Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spotlight Time! Kristin Neff

The Spotlight Time series was created to showcase people's work I feel deserve a special attention. The book  Self-compassion - Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, by Kristin Neff, certainly falls into that category. See why.


I've come across this book through a newspaper article named Down With Self-Esteem? At first, I was intrigued but suspicious, but as I read, all suspicion vanished. In her book, the article explains, Kristin Neff, PhD makes a good point of differencing self-esteem from self-compassion. 

The former is based on narcissism and excessive competitiveness, which lead people to feel constantly unsatisfied with themselves, their egos frequently hurt. Their behavior and life stile consequently reflect these feelings, as well as their interaction with others. The latter means accepting that we are all human thus fallible, not only in theory but in practice. 

My reaction to this general idea was the same you're probably having: "Okay, that's a nice thought, but how the heck do I do that?" 

First of all it's important to mention that Kristin doesn't say that we shouldn't have any self-esteem, but that there shouldn't be a reason for us to like ourselves. The moment we question that, we start comparing ourselves to others and things go downhill. We should care for ourselves no matter how many mistakes we make, how fat we are, how better we'd like to be. This is where self-compassion comes in. 

Self-compassion doesn't mean to settle with less than we'd like. Of course we should strive to be better people, to have good things and to feel good about our bodies, but we shouldn't compare ourselves and "our things" to others('s). Self compassion means not judging ourselves when we make mistakes, means being gentle with ourselves when we're in pain, caring for ourselves instead of punishing ourselves for not being (or looking) as successful as our neighbor. 

So how do we do all that? We start by paying attention to how critic we are about ourselves. If you're scratching your head now, you can test your self-compassion level on Kristin's website. Look how coherent are the criteria:

  • Self-Kindness
  • Self-Judgement
  • Common Humanity
  • Isolation
  • Mindfulness
  • Over-Identification
  • Overall Score

After having a first "self-criticism x-ray" I suggest you take a look at her website, where you'll find lots of information on how to start treating yourself better (and others by consequence). Then we can all read her book and put this beautiful thinking in practice.

Don't you think we could make good use of this self-compassion thing in our writing as well?


  1. Thanks for a thought-provoking post and highlighting her book. I'm intrigued now!

  2. @Laura: As I am! Glad you liked the concept. :)


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