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Last Updated: 20.06.23

Kristin Neff, Ph.D.: The Power of Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff, a Professor of Educational Psychology, is renowned for her expertise in mindful self-​​compassion. In this episode, she shares her personal journey and how cultivating self-​​compassion and mindfulness has transformed her life. Kristin provides valuable strategies and tools to foster self-​​compassion and enhance overall well-​​being, offering insights accessible to all.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Joined a meditation group that followed the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

  • First night at the meditation group, the concept of self-​​compassion was introduced

Started practicing self-​​compassion by speaking kindly and supportively to herself

  • Found it to be like discovering a superpower

Compassionate part of ourselves is often exercised when relating to others

  • Activating this part and aiming it inward can have immediate benefits

Peter’s friend suggested imagining a close friend in the same situation and consoling them

  • Peter practiced this by recording himself speaking kindly to himself after difficult experiences

Self-​​compassion can be powerful because the compassionate part of ourselves is already developed

  • Just need to access that part and apply it to ourselves

Self esteem is not necessarily a good thing

  • Can be unstable and contingent on success or failure
  • Can lead to unhealthy ways of achieving high self esteem (e.g. bullying, feeling superior to others)

Self compassion is more helpful than self esteem

  • Provides a stable sense of self worth, not contingent on outcomes
  • Linked to higher self esteem and less self hate

Self esteem and self compassion are not mutually exclusive

  • People with self compassion generally have self esteem
  • Not everyone with self esteem has self compassion

Research shows that self compassion leads to better learning from failure

  • Allows for objective assessment of mistakes and improvement

Self-​​compassion leads to a growth mindset, where individuals learn from their mistakes.

UC Berkeley study, students fail difficult vocabulary test and split into three groups: self-​​compassion, self esteem, and no instruction (likely self critical)

  • Students given time to study and retake the test
  • Results showed that self compassionate group studied longer and harder. Better performance because of longer study time
  • New scale for youth to measure self-​​compassion just released

Adolescents can understand self-​​compassion better due to metacognition and abstract thinking skills

  • Can discuss the importance of self-​​worth not being contingent on external factors

Social media has increased the potential for comparison and ranking among individuals

  • Self-​​compassion is more important today than ever before

Diagnosis of autism can be devastating for parents

  • Feelings of disappointment, grief, and fear are common

Self-​​compassion and mindfulness practices can help parents cope with these emotions

  • Allowing all emotions to be felt and actively giving oneself support
  • Treating oneself as one would treat a good friend in a similar situation

The more self-​​compassion a parent has, the better parent they can be to their child with autism

  • Accepting one’s own difficult feelings about the situation allows for better acceptance of the child’s autism

Horses may help with brain integration in autistic children

  • Riding horses might improve cross-​​brain communication and language skills

Self-​​compassion can help heal from early trauma by re-​​parenting oneself.

Earned secure attachment can be developed through self-compassion.

Self-​​compassion can help process trauma and prevent PTSD.

MDMA and other psychedelics may increase self-​​compassion and connectedness.

Three components of self-​​compassion: self-​​kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity.

Self-​​compassion reduces sympathetic activity (inflammation, cortisol) and increases parasympathetic activity (heart rate variability)

  • Improved immune function and telomere length may also be linked to self-compassion

Self-​​compassion requires self-​​kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity

  • Self-​​pity is a self-​​focused state without the other components of self-​​compassion (mindfulness, common humanity)

Pity feels condescending, creates a sense of separation

  • Compassion is shared, recognizing common humanity and imperfections

Self-​​compassion recognizes that everyone experiences suffering, failure, and hardship.


  • Often stems from a desire to be safe and do well
  • Can lead to maladaptive behaviors like addiction
  • Self-​​compassion can be used to counteract self-criticism


Tools for Developing Self-Compassion



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • Kristin Neff, Ph.D.: The power of self-compassio

    Attia The Drive #139

    Kristin Neff, an expert on self-​​compassion and mindfulness, shares practical strategies for personal growth and well-​​being in this insightful episode.

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