Psychologist Kristin Neff Was a “Mama Bear” in Defending Her Ph.D. Student and Had to Apologize

Psychologist Kristin Neff Was a “Mama Bear” in Defending Her Ph.D. Student and Had to Apologize


Check out all episodes on the My Favorite Mistake main page.

My guest for Episode #183 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff.

She is the author of the books Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and the 2021 follow up book — Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power and Thrive.

Kristin received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley and is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. While doing her post-doctoral work she decided to conduct research on self-compassion – a central construct in Buddhist psychology and one that had not yet been examined empirically.

I learned about Kristin's work thanks to a mention of her by Dan Pink, my guest in Episode 137.

In this episode, Kristin tells her favorite mistake story about passionately defending one of her dissertation students who wasn't passed by a new assistant professor. Why was Kristin being a “mama bear” and why was she called on the carpet by her department chair? What did she learn from this experience and how did she apply “self-compassion” to herself in this instance?

We also talk about questions and topics including:

  • Before talking about self-compassion, people might have mistaken definitions of compassion… how do you describe the true meaning of compassion toward others?
  • HBR – self-compassion articles
  • “Self-compassion vs. self-esteem”
  • Finding the balance in acknowledging, reflecting, and learning vs. dwelling…
  • “Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.” — can you share an example that illustrates that?
  • How can we practice self compassion when we realize we have made a mistake in our work?
  • Important to soothe ourselves before reflecting on our mistake? How we might do that?
  • Does it help us be self-compassionate when others are compassionate toward us when we make mistakes?
  • What Self-Compassion is not — mistaken views?
  • Self-Compassion free survey

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the episode
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

Find Kristin on social media:

Watch the Full Episode:


"If you make a mistake in a workplace context, and you apologize for it in a way that's very inclusive and humble,  it kind of says, 'Hey, this happened, please forgive me.' But you do it with not with your head held in shame, but kind of like 'I'm a human being. I make mistakes.' Then, it actually can give other people permission to be human as well."  Kristin Neff My Favorite Mistake
"Self-compassion is actually a type of wisdom. It's understanding the complex causes and conditions that lead people to act as they do — sometimes in very unhelpful ways — and is always aimed at behaviors or situations as opposed to judging people."  Kristin Neff My Favorite Mistake
 Kristin Neff My Favorite Mistake"It's OK to fail, but we also wanna learn from all failure. If we are complacent, that's actually not caring to ourselves or others."

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.