Pursue What Matters
Episode 139: Book Review – Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you compassionate with yourself? Do you give yourself the same kindness and comfort that you give so freely to others? Well, if you insist on being self critical, you’ve got it all wrong. Join me today and learn about the benefits of self compassion.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:40
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So I am really excited to share this book with you today, I actually had to double check and make sure that I had never shared it with you before. Because let me tell you, this is a book that I reference all the time, the research is so compelling, and so incredibly useful. It’s just practical. So this is the first time I’m sharing it, though, I’ve definitely talked about this topic a lot. But I’m really excited to bring the book self compassion to you. So it’s self compassion, the proven power of being kind to yourself, and boy, oh, boy, we need some kindness in our lives. And even in our own head, right, especially in our own head, we need some kindness. And so I’m excited to share this book with you. It’s by Kristin Neff, PhD, it first came out in 2011. So it’s been around a while. But let me tell you, it’s so relevant. It’s so incredibly useful for all of us, right, who are hoping to become more resilient, who are hoping to be calm, more successful, who are hoping to accomplish our goals. Self Compassion is where it’s at. It’s really like magic. In fact, she describes it like magic. And it’s true, it really, there’s no downside to self compassion. And so I want to share with you some of the findings from the research and really make the case for you to abandon self criticism once and for all, and embrace self compassion. So I also want to remind you that I have a new launch or a new course that’s launching very quickly, and the waitlist is now open. So you want to get on that waitlist, if you think you might be interested in this course. And so the course is all about shifting your understanding of stress and getting practical, getting some really great stress coping skills, and so foundational to stress coping is self compassion. And so our conversation today will be very, very relevant to what I will be bringing to you in a few weeks with that course. So definitely hang on, as we go through the podcast. And at the end, I will share with you the link to the show notes and where you can join that waitlist. And if that course can be helpful for you. I will, you know, I’ll be thrilled to have you join us. So let’s talk a little bit about this book. So first of all, what have people said about it? So from the one and only Brene. Brown, she has called this a transformative read. And I absolutely agree with that. This, you know, as a psychologist, both in my clinical and leadership work, I referenced this research time and time and time again. The other thing about this book is it’s very conversational, it does not feel dry at all, she talks about her own journey towards self compassion. And the other thing that I really like about this book is a ton of practical applications. There are so many exercises through this book that you can use to really help you cultivate more self compassion. So it’s really, really great. So what are others saying, we hear for we’ve heard from Brene Brown. Let’s see what else we have. So this is from Gloria Steinem, a portable friend to all readers, especially but not only for women who need to learn that the golden rule works only if it’s reversible. We must learn to treat ourselves as well as we wish to treat others. Okay. And then from Tara Brock, PhD, she’s the author of radical acceptance. She’s got some really great work out there as well. Drawing on a powerful blend of Western psychology and Eastern meditative strategies. Kristin Neff offers practical wise guidance on the path of emotional healing and deep inner transformation. So very, very cool. And so let’s learn a little bit about our author, Kristin Neff. She also has I think she hasn’t had talks. She definitely has some videos. So we will link to her website. She’s got a really wonderful website all about self compassion. There are some
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:11
surveys, you can take their their exercises there. So it’s a really, really good resource. And I will link to that as well. But let’s learn a little bit about Kristin Neff. So she is an Associate Professor of Human Development at the University of Texas at Austin, a pioneer who first established self compassion as a field of study. Almost a decade ago, Dr. Neff gives lectures on self compassion internationally, and conducts workshops for those who want to learn more about developing self compassion. And that that is something very interesting about her she. So Kristin Neff is really the VI researcher, who established self compassion in the field before her, it wasn’t really a thing. It wasn’t studied, it wasn’t examined in much depth. And so she’s really discovered and, and brought to light the value of self compassion. And then, of course, with this book, she’s made it eminently practical. So this book is for everyone. Anyone who wants to cultivate more self compassion for themselves, who wants to teach that to those they work with, those they live with. So it was really, really valuable. So let’s start by just giving you kind of a frame of reference for self compassion. So it involves wanting health and well being for yourself. And because of that desire for wellbeing, a should listen to that, like some people don’t want that for themselves. And I think that’s it that you know, like, that’s a sad reality. But it’s wanting well being and health for yourself, and a willingness to engage in proactive behavior, to better your situation. So you’re proactive rather than passive. So when we think about self compassion, it’s all about being in the driver’s seat of your life. So we think about using the experience of suffering, to soften your heart to help you let go of unrealistic expectations, such as perfectionism, that make you so dissatisfied or unhappy or critical of yourself, and it really opens the door to real and lasting satisfaction. So naff shares that self compassion is a powerful way to achieve emotional well being and contentment in our lives. Like, wouldn’t it be nice just to be content. Self Compassion is a big foundation here that helps us to avoid the destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation, while at the same time, fostering positive mindset such as happiness and optimism. So self compassion absolutely allows us to flourish, and to appreciate the beauty and richness of life even when it’s hard, even when it’s challenging. So self compassion is strongly related to resilience. And so I would think about self compassion as a building block of resilience. So, you know, even in hard times, we’re better able to notice what’s right, as well as what’s wrong so that we can orient ourselves toward that, which gives us joy. Ultimately, self compassion moves us towards responsibility. And this is one of the biggest misunderstandings of self compassion, people think it’s self pity that it’s self indulgent, that you’re just you know, patting your patting your head and saying, poor poor bunny. And that’s totally inaccurate. It is actually a big motivator for change, but it helps you to see what needs to change realistically without the addition of criticism or drama, or labeling or judging yourself, okay? So self compassion helps us to feel more secure and accepted regardless of our attachment history. Right? So attachment history is this idea that our earliest childhood experiences impact how secure we feel in the world and how we see ourselves and right like, you know, there there are any any of us that have had a perfect or ideal upbringing, right, we all have our challenges and some have extreme challenges in terms of insecure attachment and self compassion, right? It doesn’t say oh, sorry, you you lost the family lottery or the attachment lottery. It actually gives you specific skills to help yourself because in your relationship with yourself, you can create a secure attachment and so, when we give ourselves compassion, that tight knot of negative self judgment starts to dissolve, replaced by a feeling of peaceful connected acceptance, a sparkling diamond that emerges from the coal so whether that is painful childhood whether that is a difficult traumatic life experience. as self compassion helps us to realize the growth and, and the peace that comes through the storms, right. So it’s not that we want the storms, it’s just a recognition that life will have storms. But we don’t have to be unmoored in that process. Okay, so let’s identify the three core components of self compassion. So there are three parts of this first, self compassion require self kindness. So this is the idea that we can be gentle and understanding with ourselves, rather than harshly critical and judgmental. You know, think about how you treat a good friend, or a loved one, you’re kind with them, you’re gentle with them, at least we hope you are, or you probably won’t keep them around for long. And so it’s approaching ourselves with kindness and compassion rather than harsh criticism and judgment. Okay. The second component is it requires recognition of our common humanity. So it’s this idea of feeling connected with others in the experience of life, rather than feeling isolated, and alienated by our suffering. Right, I often say that life is really hard. And I think that’s an important acknowledgement that is hard for all of us if this is part of what it means to be human. But when we go through hard times, we’re very prone to seeing ourselves as the only one seeing ourselves as having felt feeling like others can’t understand. And this really feeds isolation, depression, anxiety, and it’s just a recipe for misery and suffering. And so this second component of self compassion is really important, this common humanity, which acknowledges, hey, I’m going through a hard thing. But I know others have suffered pain as well. I can see, I can see my way through this, because I know others have faced challenges, as well. And so in that way, right, when we can acknowledge our common humanity, we feel less alone, we’re more willing to reach out for help. We don’t see ourselves as a pariah, we don’t see ourselves as a failure, we don’t see ourselves as broken, we see ourselves as human. And if others have been able to see themselves through hard times, maybe we can too. And in that way, our relationships, and our connection with others, becomes a powerful bridge to healing. So that common humanity is really so key. And then let’s talk about the third component. Self Compassion requires mindfulness. So this ability to hold our experience in balanced awareness, so we don’t ignore our pain. And we don’t exaggerate it, right. And so this is, you know, the way that I think about it is like, we don’t have to dramatize our pain and draw attention to it and say, Look at me, right. But we also don’t need to minimize it, we don’t need to pretend that we’re not going through a challenge. We have a realistic view, we’re present and aware to what’s happening for us. And we don’t feel shame about that. We don’t feel a need to exaggerate that. So in, you know, we must achieve. So this is what Neff says, we must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self compassionate. So again, the three core components include self kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. So I want to say a little bit more about mindfulness, which is this third component, self compassion, because I think that mindfulness still tends to be kind of challenging for people. So when we think about mindfulness, it is accepting your reality without judgment. Okay, so it’s seen life clearly. It’s living in reality, not avoiding it, not resisting it, not telling ourselves story. So we face up to reality. And so the idea is that we need to see things as they are no more or no less, right. So we don’t need to add judgment, drama, anything else. And so we don’t dramatize things, we also don’t minimize things. And when we can accept reality as it is, this actually is the only place where change can happen. It is the only place. Of course, we have other writers like Eckhart totally, who teaches us a lot about the power of mindfulness. And this is really what Nath is talking about. So one of the things that mindfulness helps us to do, and I talked about this all the time. So I love it, that she’s talking about it is that mindfulness as part of self compassion helps us to respond rather than react. Right when we react impulsively. We really like our stories are running the show and not reality and so my fullness provides freedom because it means we don’t have to believe every passing thought or emotion as real or true, right. So you have thoughts, you have emotions, but you recognize that that’s just part of being human it that doesn’t mean they’re true. It doesn’t mean they’re accurate. And so when you hear something that might feel a little upsetting, you can slow yourself down and respond to reality as it is rather than reacting to the thought in your head. And so this is where I talk a lot about challenging the stories that you tell yourself, because we tell ourselves stories about reality. And that removes us from reality, which removes us from effective problem solving, it leads us to reacting impulsively rather than responding wisely. Okay, and I just want to finish up by sharing some of the benefits of self compassion. So there are many, one of the most prominent benefits of self compassion is emotional resilience. So when we are compassionate to ourselves, we are more resilient. So this is all about shifting from a critical view of ourselves to a compassionate view. Do you think about how children learn is through encouragement when we try and teach them through criticism or judgment, it creates anxiety and fear, which makes it less likely for us to learn and grow, it actually gets us into survival mode, where we’re not actually processing information, we’re just trying to survive the situation. Another really important benefit of self compassion is motivation and personal growth. So I think I mentioned already one of the biggest misunderstandings of self compassion is people think it’s self indulgent, they think it’s self pity. But the research is actually exactly opposite, that when you’re self compassionate, it, it moves you towards responsible actions. So according to Neff, the number one reason people give for why they aren’t more compassionate to themselves is fear of laziness, and self indulgence. But the research on motivation have consistently found that our level of self confidence has a dramatic impact on our ability to reach our goals, and that our level of self confidence is really based on self efficacy, which is this idea of believing that we can be successful in something right. And so let’s think about the impact of compassion versus criticism. When we have self criticism, it actually undermines self efficacy beliefs. And so self criticism actually can do more harm than good, a lot more harm than good when it comes to performance and learning and growth. And that’s because the underlying motivator with self criticism is fear. It creates anxiety. And people who are self critical are less likely to achieve their goals is the same thing with perfectionism, right? Because the underlying motivator under perfectionism is also fear, and this belief of not being good enough. And so people think perfectionists are really high achieving, and they actually fail to achieve their goals, because they’re so incapacitated by fear. So let’s think about self compassion in contrast, so why is self compassion more effective in terms of motivation than self criticism? And it’s very, it’s a very simple answer. And that is because the driving force with self compassion is love, not fear. So love allows us to feel confident and secure. While fear right? A self criticism makes us feel insecure and jittery. When we trust ourselves. Right? That we’re going to be compassionate even if we fail. We don’t cause ourselves unnecessary stress and anxiety, we think about failure as part of the process. And then we really embrace the lessons and we learn. So, you know, one of the assumption is that self compassion is just a feel good, warm, fuzzy way to coddle ourselves and nothing more, but self compassion, that is not self compassion. This is the question that self compassion asks, what is good for you? And so it really taps into your inner desire to be healthy and happy. If you care about yourself, you will do what you need to do to take better care of yourself. Self Compassion, ultimately, is a call to responsibility. It leads you to change unhelpful patterns, right? Think about caring parents, they do not indulge their their children’s every whim or wish like that would be disastrous. And it’s the same thing with come with self compassion. It asks what is good for you? And so it involves Valerie valuing yourself in a deep way, and making choices that lead to well being in the long term, self compassion actually helps us overcome dysfunctions, and helps us to face up to the ways we might be harming ourselves, right, so that we can take better care of ourselves. And self compassion provides us that trust, and that love while we do the difficult work of change. And so that is a profound finding from the self compassion research. And so every time you find yourself resisting self compassion, I want you to remind yourself of this research on motivation and growth. Self Compassion is the foundation for growth, not self criticism. Okay. So, you know, the last thing I’ve already mentioned this, but this book is really practical. It’s got exercises in every single chapter, that are really designed to help you develop these skills, these three core components of self compassion, and so I hope you will consider this book, I highly, highly, highly recommend it. I use it just about every day in my work, and so it’s helpful for everyone. So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/139-selfcompassion/. One more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/139-selfcompassion/.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:40
Don’t forget, don’t forget there at the show notes, you can sign up for the waitlist for the upcoming stress course that’s coming up in just a few weeks. I’m really excited about it. And it gives you structured support for really tackling stress in your life so that you can pursue what matters. So I hope you’ll consider joining me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. I’m totally social. And I hope you’ll also consider taking the time to give me a review, give the podcast a review. It helps more people find us and I really do care what you think I want to provide podcasts that are helpful for you. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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