Book Review: Self-Compassion

Read our book review of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Dr. Kristin Neff.

By Momentous Institute | Jun 20, 2016
Book Review

What if we treated ourselves the way we treated our friends when they go through a hard time? What do we say to our friends when they’re beating themselves up over a mistake? Or when they’re overly critical towards themselves? And then… can we do that to ourselves?

That’s the premise of the book, “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” by Kristin Neff. In this powerful book, she dives into emotional resilience, motivation, parenting, relationships and much more. At the root of all of this, she says, is self-compassion. That is, the ability to be kind to ourselves.

Kristin Neff, who spoke at our  2016 Changing the Odds Conference, shares about the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. She says that self-esteem is based on a comparison to others. It involves feeling better about ourselves because of how we compare to those around us. There’s a major problem here, though. We can’t all be the best. There will always be someone better than us. And self-esteem deserts us when we mess up, which is exactly when we need it the most. Self-compassion, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to do with others. It’s about how we respond to our own successes and failures. When we mess up, self-compassion allows us to say, “That’s okay. Messing up is part of being human. What can I learn from this? What should I do differently?” It’s the difference between, “I can’t believe you were so stupid!” (which is what we sometimes say to ourselves) and “It’s okay – you can get it next time. We’ve all messed up before.” (which is what we usually say to our friends).

In a society full of unrealistic and unattainable goals plastered everywhere, it can be hard to step away from the cycle of self-doubt. But next time you find that you’re beating yourself up instead of being kind to yourself, give this book a read. It will completely change the way you handle life’s ups and downs.

Dr. Neff is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. You can learn more about her work at

Self Compassion Book Cover