Episode 325 | July 4, 2023

Fierce Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff

A Personal Note From Orion

Welcome to another inspiring episode of the Stellar Life podcast. I am thrilled to have you here to join me on a transformative journey of self-compassion and self-worth. In this episode, Dr. Kristin Neff enlightens us on the power of practicing love and kindness to ourselves.

Dr. Kristin Neff is a true pioneer in self-compassion research and has over two decades of dedicated study in the field. She has conducted groundbreaking empirical research on self-compassion and earned recognition as one of the most influential researchers in psychology worldwide. As an accomplished author of bestselling books on self-compassion and the co-founder of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, Dr. Neff brings a wealth of expertise and wisdom to our discussion.

We explore how to embrace self-compassion to gracefully navigate through life’s challenges, cultivate a deeper sense of self-worth, and forge authentic connections with ourselves and others. Prepare to be inspired as Dr. Neff shares practical tips and profound perspectives to empower you on your own self-compassion journey.

I invite you to tune in and open your heart to transformative healing. Without further ado, let’s dive into the show!



In This Episode

  • [03:44] – Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research, describes how she discovers her passion for self-compassion and the importance of self-love and mindfulness.
  • [06:21] – The three components of self-compassion.
  • [09:41] – How self-compassion leads to self-esteem and increases self-worth.
  • [16:19] – Dr. Kristin discusses the key to reducing burnout.
  • [20:46] – Dr. Kristin explains why self-compassion is the best give we can give to others.
  • [22:44] – Dr. Kristin talks about the first step in practicing mindfulness.
  • [26:33] – The difference between self-compassion and positive affirmations.
  • [29:34] – Do men and women differ in self-compassion?
  • [32:24] – Dr. Kristin offers advice to those lacking self-compassion.
  • [38:23] – Dr. Kristin’s top three stellar life tips.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hi, Kristin. Welcome to Stellar Life podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

Thanks for having me, Orion. I’m happy to be here.

Yes. How did you discover your passion for self-compassion?

Self-compassion discovered me. It was my last year of graduate school at UC Berkeley, and I struggled. I had just gotten a divorce and felt a lot of self-doubt and shame about the failed marriage. I was also stressed that I would get my Ph.D. with no job prospects in sight, thinking I’d wasted time. 

I started learning mindfulness meditation because I heard it was good for stress. Unfortunately, the course was taught in the traditional Tich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Zen Buddhist teacher who recently passed. He always talked a lot about self-compassion and the importance of turning compassion inward and outward.

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

I was taken aback when I heard about compassion, but I never really thought about it consciously, intentionally giving myself compassion for the stress I was going through. I tried it out that night when I got home. During the first course, I started speaking to myself like I would speak to a friend in a supportive manner, saying, “Kristin, this is a hard time for you. I’m here for you.”

I was just so impressed by the immediate difference it made in my ability to cope with all the stress I was going through. That’s how I got into it as a personal practice. When I finally got a job at UT Austin, I researched it. That’s the trajectory.

How do you research self-compassion? How do you even define it?

I had done some postdoctoral research with a woman who studied self-esteem. Self-esteem is typically measured with self-report scales like, “I like myself, I don’t like myself.” While working with her, I realized that self-compassion was a perfect alternative to self-esteem because you don’t have to be special and above average. You don’t have to be better than anyone. You don’t have to be perfect. You have to be a flawed human being with compassion.

I decided to make this self-report measure with items like, “I tend to be kind to myself when I’m going through a difficult time. I tend to be hard on myself or feel all alone.” I created a model of self-compassion with three components and then made a scale to measure it.

That launched the research field. Now there are over 5000 studies on self-compassion. There are other ways of researching it currently, including training people to be self-compassionate and seeing how that changes their lives.

What is the model for self-compassion?

Maybe I was the first in academia to publish a model, but others think of self-compassion differently. My way isn’t necessarily right, but I could define it as three components. The first is kindness—being kind and supportive instead of harshly judgmental.

We must have the mindfulness skills to turn toward and with some space around the pain so we aren’t overwhelmed with it to give ourselves warmth and kindness.

Also, I realized that you must have mindfulness to be self-compassionate. It wasn’t a mistake that I heard about self-compassion in a mindfulness course because the word passion means ‘to suffer.’ We have to be with our suffering in a kind way. But we need mindfulness to be with our suffering because the last thing we want to do in the world is to be wherever our pain is. We want to fight and ignore it.

We must have the mindfulness skills to turn toward and with some space around the pain so we aren’t overwhelmed with it to give ourselves that warmth and kindness. The third key element is a sense of connectedness to humanity. This is what differentiates self-compassion from self-pity. Even though the word ‘self’ is in self-compassion, it’s not really about me. It’s about us.

If I pity you, I feel separate from you. I’m looking down on you. If I have compassion for you, it’s like, “Hey, Orion, I’ve been there. Something similar happened to me.” The same thing was self-compassion. We recognize it.

Everyone makes mistakes; everyone is flawed. Everyone struggles in some way or another. This connects us to others, unlike a poor, isolated attitude. Those are the three components of self-compassion in my model.

Yeah. Kindness, mindfulness, and connectedness.

I call it common humanity, but you can call it connectedness.

Because when people are in victim mode, they only see themselves. There is no connection to the rest of the world. They’re almost above all.

Exactly. You think like everyone else in this world is living a normal, perfect life. Normal is perfect, and abnormal is not. It’s the opposite. Normal is imperfect. Most people have some struggles. Everyone makes mistakes. This is what it means to be a human being. Perfection and humanity do not go together. We forget that.

Unconditional self-worth and self-compassion come from our inherent humanity. We need to practice this through both good and bad times. Click To Tweet

You’ve been researching this for such a long time. Do you still get surprised by some data you receive?

Not so much anymore. Some of my colleagues said, “Kristin, the research is getting fairly boring because it all shows self-compassion is good for you. It’s good at anything you throw at it because it’s good for you anytime you’re suffering in a supportive way.”

Even with people that you might assume that’s going to make you weak, it doesn’t make you stronger. You might assume it will make you less motivated, but it’s quite the opposite. It makes you more motivated and take more responsibility.

The research doesn’t surprise me much because it generally comes out positively. Now I’m focused a little less on the research and more on teaching self-compassion to people because I don’t need to do any more research to know that it’s really valuable. I’m curious how we help people be more self-compassionate, especially if they find it difficult.

Self-worth is the result of what you esteem yourself for.

How can self-compassion lead to self-esteem?

You might say that self-compassion is a form of self-worth instead of self-esteem. But if you think of self-esteem, the word ‘esteem’ is a judgment or evaluation. I esteemed myself to be worthy or not worthy. Whereas self-worth is the result of what you esteem yourself for.

English is my second language, and I have never reviewed that. It was like self-esteem is one word. I never broke it into two.

A lot of people don’t think of it. Self-worth and self-compassion are unconditional because it depends on being human. You always have it in good times and bad. Some people have unconditional self-esteem. But people usually judge themselves as worthy if they’re special and above average. If they’re succeeding, it is important to them that they look a certain way to other people like them. It tends to be very conditional and unstable.

I prefer the word self-worth. It’s more accurate in terms of what we’re aiming for. For instance, why do little kids start to bully others? For self-esteem, they want to judge themselves positively with the nerdy kid. Why do people have prejudice? Partly because they want to feel like their group is superior, which helps them esteem themselves. It’s not necessarily a good thing. A feeling of self-worth is very important.

How do we expand self-worth? How do we increase self-worth?

You must have mindfulness to practice self-compassion.

And also self-compassion. The research shows that the more you practice self-compassion, the higher your sense of self-worth. There’s a way to measure self-worth that isn’t contingent, doesn’t depend, and is unconditional, that you have in times of failure and success.

For self-compassion, you stop evaluating your sense of worthiness based on the externals and what society thinks, whether you’re succeeding, making sales target, or looking how you want to look. You start valuing yourself purely because you’re a human being. You’re going to the core of what it means to be an aware human living on this planet. When you do that, that increases your sense of self-worth.

Do you feel like from the time you started to now, you have achieved a different level of self-worth that has nothing to do with the environment?

Here’s the way it works for me and many people. It’s not like an environment where you don’t care at all. You still care. It still hurts if I get a bad review or if someone doesn’t like how I’m dressed. It doesn’t carry the same weight. Maybe that stings and it’s not pleasant.

My core sense of self-worth doesn’t depend on what others think of me or my success.

My core sense of self-worth doesn’t depend on what others think of me or my success. Even though I might feel ashamed or like, “Oh, I really wish that person had written a positive review as opposed to a negative one,” it doesn’t throw me. I don’t take it seriously the way I used to. “Oh, that’s my ego trying to feel good about itself. That’s understandable. Who am I really?”

Think of compassion as how we’re with our suffering. Even when things are painful, if we face our difficulties with a sense of love, connection, and presence, it feels good. It’s what most of us are after in life: to feel love, be connected and be present.

What starts to happen is more important than what’s happening. “How am I relating to what’s happening? Is my heart open? Do I feel connected to others? Do I feel alive at this moment? Am I lost and thinking about the past and the future?” When you can do that, that becomes more important than what’s happening.

It’s not that what’s happening doesn’t matter. The most important thing is, “Is my heart open now?” Sometimes you forget that. I missed it all to remind myself, but it’s easier than it used to be.

How does one start practicing self-compassion?

The good news is that self-compassion isn’t difficult. Most of us already know how to be compassionate to others. Most of us have developed some good friendships. If we think about what a good friend is, it’s a relationship defined by mutual compassion, support, understanding, and caring.

Sometimes our children aren’t the most compassionate because we identify with them. Sometimes our partners were too close, and we identified with them. Sometimes we aren’t our most compassionate selves. But typically, we have a good close friend to whom we know how to be compassionate.

The most important thing with self-compassion is that you aren't avoiding pain, you’re giving yourself the kindness necessary to heal from it. Click To Tweet

We can use that as a model for how to be compassionate to ourselves. We can even say, “What if my best friend was in this situation? What would I tell my friend? Would I say, “You stupid loser, I hate you?” Probably not. If so, he probably wouldn’t want to be your friend anymore.

You’ll say something like, “Hey, it’s okay. You did the best you could. Everyone makes mistakes. I care about you.” We know what to say. We also know how to say it. You can use that as a template for how to be compassionate to yourself.

It’s not so much that it’s difficult to do. What’s challenging is to remember to do it because our culture and physiology make us more self-critical by nature. We have to remember and remind ourselves. Once we do that, it’s not rocket science.

Yeah. I often tend to over-exert myself. I have a three-and-a-half child. Of course, I’ll put him before me, but I seem to give a lot. I am actually on the path of receiving. I had to go through surgery recently.

I’m like, “Hey, I need help, come and help me.” That was a big deal for me to ask for help and allow them to come and cook for me, which was sweet.

Our culture and physiology make us more self-critical by nature. We have to remember and remind ourselves to be compassionate.

I’m very critical of myself. I set the bar high. I’m a superwoman, and I need to do this and that. She’s like, “How do you calm me down and allow me to connect with myself?” I have a lot of compassion for others. I’m very empathic, but when it comes to me, not so much sometimes.

Right. Most people are a lot more compassionate to others than themselves. If you think about the effect of your self-criticism, it’s probably the same effect as if those friends you cared about you’re that’s critical. It has some negative effects occurring for you.

There’s part of you that thinks you’re setting your bar high. Self-compassion has nothing to do with whether or not you set your bar high. It’s about how you motivate yourself to reach that bar. Do you motivate yourself by saying, “If you don’t reach this goal, I’m going to hate you,” that means you’re a loser and have a shaming issue.

That criticism and shame don’t help you reach the bar very well. Sometimes self-compassion may say, “Is it so important that I look perfect?” Maybe not. But whatever you decide is valuable and true to your authentic self. If you care about it, you will want to reach your goals.

If you fail to reach your goals, instead of shaming yourself, which makes learning harder, you encourage yourself. You say, “I wish I would have done better. It’s okay. Everyone fails.” This is important. This is part of the process. “How can I learn and grow? What can I learn from the failures to do better next time?”

“Just because I failed doesn’t mean I am a failure.” That gives you the energy and motivation to keep going. Again, the research is clear that self-criticism works, but it has a lot of downsides. It makes you nervous. It can create fear of failure and interfere with your ability to learn properly when you have information coming in. It can narrow your mindset so you can’t see the bigger picture.

Self-compassion has nothing to do with whether or not you set your bar high. It’s about how you motivate yourself to reach that bar.

If it’s truly important to you, you can still be a superwoman. But you get there through encouragement as opposed to shame. It’s much more effective.

Yes. For me, it was post-surgery, getting so frustrated with not being able to do everything I had to do and maybe pushing my body a little overboard.

Right. It’s just not that effective. If you push yourself overboard, you get exhausted, even in terms of caring for others. If you try to be a superwoman and you don’t have compassion inward, you will burn out.

It’s not like you have a limited source. It’s not like you have five units; if you spend three on yourself, you only have two leftovers for others. The more compassion flows inward, the more you can flow outward. For instance, self-compassion is key to reducing burnout because if it just goes one way, your cup will run dry eventually.

Right. When you are in a state of self-compassion, you model to others and allow them to accept themselves a little more.

Exactly. One of the best ways to teach others self-compassion is to model it out loud. In front of your kid, let’s say you have a favorite vase, and you accidentally knock it over and shatter it.

If you say, “I’m such a stupid idiot.” You’re modeling for your child. That’s the best way to react when you make a mistake. But if you say, “Oh, I love that vase. That makes me so sad; it happens. It’s part of being human. Next time, I’ll put it in a safer place or try to be more careful.”

Just because you made this mistake doesn’t mean there’s anything bad about me. When you model that, other people internalize your dialogue, and then they start learning that mistakes are something to learn from instead of shaming yourself for.

One of the best ways to teach others self-compassion is to model it for others.

Right. I do that with my son. I say, “Oh, no, I made a mistake. Is it okay to make mistakes?” He’s like,” Yes, it’s okay to make mistakes.”

You don’t mean it, though. You’re just doing it for him.

When it’s really obvious, I do mean it. But a lot of the time, little things happen. Energetically, I don’t say anything. But people read energies more than what we say. That’s where I need to be mindful of self-criticism.

Yes, absolutely. This is another reason why self-compassion is the best gift we can give to others. We’re neurons because of how the brain is structured and interpersonal neurobiology. We’re always resonating with others’ emotions.

If we walk around frustrated, angry, and critical of ourselves, other people are subtly at the pre-verbal level resonating with that, especially caregivers. If you’re caring for someone in pain, whether it’s your child or your therapist, you are resonating with their pain and feeling it inside your brain.

I feel everything. I’m mega-empathic. People, things, and environments are to my bones.

Self-compassion is key to reducing burnout because if it goes one way, your cup will eventually run dry.

You have to give yourself compassion for your empathic pain. In other words, give yourself compassion for the fact that you’re hurting. Even if it’s a secondary pain, you’re still hurting.

You can learn to regulate other people’s emotions. For instance, my son’s autistic. He’s 21 now, and he’s doing well. But when he was younger, he would have a really hard time with tantrums and controlling his emotions. He would tantrum just almost at any point.

When he was having tantrums, I learned to give myself compassion for how overwhelmed I was, like how difficult it was to be experiencing this tantrum. That was how I could best reach him to calm myself down, then he would start to calm down, and then I could work with him directly.

I do that intuitively at bedtime. When I try to put him to sleep, I’ll calm my nervous system down and almost get sleepy. When I’m calm and sleepy, he’ll fall asleep more easily.

Exactly. That’s the way it works. We’re connected. What we cultivate inside affects everyone we come into contact with.

What’s the first step to getting into practicing that mindfulness? I guess awareness was what you were saying.

First of all, just be aware that you’re struggling. Often, we’re so lost in problem-solving, trying to fix it, or getting rid of the problem. We don’t pause to say, “Hey, this is hard right now.” The first step is acknowledging that we’re struggling.

Mindfulness is the first step; the other two can come in any order. Often, I go to common humanity second because frequently, not only are we hurting or exacerbating the pain by the fact that we think something’s wrong with us. It’s just us; we feel all alone. We’re kicking ourselves, and we’re down because not only are we hurting, we feel abnormal, isolated, and all alone because we’re hurting.

Asking for help is a beautiful act of self-compassion and bravery. By letting go of your ego, you’re still a strong superwoman — but no one can get through this life alone. Click To Tweet

Remind yourself that you aren’t alone. This is normal. Most people in your situation would feel something similar. It’s part of being human.

When you do that, you feel less isolated. You have a bigger perspective, and then you can give yourself kindness. There are a few different ways to provide yourself with kindness. One is language. “What would I say to my good friend if they were going through the same thing?” Try to say something similar to yourself.

A lot of it is tone. What’s your internal tone? Is it cold or harsh? Can you soften your internal tone with yourself? That helps.

Touch is huge because, as human beings, touch evolved as the main signal of compassion. As a mother, before children know the language, they understand your care through your caring touch. You know how to touch in a way that is soothing and comforting. You can touch yourself.

It looks a little funny. If no one’s looking, you can touch your heart or face. You can hug yourself. You can hold yourself, and you can rock yourself. Some touch is a good way of giving your body the necessary care. Sometimes it can reach your body before it can reach your head. There’s that little practice. I have a ton of practices on my website for free. It’s easy to access.

Meditation is a great way to feel self-compassion because you can calm down and center yourself.

Do you wake up and have a morning practice every morning so you center yourself? Is it more little things that you do throughout the day? Do you have any morning or evening rituals you do throughout the day to anchor yourself in self-compassion?

Many people do. Meditation is a very good one. I don’t meditate as often as I used to, but I regularly attend meditation retreats. Meditation is a great way to feel self-compassion because you can calm down and center yourself. But for me, anytime I feel emotional discomfort is when I practice self-compassion, which is when I need it.

Anytime I have a thought, I’m feeling stressed or upset about something, or my partner says something that hurts, anytime I’m feeling pain is actually when I practice self-compassion.

You can do it either way. You can either do it as loving-kindness meditation. It’s a common meditation form where you practice wishing yourself well. We know that that helps build the muscle of self-compassion.

Alternatively, you can practice self-compassion whenever you’re hurting. When you stub your toe, your partner says something you don’t like or your child’s upset, that’s the best time to practice self-compassion.

Yeah, just an image came to mind. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), there is Pattern Interrupt where something happens, and then you do something ridiculous, funny, or extraordinary to snap yourself out of it. You said you could stub your toe and say, “I am the world’s greatest, most beautiful woman.”

You could. It’s interesting. You probably didn’t mean it that way. To be clear, self-compassion isn’t positive affirmations. It’s very different from positive affirmations. Positive affirmations might be something like, “I’m the greatest person in the world,” “I’m beautiful,” or “I’m getting stronger every day.”

The research is clear. The problem with positive affirmations is they help if you already think well of yourself, but if you don’t, they make it worse because there’s a contrast between what you’re saying to yourself and what you believe about yourself. Also, positive affirmations aren’t open to pain. They’re pretending the pain isn’t there.

Self-compassion acknowledges, “Hey, look in the mirror. I don’t look like I did when I was 30 or 40. That’s the truth. Instead of pretending that’s not true, can I open to that pain?” Self-compassion is about opening to reality and the reality of pain in a kind, connected way.

When I was in a very dark time in my life, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I studied the work of Louise Hay and mirror work. I told myself, “I love you.” My reflection was I was crying. I couldn’t say I love you to myself. But for me, I stuck with it every day.

On the first and second day, I was crying. On the third day, I could not cry and look at myself. Repeating that help me to start loving.

“I love you” isn’t a positive affirmation. You aren’t saying, “I am perfect,” you’re just saying, “I love you.” That’s true. You’re tapping into the loving part of yourself. Positive affirmations are things that aren’t necessarily true. “I am rich, successful, and the smartest person in the world,” or something like that.

That’s an exaggeration because, from what I learned, when you say a positive affirmation, you say something relatively believable, like “I’m getting better every day.”

But you may not be. That’s the thing. It depends. If it’s believable, that’s compatible with self-compassion. The research shows that if it’s not believable, it can make it worse.

Of course, you can’t. It’s all very delicate.

It’s all very delicate, but the important thing with self-compassion is that you aren’t avoiding pain. Saying I love you, to my mind, does it avoid pain? Love is what allows you to open up to the pain. It’s only if you use them as a way to cover up what’s there that it could be a problem.

Self-compassion isn’t positive affirmations. It’s very different from positive affirmations.

Yeah, thank you for that clarity.

We need to open. “I’m not getting younger every day.” It doesn’t mean I can’t look in the mirror and still see beauty there, but it’s changing.

There are some biohackers out there that are now starting to reverse their biological age. It’s just pretty great. That’s a different conversation. Is there any difference in self-compassion between women and men?

Yes. It’s not a matter of biological sex. It’s not even a matter of necessarily gender identity if you might be non-binary or identify as a man or woman. The difference comes from gender roles’ socialization. In other words, the shoe box society puts people in is that women are supposed to be this way, and men are supposed to be that way.

We know that there are a couple of ways that work with socialization. Women are socialized to be more compassionate to others than men are socialized to be. Women are socialized not to meet their own needs. They feel less entitled to meet their needs, partly because of the power of patriarchy and partly because we like self-sacrificing women. Women have less self-compassion than men do.

It’s not that men are necessarily highly self-compassionate. It’s just that men feel more entitled to meet their needs. On the other hand, if you go to one of my workshops, most people who show up are women and girls because compassion isn’t part of the male gender role.

Fierce Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Even though men have a little more or feel more entitled to give themselves self-compassion, they’re less comfortable using it as a tool because it’s not part of their socialization schema.

Another way that gender comes into it is: there are two different phases of self-compassion. There’s the fierce and the tender. Tender self-compassion is about acceptance— acceptance of ourselves with all our flaws. Acceptance of our life and our emotions is the fact that it’s not perfect.

There’s also a fierce side of compassion: making the change to alleviate suffering, like drawing boundaries and saying no when you know it needs motivating change. Those are all key parts of self-compassion. I call that fierce self-compassion.

Gender role socialization allows men to be fierce, go out there to make the change, stand up, or speak up, but they aren’t allowed to be tender. They’re often criticized or bullied if they’re too tender.

People raised as girls and women are allowed to be tender toward others, but they are not allowed to be fierce. They’re called different names if they’re too aggressive or too ambitious. Gender role socialization interferes with the ability to have a balance. We all need a balance of fierceness and tenders. Like yin and yang, we need both. Gender role socialization prevents us from integrating these two sides of self-compassion in a balanced way.

If somebody is listening right now, and they don’t have a lot of self-compassion or criticize themselves a lot, or they don’t think they’re good enough. What would you tell them to do?

First of all, notice the pain of that. Just see the pain of not feeling good enough, the pain of self-criticism, just the discomfort of that. That’s mindfulness.

Common humanity, you aren’t alone. Most people tend to be harder on themselves than they are on others. It doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with you for doing this. It is fairly natural for humans to criticize themselves.

You have to give yourself compassion for your empathic pain. Give yourself compassion for the fact that you're hurting, even if it's a secondary pain. Click To Tweet

Give yourself some kindness for the pain of that feeling that you don’t deserve it. It sounds counterintuitive, but what would you say to a friend who said, “I don’t think I deserve kindness?” You put your hands on your heart, “What do you mean? I care about you. You deserve kindness.” Your heart would go out. You’ll feel that warmth and tenderness towards your friend if they said they didn’t feel they deserve kindness.

You can see if you can feel that way towards yourself. Let yourself be moved by the pain of not having self-compassion. That’s one way if you think you don’t deserve it.

Another way you can do it is through physical touch. Instead of starting with the brain, which is more mental, go ahead and put your hands on your heart. Your body can still respond even if your mind is having trouble following. Putting your hands on your heart and comforting yourself again for the pain of that or whatever you’re going through. You have to start with small steps, but you can relate to whatever you’re going through more open-heartedly.

Yes. Going back to modeling, what I experienced when I opened up in the WhatsApp group and said, “Hey, I went through surgery. I need help. I can get paid help, or you can come volunteer.” I wrote it lightly, but it affected the discussion in the group.

There’s not a lot of self in self-compassion. It’s about us as human beings all struggling and doing the best we can.

First, I had amazing women show up and help me. But then, within the group, people started congratulating me for my courage to speak up because I had times when I was the leader in a group, and I did a night where I did hypnotherapy for the ladies and stuff like that. They said, “Wow, you’re so brave to ask for help. I came here just because of your bravery.” I was like, “I’m brave. Very validating. I appreciate that.”

They started opening up, telling each other about their suffering, and sharing it in the group. It became this beautiful ongoing discussion and support and back and forth. None of it would have happened if I didn’t ask for help, was vulnerable, and had enough self-compassion to say I needed help. It’s okay to ask for help. That’s my message to the listener that needs to hear it right now. Ask for help.

People love to help, but not everybody. Not everybody showed up. The right people will show up for you at the right time if you ask for help. You don’t need to carry all the weight on your shoulders all the time.

You can also take this weight off by connecting to your fate, to the Creator, and connect that power that makes your heartbeat, and ask God to take your suffering away and help you. This is also a form of self-compassion when you get help from an energetic or spiritual level. Also, ask for help physically because somebody will reach out to you.

I know that in the past when I needed help, people helped me. That’s why I chose my profession, and now I help others. When you ask for help, you give others the gift of helping you. They’re gaining something out of that, too.

What you’re pointing to is key. Again, that’s under the umbrella of common humanity, interconnection. You can call common humanity connectedness. When you opened up to the group, you made them relate to you. You help them connect to you in terms of your humanity. People helping each other is also part of humanity.

There isn’t one specific way to practice self-compassion, so choose which method works best for you.

There’s not a lot of self in self-compassion. It’s about us as human beings all struggling and doing the best we can. Asking for help is a beautiful act of self-compassion. You’re letting go of your ego at that point, wanting to feel like you’re a strong superwoman who needs help. You’re vulnerable enough to ask for it, an incredible act of self-love and self-kindness.

Another thing is trusting the process. Initially, I didn’t get many responses except, “You’re so brave to ask for help.” Trust the process because it’s going to come.

It’s amazing when help comes from the outside. One of the things self-compassion gives you is it allows you to meet many of your own needs from the inside. For instance, if we feel lonely and assume that we need someone else, maybe a partner, to meet that need to make us feel fulfilled. But loneliness is often a signal that we aren’t fully connecting with ourselves, with our being.

We’re just lost and maybe thoughts or desires, but we don’t realize that our own heart, presence, and feeling of being connected to the larger whole is in and of itself satisfying and fulfilling. That’s one way self-compassion can help us meet our own needs.

Self-compassion has to evolve.

It doesn’t mean we don’t need other people. Of course not, but we aren’t so needy. We aren’t needy for other people. We can meet a lot of those needs ourselves. That allows us to have more relationships, be more authentic, and be more reciprocal.

What are your three top tips for living a stellar life?

This sounds a little paradoxical. We have to make sure when we are practicing self-compassion not to use it as another technique to try to make the pain disappear. Self-compassion has to evolve. We’re opening to the pain. We’re there for ourselves, caring for ourselves because we’re in pain. If we use it as like, “I’m going to put my hand on my heart to try to make the pain go away.” Then we’re losing our mindfulness. We aren’t open to the pain.

Sometimes, the only way out is through. You must be open to the pain and be with yourself in the journey. There’s no shortcut. If you try to use self-compassion as a shortcut to get rid of the pain, it won’t work. 

Go with what works best for you. You can give compassion. I give compassion to myself. The compassionate part of me, the wise part, shows compassion to the hurt part of me, the little child part. You can think of it that way. You could think of what you would say to a friend and make a U-turn or what compassionate others say to me.

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

There are a lot of ways in. People ask, “Who’s giving compassion to who?” That doesn’t matter at the end of the day because it’s all happening within your mind. You play with what entry doorway works best for you and then go with that. There’s no one right way to practice self-compassion.

Wonderful. Thank you so much. Where can people find you, learn to be practitioners, or get your book?

The easiest thing is to go to my website, selfcompassion.org. I have several books out. I’ve got a book called Self-Compassion and Fierce Self-Compassion.

I also have a workbook, The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, with many concrete exercises. I teach workshops. You can go to the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, the nonprofit I co-founded, where they have a ton of self-compassion training online.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate you. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and helping us all be more compassionate with ourselves.

Thank you, Orion. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you. Thank you, listener. Remember to open your heart and work through the pain. Give yourself compassion as if you are talking to a small child, or if you put yourself in the perspective of a good friend and mind yourself, and be loving and kind to yourself because you deserve it and have a stellar life. This is Orion till next time.


Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓}Treat yourself with kindness and support. Avoid harsh self-judgment. Practice speaking to yourself as you speak to a friend facing a challenging situation.

{✓}Embrace mindfulness, create space for your pain, and face it with compassion. Become actively present with your suffering. This will help you cultivate warmth and understanding.

{✓}Intentionally connect with others and embrace shared humanity. Self-compassion is about understanding mistakes and challenges as universal experiences.

{✓}Shift from conditional self-esteem to unconditional self-worth. Embrace your inherent value as a deserving human being beyond achievements and judgments.

{✓}Train your mind to recognize self-criticism and replace it with self-compassion through your thoughts and actions.

{✓}Prioritize self-care and self-compassion to prevent burnout. Remember that self-compassion is not a limited resource but a wellspring that replenishes as it flows inward and outward.

{✓}Inspire others to practice self-compassion by modeling it yourself. Demonstrate self-compassion openly, and create an environment where acceptance and self-love flourish.

{✓}Harness the power of physical touch. Place your hands on your heart, hug, or gently rock your body. Touch can soothe and nurture your soul.

{✓}Trust the process to achieve self-compassion and acknowledge your self-worth. Have faith and stay open to possibilities until you have a sense of wholeness.

{✓}Learn more about self-compassion on Dr. Kristin Neff’s website. You can also check her books, specifically Self-Compassion and Fierce Self-Compassion.

Links and Resources

About Kristin Neff

Kristin Neff is a pioneer in self-compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on the construct over twenty years ago. She has been recognized as one of the most influential researchers in psychology worldwide. Kristin has written several bestselling books on self-compassion and co-founded the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.


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