Create out loud

with Jennifer Louden

10 | Kirstin Neff: Why Fierce Self-Compassion Is Essential For Your Creative Life And Our World

Show Notes

In this episode:

  • Researcher, professor, and author of the book Fierce Self Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive, Kirstin Neff, Ph.D., shares what fierce self-compassion is and what it isn’t
  • How fierce self-compassion can help your creative process and your social justice work in the world
  • Why accepting all of ourselves is important for the creative process
  • The difference between self-compassion and “being nice”
  • The physiological upside to fierce self-compassion
  • What to do when you aren’t creating regularly or beating yourself up for how you are creating


How often do we sit down to face the blank page or canvas or keyboard, only to get crippled by the paralyzing critic: “You can’t do this, you’re not good enough….why bother?”

What if, instead, you told yourself, “keep going, you’ve got this, your voice matters.” This is the self-compassionate approach to creativity, and it’s essential to your success.

But some days, you need more. That’s where Kristen Neff’s work on fierce self-compassion comes in. Dr. Kristin Neff is the pioneer researcher of self-compassion and she has spent almost 20 years studying self-compassion and has now turned her attention to how women can combine fierceness with self-compassion.

We started off with a question you may have asked yourself a million times. Why is self-compassion so much more difficult than having compassion for others?

“When there’s a threat or a danger, we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode…When the problem is ourselves, especially because we’ve made some mistake, what we do is we try to fight ourselves as if somehow we’re gonna force ourselves to change and do something better so we’re safe, or we flee with shame from the judgments of other people. We withdraw into shame, thinking that will make us safe, or we freeze and we get stuck…If someone you care about, like your best friend, for instance, fails, you feel for them, but you don’t feel personally threatened.”

In fact, Kristin’s research finds that 75% of women have more compassion for others than they do for themselves. It’s natural! And the reasons are both physiological and cultural.

What do we do about this?

It comes down to practicing both tenderness and fierceness, even though societal and gender norms often work against this mix.

Women are known for our nurturing tenderness, but we’re accustomed to feeling backlash when we unleash our fierceness. Harnessing it could be the key to creating the changes we want to see in the world and in our lives.

“Fierceness reduces the fear response. It gives us bravery, it gives us courage, it helps focus us on our values, helps focus us on our goals in life. It’s a tremendously beneficial part of compassion that women have access to when it comes to raising our kids, or standing up for a cause, or standing up for a friend.”

As we recognize that we have it in us, how can we use it for good — to not only help the world but for our own protection so we feel safe?

“When we hold our pain with love, the pain is still there. It’s not like we’re sugarcoating it. It’s not like positive thinking, pretending it’s not there, which doesn’t work. But we’re saying, ‘Oh, this is really hard. How can I help?’ Just like if we went to a friend who came to us with those feelings. We’re generating positive emotions at the same time that we’re connecting with the negative emotions.”

Self-compassion opens us to both the light and the dark — the dark that we can  tap into for material and insight as creatives. It’s what allows us to learn from our failure, view it as an opportunity, recognize the silver linings, and try again. It takes the anxiety and stress out of striving to succeed and removes the toxic comparison that often makes us feel stuck and spend more of our time helping others rather than developing our own talents and interests.

This isn’t about getting it right; it’s about opening your heart.

We dive into how fierce self-compassion can help your creative process. You won’t want to miss what she says here. Because when you are cultivating self acceptance and self-compassion, you’re less likely to tolerate the ways that you are not showing up for your creative work.

We also talk about how self-compassion can support your social justice work in the world, why accepting all of ourselves is important for the creative process, the physiological upside to fierce self-compassion, what to do when you aren’t creating regularly, the big transition she’s making in her career and livelihood, and so much more.

Kristin’s book offers empirically supported practices that you can use to cultivate fierceness, tenderness, and greater self-compassion. This work isn’t always easy, but it’s so worth it.

Join me as we discover how Kirstin Neff creates out loud.


Fierce Self Compassion: Amazon | Bookshop
Kristin Neff’s website:

Visit to get instant access to a collection of audios that will

  • help you with some of the most common struggles we creatives have to manage including fear of choosing,
  • falling into compare and despair, managing the inner critic (s),
  • and feeling too exposed and vulnerable when you put yourself or your work into the world.

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