In her very popular first book, self pity, psychologist Kristen Neff, Ph.D., has changed our approach to self-care and how we see our relationship with ourselves.
Based on the research, I developed a self-compassion model with three components to learning to be kind to yourself.
First, you can consciously choose to see yourself in kindness to oneself rather than self-judgment. You can choose to practice kindness by treating yourself as you would someone you love and care about.
Second, you can choose between seeing yourself as aloof and believing that you are the only one suffering versus seeing your common humanity. Seeing yourself as human provides comfort in realizing that your suffering is not unique to you, but an experience that everyone goes through from time to time.
Third, you can choose mindfulness rather than over-defining. It is possible to be receptive and allow the experience without indulging in it or over-specifying and over-focusing on every small and vulnerable flaw and amplifying the backlash against it.
The three components comprise what Dr. Neff calls “gentle self-compassion.” These teachings revolutionized how we take care of ourselves. But it turns out that these three elements are only part of the self-compassion story.
In her latest book, Dr. Neff introduces the concept of intense self-compassion. Kindness and perceptive taking allow us to accept ourselves as we are. But we must also know how to act bravely to protect ourselves from harm, to say no to others for our own needs, and to advocate for change in ourselves and in society.
We need self-compassion and fierce.
Like yin and yang, the right balance between the two forms will vary depending on the situation. Without a bit of ferocity, gentle self-compassion may run the risk of becoming negative and overly compromising. On the other hand, intense self-compassion without tenderness can lead to hostility and selfishness. The balance of self-compassion illustrated by the ancient Chinese concept of yin and yang is a metaphor throughout the book.
You can’t just read about self-compassion – you have to live it through practice. Dr. Nef inspires readers to develop their own self-compassion and the fiercest in self-compassion. Through cutting-edge research, fascinating personal stories, and cutting-edge practices focused on self-compassion, Kristen Neff shows women how to use intense self-compassion and tenderness to achieve success in the workplace, anti-fatigue bufferImproving relationships and talking about injustice. She explores basic issues related to sexuality, such as why women are not more compassionate with themselves and what women do for their love for others. This book empowers women to let go of self-criticism, boundaries, and ferocity.
Although the book is written explicitly to show women how to harness the power of intense self-compassion, everyone should read. Intense self-compassion. We all have a role to play in helping women embrace their fierce capacities for self-compassion, and everyone can deepen their appreciation for the value of total self-compassion.
Intense self-compassion Expands our understanding of self-kindness and its power to transform our lives. Women who can balance tender self-acceptance with fierce action will claim their power and change the world.
Dr. Tara Weil is a professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City where she developed a mirror-based meditation called “The Revelation” in The New York Times. I have taught hundreds of people how to use a mirror to awaken self-compassion, manage emotions, and improve face-to-face communication. Find out more at www.MirrorMeditation.com
Photo courtesy of Polina Kovaleva.