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12 Best Self-Compassion Books for a Peaceful Life

Self-compassion booksMany of us struggle with harsh inner critics, low self-esteem, and negative self-talk.

Besides wrestling with ever more complex external challenges, we can be our own worst enemy, adding self-sabotaging inner noise to outer pressures.

Self-compassion has been recognized as a powerful antidote to harsh self-talk and a potent tool for supporting mental and physical wellbeing and enhancing interpersonal relationships.

Research has shown that practicing self-compassion leads to improved self-esteem, emotional resilience, and overall life satisfaction.

We are happy to share with you some of the best self-compassion books, workbooks, and audiobooks.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Self-Compassion Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you increase the compassion and kindness you show yourself and give you the tools to help your clients, students, or employees show more compassion to themselves.

5 Best Books on Self-Compassion

Compassion is an ancient spiritual concept. Buddhists, for example, seek to extend compassion to all sentient beings (Lama & Thupten, 1995). We can understand compassion as empathy for the suffering or distress of others, coupled with the desire to alleviate their pain and provide them with support and kindness.

Compassion also entails being nonjudgmental, accepting, and forgiving toward others, even in the face of adversity or differences. It is considered a fundamental human virtue and is a key component in fostering positive relationships, promoting cooperation, and creating a more just and caring society (Cha et al., 2023; Khoury, 2019).

Self-compassion extends this notion to ourselves (Neff & Pommier, 2013). It entails directing the same kindness, care, and empathy toward ourselves that we would direct to others.

Self-compassion also rests on the ability to be moved by our suffering (Cha et al., 2023). This requires a nonjudgmental attitude toward our perceived inadequacies and failures, as well as the ability to recognize that our unique experiences are part of the common human experience. Treating ourselves kindly is especially important when things do not go according to plan.

Self-compassion has been linked to a wide range of empirically measurable positive outcomes. The proven benefits of self-compassion are

  • Interpersonal benefits (Lathren et al., 2021)
  • More compassion for others (Neff & Pommier, 2013)
  • Increased mental health and psychosocial wellbeing (Zessin et al., 2015)
  • Reductions in common psychopathology (Kirby et al., 2017; MacBeth & Gumley, 2012)
  • Better physical health and more positive behaviors (Cha et al., 2022; Phillips & Hine, 2019; Sirois et al., 2015)

Some of the best self-compassion books include classics written by the psychologist who first explored the concept via empirical psychological research over 20 years ago: Kristin Neff. In 2003, Neff developed the Self-Compassion Scale, which is still widely used (Cha et al., 2023).

We also included more recent Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers on the topic in our list, as well as some highly acclaimed texts by Buddhist and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) practitioners.

Traditional Buddhist compassion meditation exercises are powerful interventions that can help us adopt a kinder view of ourselves and others. And ACT urges us to “defuse” from our negative self-talk and not to get too caught up in our unhelpful self-stories. ACT techniques can be highly effective, too, for fostering our self-compassion.

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

Self-Compassion Book

Kristin Neff’s seminal and now updated first book draws on her extensive research on the topic. Neff outlines how self-compassion can transform our lives by challenging self-judgment and fostering self-kindness.

She provides practical exercises and many real-life examples to help readers cultivate self-compassion and introduce acceptance into their lives.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Handbook for Hard Times: A Monk’s Guide to Fearless Living – Gelong Thubten

Handbook for Hard Times

The Buddhist monk Gelong Thubten shares his wisdom in his Handbook for Hard Times, providing many practical tips for a meditation practice that rests on a deeply felt compassion for ourselves and others.

The Sunday Times best-selling author shows us how to cultivate happiness, kindness (including with ourselves), forgiveness, and resilience, and reframe our difficulties into opportunities for transformation.

Thubten’s book is a great source for understanding how self-compassion is related to the much older spiritual concept of Buddhist compassion for all sentient beings.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living – Russ Harris

The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living

This revised and expanded second edition of Russ Harris’s million-copy bestseller explores powerful ways to free ourselves from the control of our inner critics and to “defuse” our negative thoughts about ourselves and others.

Based on evidence-based insights and sharing eminently practical techniques from ACT, Harris demonstrates how we can develop self-compassion and handle our painful thoughts and feelings more effectively.

Find the book on Amazon.


4. Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy: Mindfulness-Based Practices for Healing and Transformation – Tim Desmond

Reflection and Healing|The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook A 14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship with Yourself|The Compassionate Mind Workbook|The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens|The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion2|The Science of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion|Self-Compassion

Desmond’s self-compassion book intends to help clinicians apply the art and science of self-compassion to their everyday therapy work with clients.

Integrating traditional Buddhist teachings with cutting-edge science from the fields of neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience, psychotherapy outcome research, and positive psychology, the book offers a great introduction to the science behind self-compassion as well as numerous suggestions for practical clinical applications.

Find the book on Amazon.


5. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself From Destructive Thoughts and Emotions – Christopher Germer

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

Christopher Germer invites us to accept our emotions and respond to our imperfections with compassion, rather than judgment or self-blame.

Using mindfulness as a vehicle for the development of self-compassion, Germer offers numerous scientifically grounded strategies for putting self-compassion into practice in his self-compassion book.

Find the book on Amazon.

3 More Self-Compassion Workbooks

If you are looking for workbooks to help you develop more self-compassion in practical ways, you may find these three self-compassion books useful. They offer prompts for deeper self-reflection and invite an experiential engagement with the concept.

1. The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive – Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer

Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

Learn how to be a supportive and compassionate friend to yourself.

This seminal science-based self-compassion workbook offers a step-by-step guide to breaking free from harsh self-judgment and impossible perfectionist standards and invites you to cultivate emotional wellbeing instead.

(More on this and other self-compassion books by Neff later.)

Find the book on Amazon.


2. The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook: A 14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship with Yourself – Tim Desmond

The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook A 14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship with Yourself

This self-compassion workbook is for those of us who struggle with negative self-talk and unkind self-judgment. It offers a step-by-step guide to cultivating peace, emotional stability, and greater wellbeing through the practice of self-compassion.

It includes 14 days’ worth of exercises that are specifically designed to strengthen the “care circuit” of our brains, which is the part that helps us regulate our emotions.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. The Self-Compassion Workbook: Practical Exercises to Approach Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions with Kindness – Joy Johnson

The Self-Compassion Workbook

Perfectionism and the inability to silence our internal critic are common challenges that can lead to unhelpful patterns of self-criticism.

This self-compassion workbook includes a comprehensive collection of exercises, daily self-compassion prompts, meditation, and breathing exercises, as well as proven self-help strategies based on mindfulness, positive psychology, and ACT.

Find the book on Amazon.

Download 3 Free Self Compassion Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you to help others create a kinder and more nurturing relationship with themselves.

Kristin Neff’s Books on Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff is an associate professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas at Austin. Neff established self-compassion as an area of study over 20 years ago (Cha et al., 2023).

Neff created a scale to measure self-compassion in 2003 that is still widely used. Self-compassion is now a widely researched topic, with over 4,000 journal articles and dissertations published on the topic so far (Neff, 2022).

In addition to her pioneering research, she cocreated an eight-week program called “Mindful Self-Compassion” with her colleague Chris Germer and has written various self-compassion books. They include Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself; Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Power, and Thrive; and her seminal workbook, which we discuss in more detail below.

Neff’s work powerfully demonstrates the importance of treating ourselves with the same loving support we would offer to a friend or a child, proving that people who are compassionate toward their perceived shortcomings and imperfections experience greater wellbeing than those who judge themselves harshly.

A firm believer that self-compassion is a more effective path to happiness than self-esteem, Neff also believes that our sense of self should not be measured against our latest success or failure, nor should it be estimated in comparison to someone else’s. Unlike self-esteem, which is often contingent on success or comparison, self-compassion can be nurtured unconditionally, leading to greater psychological health (Neff, 2022).

In her journal article on the Self-Compassion Scale, Neff (2003) asserts that self-compassion rests on three main pillars:

  1. Kindness vs. judgment
  2. A recognition of our common humanity vs. a sense of separateness and isolation
  3. Mindfulness vs. over-identification and fusion with our thoughts and emotions

You can find many valuable free resources on Neff’s webpage.

The space between self-esteem and self-compassion - Kristin Neff

You might also enjoy Kristin Neff’s TED talk on self-compassion.

A Look at the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive, is a science-based workbook written by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer. It is based on the authors’ 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion program.

This self-compassion book offers a step-by-step approach to freeing ourselves from harsh self-criticism and judgment and improving emotional wellbeing.

Based on the principles of self-compassion and mindfulness, the books aim to help individuals cultivate a compassionate attitude toward themselves and others. It provides detailed guidance for developing mindfulness skills and practices, helping readers become more present and aware of their thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

Various exercises and meditations are included that help readers develop self-compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. Tools and strategies are provided as well for managing difficult emotions and challenging situations, promoting resilience and emotional wellbeing.

The self-compassion workbook also includes practical techniques for building self-care habits and developing a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

The workbook also explores the science behind self-compassion and mindfulness, helping readers understand the psychological and physiological benefits of these practices. Including case studies and personal stories, it illustrates the transformative power of self-compassion and mindfulness in real-life situations.

Find the book on Amazon.

2 Self-Compassion Audiobook Recommendations

For those who prefer audio formats, here are two self-compassion audiobooks worth exploring.

1. Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive – Kristin Neff

Fierce Self-Compassion

This book makes a case for the importance of women discovering their inner voice and challenging the patriarchal status quo.

Drawing on her own story and the stories of many other women, Neff shows women how they can use self-compassion to stand up courageously and strongly for themselves.

She explores the underlying reasons why women aren’t more compassionate with themselves and provides numerous tools and mindfulness practices that allow women to overcome debilitating self-criticism and become fiercely compassionate.

Find the audiobook on Amazon.


2. The Gift of Imperfection – Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

Professor, speaker, author, and podcast host Brené Brown is famous for her research on topics such as vulnerability, shame, courage, and empathy.

Brown has written several books, including Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.

The Gift of Imperfection has already helped millions of people understand and embrace vulnerability and self-compassion as a way to live more authentic and fulfilling lives. It is now available as an audiobook and includes 10 guideposts to wholehearted living.

A perfect guide for overcoming shame and self-criticism, it shows us how to develop authenticity and view ourselves with more compassion.

Find the audiobook on Amazon.

Brene Brown's top 10 rules for self love - Mindspo

You can have a look at this video of Brené Brown talking about self-compassion and self-love.

Bonus: 2 Books on Self-Love

Self-love and self-compassion are related but distinct concepts. Self-love tends to focus on overall positive self-regard, including self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-acceptance. It emphasizes recognizing our strengths and achievements and having a healthy sense of self-worth.

Self-compassion, by contrast, focuses more on how we respond to our suffering or challenging experiences. It involves embracing our imperfections, acknowledging our pain, and offering ourselves kindness and understanding in difficult moments (Ferrari et al., 2022; Khoury, 2019; Muris & Otgaar, 2020; Neff, 2022).

1. Radical Acceptance: Awakening the Love That Heals Fear and Shame – Tara Brach

Radical Acceptance

Drawing on her personal story and Buddhist teachings, the Buddhist mindfulness teacher Tara Brach shows us how to develop clear-sightedness and compassion, heal fear and shame, and build loving, authentic relationships.

Brach invites us to let go of harsh self-judgment, feelings of self-doubt, and insecurity. Her book includes many guided meditations that are designed to strengthen our compassion and our love for ourselves and others.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN – Tara Brach

Radical Compassion

In her new book, famous Buddhist meditation teacher Tara Brach shares a simple four-step practice to awaken our self-compassion and our love for ourselves and others.

She shows us how to release the grip of painful emotions and to free ourselves from shame, fear, negative self-beliefs, and harsh self-judgment. Her book teaches the RAIN method:

  • Recognize
  • Allow
  • Investigate
  • Nurture

Wise and practical, Radical Compassion is grounded in both modern brain science and ancient wisdom.

Find the book on Amazon.

Relevant Resources From PositivePsychology.com

For further explorations of self-compassion and related topics, we offer valuable resources, including articles, worksheets, and activities.

You may, for example, enjoy the following articles, many of which include practical exercises and tests.

If you’re looking for powerful science-based ways to help others develop self-compassion, check out this collection of 17 validated self-compassion tools for practitioners. Use them to help your clients create a kinder and more nurturing relationship with themselves.

A Take-Home Message

Cultivating self-compassion is a gentle but potentially powerfully transformative practice that allows us to embrace ourselves with kindness, empathy, and understanding. A perfect antidote for toxic self-talk and self-sabotaging beliefs about ourselves, it invites us to treat ourselves as though we were our own best friends.

Resting on self-kindness, a recognition of our common humanity, and mindfulness, self-compassion leads to improved mental and physical health, better relationships, and overall life satisfaction.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Self-Compassion Exercises for free.

Ed: Updated December 2023

  • Cha, J. E., Boggiss, A. L., Serlachius, A. S., Cavadino, A., Kirby, J. N., & Consedine, N. S. (2022). A systematic review on mediation studies of self-compassion and physical health outcomes in nonclinical adult populations. Mindfulness, 13(8), 1876–1900.
  • Cha, J. E., Serlachius, A. S., Cavadino, A., Kirby, J. N. & Consedine, N. S. (2023). What do (and don’t) we know about self-compassion? Trends and Issues in Theory, Mechanisms, and Outcomes. Mindfulness, 14, 2657–2669.
  • Ferrari, M., Ciarrochi, J., Yap, K., Sahdra, B., & Hayes, S. C. (2022). Embracing the complexity of our inner worlds: Understanding the dynamics of self-compassion and self-criticism. Mindfulness, 13(7), 1652–1661.
  • Gilbert, P. (2010). The compassionate mind. Constable.
  • Khoury, B. (2019). Compassion: Embodied and embedded. Mindfulness, 10(11), 2363–2374.
  • Kirby, J. N., Tellegen, C. L., & Steindl, S. R. (2017). A meta-analysis of compassion-based interventions: Current state of knowledge and future directions. Behavior Therapy, 48(6), 778–792.
  • Lama, D., & Thupten, J. (1995). The power of compassion. HarperCollins.
  • Lathren, C. R., Rao, S. S., Park, J., & Bluth, K. (2021). Self-compassion and current close interpersonal relationships: A scoping literature review. Mindfulness, 12(5), 1078–1093.
  • MacBeth, A., & Gumley, A. (2012). Exploring compassion: A meta-analysis of the association between self-compassion and psychopathology. Clinical Psychology Review, 32(6), 545–552.
  • Muris, P., & Otgaar, H. (2020). The process of science: A critical evaluation of more than 15 years of research on self-compassion with the Self-Compassion Scale. Mindfulness, 11(6), 1469–1482.
  • Neff, K. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223–250.
  • Neff, K. D. (2016). The self-compassion scale is a valid and theoretically coherent measure of self-compassion. Mindfulness, 7(1), 264–274.
  • Neff, K. D. (2022). The differential effects fallacy in the study of self-compassion: Misunderstanding the nature of bipolar continuums. Mindfulness, 13(3), 572–576.
  • Neff, K. D., & Pommier, E. (2013). The relationship between self-compassion
    and other-focused concern among college undergraduates, community adults, and practicing meditators. Self and Identity, 12(2), 160–176.
  • Phillips, W. J., & Hine, D. W. (2019). Self-compassion, physical health, and health behaviour: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology Review, 15(1), 113–139.
  • Sirois, F. M., Kitner, R., & Hirsch, J. K. (2015). Self-compassion, affect, and health-promoting behaviors. Health Psychology, 34(6), 661–669.
  • Zessin, U., Dickhauser, O., & Garbade, S. (2015). The relationship between self-compassion and well-being: A meta-analysis. Health and Well-Being, 7(3), 340–364.
Comments

What our readers think

  1. Eman

    Great article! Thank you very much 💗

    Reply
  2. SONA TANK

    Books and resources by Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, Pema Chodron are also helpful.

    Reply
  3. Carlos Costa Pinto

    Great books on Self-Compassion!
    Thanks

    Reply

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