The best books on self-compassion

Many authors have picked their favorite books about self-compassion and why they recommend each book.

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The Empathy Effect

By Liz Neporent, Helen Riess,

Book cover of The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences

Of all of the competencies that repeatedly predict effective leadership and creating and maintaining of key relationships, is empathy. At the heart of any relationship and perhaps the only antidote to rampant narcissism in our society is empathy. As a prominent psychiatrist and scholar, Helen chronicles decades of research and explains the neural mechanisms that enable us to relate to others, build better relationships ad even inspire others. Her personal stories and those of patients and colleagues make the research come alive with compassion and meaning.

Who am I?

As a professor and scientist, using my Intentional Change Theory (ICT), I have studied sustained desired change of individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and countries since 1967. I have authored more than 200 articles and 9 books on leadership, competencies, emotional intelligence, competency development, coaching, neuroscience, and management education (including the international best-seller, Primal Leadership with Daniel Goleman and Annie McKee and the recent Helping People Change with Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Oosten). I run several Coursera MOOCs, including Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence which has over a million enrolled from 215 countries.

I wrote...

Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

By Melvin Smith, Ellen Van Oosten, Richard E. Boyatzis

Book cover of Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

What is my book about?

Helping others is a good thing. Often, as a leader, manager, doctor, teacher, or coach, it's central to your job. But even the most well-intentioned efforts to help others can be undermined by a simple truth: We almost always focus on trying to "fix" people, correcting problems or filling the gaps between where they are and where we think they should be. Unfortunately, this doesn't work well, if at all, to inspire sustained learning or positive change.

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

By Christopher Germer,

Book cover of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions

I happened to listen to The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion around the time that I first started seeing a therapist. So much of the coaching from my therapist was mirrored by the messages in Germer’s book. He provides specific tools we can use to increase self-love, including an emphasis on the value of meditation. 

Who am I?

In the past, I had written a few books about running ultramarathons. After being diagnosed with a chronic health condition, the sport I felt so much passion about began to slip away. I noticed myself falling into depression. Even though I’ve worked as a social worker for nearly 20 years, there was so much about depression that I didn’t completely understand until I experienced it myself. My path toward healing became the storyline for my book Stronger Than the Dark, and increased my desire to advocate for the importance of mental health.

I wrote...

Stronger Than the Dark: Exploring the Intimate Relationship Between Running and Depression

By Cory Reese,

Book cover of Stronger Than the Dark: Exploring the Intimate Relationship Between Running and Depression

What is my book about?

In his gripping memoir, Cory Reese offers a compelling and vulnerable insight into the pervasive destruction of depression. Drawing on lessons learned over a decade of ultramarathon running, Stronger Than the Dark offers a powerful new approach in the battle against depression: the willingness to embrace suffering.

In a moment of physical and mental crisis during a 314-mile race across Tennessee, he realizes with clarity life’s ultimate purpose. We are here to endure. We are here to help others turn pain into peace. We are here to be a beacon of kindness and compassion. Cory’s beautifully broken path of healing speaks to anyone feeling lost in insecurity or despair, and gives hope that even in life’s darkest moments, we can find the light.

The Courage to Be Me

By Nina Burrowes, Alexander Bertram-Powell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Courage to Be Me: A Story of Courage, Self-Compassion and Hope After Sexual Abuse

Post #metoo there’s a lot more awareness around sexual abuse and assault, but still few books to help readers to understand why it impacts them the way it does. 

In The Courage to Be Me, cartooning psychologist Nina Burrowes presents what we know from the science of sexual trauma, and tells the stories of a group who support each other around their experiences. 

Having several different stories, all illustrated by different comic artists, emphasises the diverse forms that assault and abuse can take, and the ways in which they hit us all differently. Despite the tough topics covered, this is an uplifting book which helps the reader to see their experiences reflected, and to learn some skills for how to look after themselves around what happened with the kindness they deserve.

Who am I?

I’m a queer writer who is passionate about getting good awareness of gender, sexuality, relationships and mental health out there into the world. I create comics, zines, blog posts, and self-help style books to try to reach as wide an audience as possible, bringing together the work of activists, scholars, therapists, and creators - and drawing on a diverse range of knowledge and experiences - in the hope of helping us all understand ourselves and our world better.

I wrote...

Sexuality: A Graphic Guide

By Meg-John Barker, Jules Scheele (illustrator),

Book cover of Sexuality: A Graphic Guide

What is my book about?

Sex and sexuality can seem like a house of horrors, full of monsters and potential pitfalls. We often live with fear, shame, and frustration when it comes to our own sexuality, and with judgement when it comes to others’. Sex advice manuals, debates over sex work, and stories of sexual “dysfunction” only add to our anxiety. With compassion, humour, erudition, and a touch of the erotic, Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele shine a light through the darkness and unmask the monsters.

Journey to the Heart

By Melody Beattie,

Book cover of Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul

I stumbled upon a terrific life companion in Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart book. I read a few gentle meditations every evening before bed, and feel both inspired and relaxed. There is definitely a way back to self-compassion and mental well-being and Melody has cleared the rocky path for us. All we have to do is walk it with her. If you have just one book by your bedside as you heal from addiction, this should be the one.

Who am I?

I’m a psychologist, an award-winning author, and a yoga and meditation devotee. Growing up in the Bronx, New York I saw firsthand the devastating impact addiction can have on individuals and families. That is why I have dedicated my professional life to understanding and supporting people recovering from addiction, mental illness, and life's challenges. I’m also the co-author of The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction, which offers lots of strategies to manage daily stressors. I wholeheartedly believe there is a path back to wellness. It takes a foundation of self-compassion and daily focus on your healing. You deserve to be healthy and happy.

I wrote...

The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

By Rebecca E. Williams, Julie S. Kraft,

Book cover of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

What is my book about?

If you struggle with addiction, know that you are not alone. Addictive behaviors are often the result of a significant loss. If you’re like many others, you may have turned to drugs, alcohol, or other troubling behaviors to avoid the pain of loss. But this only delays your healing, and can lead to a destructive cycle that leaves you feeling trapped. So, how can you break free?

This second edition of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction will help you identify the root of your addictive behaviors while providing coping strategies to deal with the strong emotions that come from experiencing a loss. With these powerful mindfulness exercises and lifestyle tips, you will be able to replace addictive behaviors with healthy behaviors to begin healing.

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