Summer reading: Self-Compassion

Self-compassion book cover

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Kristin Neff

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff is a book of shining light, inspiration, and hope that I wish had been available when I began my college career. In her last year of graduate study in the doctoral program in psychology at UC Berkeley, Neff began attending Buddhist meditation meetings to deal with major stress. A central concept of Buddhist thought that she learned from the meditation group, self-compassion, resonated deeply for her. Her weekly Buddhist sessions were “a lifesaver,” influencing her to the point where self-compassion became the primary focus of her research and, later, her university teaching. She is now an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

Here is an example of one of the pearls of wisdom from Self-Compassion that is relevant to anyone about to embark on, or deeply within, their academic careers: “Because our culture demands that we perceive ourselves as ‘special and above average,’ we routinely engage in an egoistic process of social comparison with others. When we’re deeply invested in seeing ourselves positively, we tend to feel threatened if others do better than we do.” She counters this tendency by saying, “Like it or not, the main way we learn is by falling flat on our face, just as we did when we first learned to walk…If we were perfect and had all the answers, we’d never get to ask questions, and we wouldn’t be able to discover anything new.” I wish I had understood that when I was 18.

Infinitely readable, Self-Compassion is a book to return to again and again for guidance and wisdom.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!