reflection, which prompts greater understanding and change.
If you are ready to start being more gentle and compassionate with yourself, this book is for you. It’s a gamechanger, y’all.