In an earlier post about controlling your eating, I mentioned I was reading Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up And Leave Insecurity Behind.
My fitness blogging buddy Marion Shaw asked me to write a review on the book, so here it is!
On the surface, Kristen Neff’s book has nothing to do with fitness or weight loss. Despite that, I think it could be relevant reading for people who are trying to make healthy lifestyle changes.
And I think it should be required reading for people who wonder why their attempts at motivating themselves by harsh self-judgments lead nowhere.
Kristin Neff is a psychology professor at the University of Austin, Texas. She started studying self-compassion after discovering Buddhist mindfulness meditation during her last year of graduate school. Because of Neff’s background, her book is a an interesting and – in my opinion – successful combination of western psychology and Buddhist tradition.
Even though the book covers a lot of research, it’s written for ordinary people who want to learn to be more self-compassionate. There are exercises for honing your self-compassion skills at the end of each chapter. For example, you get assignments for assessing your self-compassion, keeping a self-compassion journal plus exercises for living in the here and now and learning how to work with difficult emotions.
One of the most interesting chapters in the book is “Opting Out of the Self-Esteem Game”. It discusses the negative side of high self-esteem and why it isn’t the answer it was once purported to be.
I want to mention that the book is very well and clearly written. I’ve read my share of horrible books written by scholars, and I wouldn’t give them to my dogs to eat. 🙂 Neff’s book is not one of them.
My Takeaway Message
To me personally, the most important thing in the book was the discussion of why it’s fruitless to beat yourself up over your perceived failures. In Neff’s words:
If you had control over your maladaptive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, you wouldn’t still have them. You would have already jettisoned your dark, anxious, neurotic persona and become a calm, confident ray of sunshine. Clearly you don’t have complete control over your actions, or else you’d only act in ways that you approved of. So why are you judging yourself so harshly for the way you are? [italics mine]