Kristin Neff: She’s a Self-compassion Sage

January 18 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: To Thine Own Self Be True

What have you learned as a woman coming of age? For me—and this might seem a little corny, but it’s true—it’s to simply be myself. There are plenty of profound reasons to be true to oneself, but when it comes down to it, it’s just plain easier. Pretending to be something you’re not is exhausting. Today, take a few moments to contemplate not how you want the world to see you, but who you really are. Then allow your true self to shine!


One reason we so easily play the part of someone we’re not may be because we don’t like some aspect of ourselves. That’s where self-compassion comes in, an all-important characteristic, particularly for young girls. Researchers say self-compassion is even more important for girls than self-esteem, as it bestows many of the benefits of self-esteem without all the selfishness and grandiosity. According to one study, there are three predictors for whether an adolescent girl will develop a sense of self-compassion and flourish: maternal support, harmonious family function and secure attachment. Be a model for what you want your daughter to learn. And consider what she’s picking up from you the next time your tendency is to be self-critical.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Kristin Neff, Author of Self-Compassion

The super-smart lady behind that study is Kristin Neff, and she’s on a mission to empower women to embrace self-compassion in all its messiness. After all, you can’t lose with self-compassion, no matter how much you fail.

Kristin is an associate professor at the University of Texas, where she teaches human development and culture. Before we dive into her self-compassion expertise, let’s take a look at how Kristin got to where she is today and became the preeminent scholar on personal fulfillment and acceptance.

After studying at UCLA, Kristin headed to UC Berkeley, where she completed her dissertation on children’s moral reasoning, conducting her research in India, then taking on her post-doctoral work at Denver University.

Now, researching the topic of morality can be draining. To cope with long hours and dense studying, Kristin developed a helpful Buddhist meditation practice. Doing so not only incorporated a sense of “om” for her every day, but it also moved Kristin to delve into researching a central construct of Buddhist psychology—and one not thoroughly examined—self-compassion. In Buddhist practice, self-compassion is three-fold: It’s all about kindness to oneself, as well as welcoming feelings of mindfulness and connection with others.

By following her passion for Buddhist psychology and self-compassion, Kristin became the first academic to conduct research on the subject. And by teaching others how to accept ourselves as we are while also motivating ourselves to reach our highest potential, she’s changing the world, one perspective at a time. For those of us who can’t soak up her wisdom in the classroom, Kristin shares her expertise on growing self-compassion skills through her Mindful Self-Compassion program and in her groundbreaking book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, which includes helpful exercises for dealing with the emotionally sapping challenges life throws our way.

So, what are some of this insightful pioneer’s tips for practicing self-compassion? Accepting the moment, even if it’s painful, is instrumental. Fighting against a situation that’s tough to deal with will only prolong your suffering. If all else fails, simply take a calm moment to just breathe and let yourself be. As Kristin says, “If self-compassion is your fallback, no matter what happens, it is always empowering.”


With Kristin Neff’s important work in mind, I’ll leave you today with this quote from Hindu spiritual teacher Sivananda Saraswati:

“Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures, as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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