Book Review: Self-Compassion

Almost a year ago I recognized I needed to change the relationship I had with myself.

I had a lot of negative emotions with no healthy outlet other than taking it out on myself. I searched online and through my subscription to Audible, I found several books to listen to while I was taking care of Jai.

That’s when I stumbled upon Dr. Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion. It was the first book I listened to it because the description spoke to me: finding a way to cope with the debilitating self-criticism I experienced every day. I listened to the book on my way to-and-from therapy, finding that it helped deepen each session.

Since first listening, or “reading” the book, I have found a marked difference in my demeanor and how I respond to negative feelings for myself and even for others. I’ve talked an awful lot about this book throughout my blog, so it was time that I sat down and actually reviewed the book.

What follows is my review of a book I chose on my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review.

Book Information

Title: Self-Compassion, The Prove Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Author: Kristen Neff, Ph.D
Date Published: 2011
Publisher: William Marrow
Pages: 305
Genre: Self-Help
Goodreads Links
Amazon Link (non-affiliate)
Official Book Website

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Dr. Neff establishes her ethos by relating to the reader her own painful experiences that led her to discover self-compassion. Her divorce, her son being diagnosed with autism, and her spiritual journey are all laid bare for the reader to experience alongside her as she works through the role self-compassion played in her life. Because of this, the book reads like a conversation with someone who can provide a scientific basis for why self-compassion is important in daily life.

The book is broken down into five parts: what is self-compassion, the core components, the benefits, self-compassion in relation to others, and the joy it brings the practitioner. Each section is further broken down to include her personal experience, scientific studies relating to the main topic, and exercises for the reader to engage in.

Mixed throughout the book are Dr. Neff’s experiences with Buddhism and how spiritual retreats lead her to a deeper understanding of the role of compassion in daily life. It also highlights the importance of ending personal suffering, whatever form that may take; and being mindful in each moment, rather allowing our brains to dwell on previous mistakes for too long.

The ideal result from reading Dr. Neff’s book is to have a deeper understanding of why we feel the need to be self-critical, why we are suffering, and how we can alleviate their negative impact. We are to treat ourselves as we’d treat a friend in a similar situation; find ways to soothe ourselves through the pain; be mindful of our present moments as a means of getting out of negative memories/thoughts/feelings; and appreciate ourselves as we are, not as we want to be.

Thoughts and Recommendation

Given I’ve devoted a whole month based on the principles laid out in Dr. Neff’s book, it’s safe to say that I took a lot from this book. I found the writing style easy to follow without being condescending, which can sometimes be an issue with self-help books. Dr. Neff’s experience both personally and professionally also play a big role in why I felt this book was useful in my own life.

Reader’s shouldn’t be put off by the discussion of Buddhism in the book, she only uses it to explain the foundation of her work: the act of compassion for others and for self. There isn’t any evangelizing for a particular faith, in fact, she encourages readers to follow whatever faith brings them the most comfort and peace throughout the process.

I found the discussion of mindfulness to be most useful in my experience, you may find something else more impact, as it pulls me back into the moment. I can get lost in my past of “what I should have said/done” or in my future hypothetical conflicts. Both of these experiences cause me stress, unnecessary anger and frustration because I cannot control those moments. But when I am mindful of where I currently am, in an exacerbation or not, I am able to better appreciate myself.

The fact that Dr. Neff makes herself vulnerable throughout the book means a lot to me as a reader: it provides a level of trust and intimacy needed in this sort of internal work. While nothing said in her book is new, it does re-frame important concepts that might get lost in the self-help clutter.Se

I recognize that when it comes to self-help books, it really boils down to timing. Reading a book like this may not resonate at this moment in your life, but I recommend holding onto it for the right moment to re/read it. I think it has a lot of meaningful advice that may someday be helpful, so please consider adding this to your reading list in the near future.

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