Fierce, Tender, Whole: Taking Action for Ourselves and the World
Below is an excerpt from Kristin Neff’s forthcoming book, Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power and Thrive. In the book, Kristin expands our notion of self-kindness and its capacity to transform our lives, showing women how to balance tender self-acceptance with fierce action to claim their power and change the world. Publishing on June 15, 2021; now accepting pre-orders at your favorite bookseller.
Self-compassion is useful for anyone, and most of what I’ve written about in the past has been gender neutral. But I believe that self-compassion is especially necessary for women at this moment in history. Women have had it with mansplaining and being treated as if we were incompetent. It’s time for us to be paid fairly and to have equal power and representation as national leaders in business and government. Fierce self-compassion, especially when balanced with tender self-compassion, can help us fight for our rights and counter the harm done by centuries of being told to keep quiet and look pretty.
I was also inspired to write this book as a consequence of the #MeToo movement. For far too long women swept sexual harassment and abuse under the rug. We feared people wouldn’t believe us if we revealed the truth. It would bring shame upon us, or it would only cause more harm. But this changed in 2017 as hundreds of thousands of women used the hashtag #MeToo to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Suddenly, the men were the ones leaving their jobs with their reputations in ruin.
As I will discuss in detail later, my story resonates with those of countless other women around the globe. Despite being a well-known mindfulness and compassion teacher, I was fooled and manipulated by someone who turned out to be a sex predator. A man I trusted and supported was actually harassing and abusing countless women without my knowledge. My self-compassion practice is what allowed me to cope with the horror of revelation after revelation. Tender self-compassion helped me to heal, and fierce self-compassion spurred me to speak up and commit to not letting the harm continue.
The women’s movement gave us access to the professional realm, but to succeed in it we’ve needed to act like men, suppressing tender qualities that are devalued in a man’s world. At the same time, we’re disliked for being too aggressive or assertive. This leaves us with a false choice: to succeed and be scorned or to be liked and remain disempowered. Women have more pressure to prove ourselves at work, but are also subject to sexual harassment and lower pay. The bottom line is this: the current setup isn’t working for us anymore. I believe that by developing and integrating fierce and tender self-compassion, women will be better equipped to realize our true selves and make needed changes to the world around us. Patriarchy is still alive and causing great harm. We’re being called by the pressing issues of the day—sexual harassment, pay inequality, rampant prejudice, health disparities, political division, our dying planet—to claim our power and take action.
“In this brilliant new book, Kristin Neff empowers women to combat patriarchy by shining a light on the true nature of compassion-both nurturing and fierce. She gives us potent tools for healing our own wounds and creating a more just, equitable and loving world.”
Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and Radical Compassion