Top 10 Self Acceptance Books For Living A Compassionate Life

top 10 self acceptance books for living a compassionate life

We all need a bit of encouragement in life and many of us are brought up into a life where we have no vocabulary for kindness. We may have been abused, bullied, neglected as children, or we may have been domestically abused in our adult lives. All of these factors can leave us with no idea about how to have compassion for self, or to even think kinder thoughts. And what I discovered over 10+ years is that those people (like me) who have had no kindness vocabulary cannot get on with positive affirmations. They do not soothe the pain of the hurt inner child. We need a greater sense of tenderness and this tends to come from authors and writers who know this feeling or who have been through something similar. So here are my top 10 books I highly recommended to begin the path of compassion and self-acceptance. There are obviously many more wonderful authors out there but these are a great starting point. I have included many I have read and got a lot out of and also a few I am yet to read but which are on my book reading bucket list and are highly praised by many others. These are not in order of my favourites but the top 7 are books I have read (the remainder I will read this year).

star number 1

Radical Acceptance – Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of The Buddha by Tara Brach


For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn’t take much–just hearing of someone else’s accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work–to make us feel that we are not okay. Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully. 
from Radical Acceptance

I am always looking for books that touch the heart, and after watching Tara on a number of You Tube videos I just had to buy this book. She brings practical guidance through her countless life experiences and knowledge on how to let go of the self-judgements and bring compassion into our hearts through accepting who we are, as we are, right now. A gentle soothing book that reaches into the heart of any pain and helps you view who are in a whole new way.

An Amazon snippet review:

“Tara Brach’s new book, Radical Acceptance, is a gem. I recommend it for anyone, not just students of Buddhist meditation. There is something here for all of us who self-judge, who get so lost in fantasies, old hurts, worries and fabricated stories that we miss out on the peace, simplicity and happiness that can be found by just paying attention to this moment. And that is the key and what Tara so gracefully and gently points the reader to (through real-life examples and guided meditations and exercises) — that we actually can, in our very mundane everyday lives, find the peace, simplicity and true happiness that our hearts really long for. Tara shows us how in practical and do-able ways.”

star number 2

Loving What Is – Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie

I read this book many moons ago and Byron Katie just shifted my perspective big time on the suffering I had been going through.

On Byron Katies ‘The Work’

“…The Work is simply four questions that, when applied to a specific problem, enable you to see what is troubling you in an entirely different light. As Katie says, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” Contrary to popular belief, trying to let go of a painful thought never works; instead, once we have done The Work, the thought lets go of us. At that point, we can truly love what is, just as it is…”

Byron Katie helps us turn our thinking around. Whenever we are projecting blame onto another or we feel a situation is causing us to suffer, she helps us through her 4 questions to see things differently and experience relief by questioning our thoughts about life.

An Amazon snippet review:

“…I had a story. It wasn’t a happy story. It was about an abusive childhoood. I wore that story like a pair of sunglasses. I saw my world through that story. I kept spoiling my present with those past experiences.

“The Work” a process contained in this book is the only system that allowed me to really get to the truth of my story – ah – the story under such examination just started dropping away.

This book is not in competition with any other. No other book can take its place. The niche is unique. In A Course in Miracles you are told forgiveness is the key but no one gives you a road map for how to do that – Byron Katie’s does. In The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle tells us to be fully in the present moment and just be aware of the pain body – Byron Katie tells you to investigate that pain body so that it can drop away…”

star number 3

The Mindful Way Through Depression – Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (book & CD) by  Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, Jon Kabat-Zinn

As someone who has experienced re-occurring bouts of depression and also anxiety in my life I read this book with healing in mind and I got it. It was so easy to read, with no jargon and it took me through depression and ways to handle shifting moods, thoughts and how to be present more fully. Along with a CD that really helped my practice, I found this book helped me be more compassionate and kind to myself. Read my full review on this book HERE.

An Amazon snippet review:

“…In “The Mindful Way through Depression,” the authors really take the reader to a different level in handling negative, ruminative thoughts and their accompanying difficult feelings. I love the underlying theme of the book: that it’s not the content of our thoughts that’s important, but rather the present-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and surroundings. Emphasis is also placed on deeply accepting all of these sensations — not running from them in fear or aversion, but approaching them with gentle awareness and curiosity and allowing them to be there. There’s a huge freedom in this, but it takes perseverance…”

star number 4

At Last A Life – Anxiety & Panic Free by Paul David

at last a life anxiety panic free paul david

This is one the most recent books on self-acceptance and compassion that I have read. It is a book that helps sufferers of anxiety face this experience with the eyes and heart of kindness and gentleness. Paul, being a recovered anxiety sufferer, shares his experience through his journey from anxiety to being free of this condition. Using mindfulness and being present he speaks in a way that all too often many psychotherapists and psychologists do not. He gets to the root of what it is all about and how to recover. Check out my recent review of At Last A Life HERE.

An Amazon snippet review:

“…The information is this book has absolutely changed my life. I have spent years with debilitating, agonizing anxiety that often times had me wanting to end my own life. This book showed me what was happening inside of me, explained things in clear concise terms and dispelled all the illusions anxiety creates. I highly highly recommend this for anyone with anxiety issues. I have my life back…”

star number 5

Diamond In Your  Pocket – Discovering Your True Radiance by Gangaji

the diamond in your pocket

I have read this book several times and it is a book I keep going back to. It is a book that takes you beyond your mind, beyond who you think you are, to who you really are in a way that helps free you from suffering. She talks about our never-ending quest to find fulfilment and helps us see that happiness cannot be found ‘out there’ or some place else. It is a book for anyone who wants to release the identification with the personality, to see beyond to the truth of who they really are.

Gangaji writes this book in such a loving way. It gently opens you to what is beneath the suffering, the fear and all that we, acting as the personality, experience in life. She offers thought-provoking questions to ask ourselves that awaken us to the bigger picture.

An Amazon snippet review:

“…The most important part of this book for me was where Gangaji speaks about the heart of self-betrayal. “We have all experienced the grief of losing something, a beloved one, or a precious object. But even deeper than that grief is the grief of recognizing the betrayal of the truth of ourselves. Rather than actually experiencing this self-betrayal, we usually get very busy fabricating proof that we are not betraying ourselves. We busily gather power, pleasure, or knowledge to prove that we are not really betraying ourselves, that we really are okay. But this grief, this divine sadness, is very important…”

star number 6

The Power Of Now – A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

Okay, this is one of those books that will blow your mind if you are ready. It is a book that needs to be read I would say slowly, something you absorb when it is time for a shift in perception. Eckhart Tolle introduces you to a new way of looking at life in the present moment, but brings a real understanding of who we really are, beyond this flesh, this outer world. If you want to wake up, this is a great beginning. It’s not a ready-meal way to enlightenment, far from it. This is a process of change that can take place on the journey to full self-realisation. This helps the reader become liberated from the mind, and to see beyond all of that.

An Amazon snippet review:

“…Don’t read this book in order to feed your mind, stroke your ego or validate your beliefs. Read it in order to learn to free yourself from pain and delusion. It is obvious when reading certain reviews that some people are looking to add mind stuff to their inventory and then to demonstrate what a fine mind they have with an erudite and academic rebuff. They will have to remain content with a mind dominated life, always looking for something outside themselves to give validation and meaning. At some point, however, if they are lucky they may tire of that and take the opportunity to practice living in the now. It takes courage to jump into the unknown and discover the freedom and joy in living life moment to moment…”

star number 7

Fear – Essential Wisdom For Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh


I read ‘FEAR’ by Thich Nhat Hanh in 2013 after just beginning my weekly mindfulness class. This is a very simple and calming book. It takes you gently through what is happening when feeling fear, and explains how to become friends with your fear instead of pushing it away. Thich always writes in a such a kind and gentle way, which is very appreciated when anyone is going through a challenging experience in life and in this book he helps us embrace uncertainty and find a calm within the storms taking place.

An Amazon snippet review:

“..Not only was the mere reading of this book comforting and relieving for me, but the exercises it introduces helped me transform fear in an unconventional way. Though in the presence of intense emotions, perhaps even in a panic attack, my first reflex was to run, to find a way to escape, the exercises suggest meeting it head on – but not with aggression or in a challenging manner as proposed by some of the inevitably flawed techniques I have tried – but with compassion, curiosity and concern. Thich Nhat Hahn suggests that we observe our emotions, acknowledge them – even handle them with the concern we would for a crying baby through deep listening – and begin to work our way back into the present moment, back to ourselves…”


Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn


I love the writings of Jon Kabat-Zinn. He brings the concepts of mindfulness to the ordinary man or woman on the street and helps us become more present in our daily lives. This was originally written over 25 years ago so it is an updated and revised edition. This book focuses on how to move through a stressful life using the wisdom of the body and mind. I have no doubt it does what it says on the cover.

An Amazon snippet review:

“This book is a gentle yet powerful introduction into Mindfulness Meditation. It has done for me what no therapist, prescription drug, or self-help book has done for me–quiet down a weary, fast-paced, wandering mind. Read this book, then read it again and continue to return to the meditations described in this book. Your mind and your heart will thank you for it.”


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown


I have heard so much about Brene Brown. I have not read any of her books yet but  I saw her on a brilliant Ted talk and she was so inspiring. I also have friends who rave on about her books, so this is one of my must reads this year.

The book according to Amazon is:

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging, shares ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living—a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness….

…In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough,” and to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”

An Amazon snippet review:

“I’ve been through 6 therapists, I’ve struggled with depression for nearly twenty years, never could finish anything I started, and everyone always assumed I had ADHD. Not until therapist number five did someone point out to me that ADHD is often mistaken for anxiety and he was sure that was my problem. Boy was he right. Sadly, he was terrible at treating, so I found a new therapist who encouraged me to embrace the bad days and bad times and she pointed me to Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. It really spoke to me, so I thought it would be a good idea to read her book. I just looked at the screen for a full minute trying to figure out how to put into words how much this book has helped me and I just can’t find them…”


Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff 

This looks a brilliant book. I hope to review it this year. Kristin Neff explores the new avenue of recovery and healing that more therapists are turning towards. Instead of focusing on self-esteem, self-compassion is the direction many psychologists are turning to, so as to help treat their patients. Using research, personal stories, humour and exercises it is said to help heal the wounds of the past.

A snippet of a recent review on Amazon :

“I’ve been lost in a depression for the last 6 years and I had read lots of books from the top authors on psychology, self-motivation, personal effectiveness and on and on. All I found was some strength to keep searching, but nothing EVER touched so exactly on what could be the reason and the cure for the bad emotions I had for all these years.”



After 20 years of self-nurturing, discovering self-love for the first time through practising mindfulness, and 10 years writing, I birthed my own series of books. Written for readers who feel invisible, stuck and the experience of failure seems an ongoing experience.’The Shine Series’ enables the reader to awaken an inbuilt self-compassion through presence and releasing resistance to accepting ‘what is’ and growing forward from within the pain cycle.Check out book 1 in my series below (Book 2 is available on my website HERE and book 3 a manual of ultimate self-love is due for release in 2017).
when everyone shines but you


A snippet of a recent review on Amazon :

Kelly’s book is a wonderful antidote to the usual fare of what I’m going to call “punishing encouragement” that comes with self-help books. Written from her personal experience, Kelly’s book asks you to take responsibility for your life – the full range of experiences that come your way – but to do so with kindness, compassion and gentleness. Surprisingly sage at times – there is much wisdom to find within these pages.


If you have any books that have helped you be more compassionate towards yourself or more accepting please do share in the comments below. Thank you.


For more books I have recently reviewed please check out my reading room HERE

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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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  1. March 17, 2014 / 6:44 am

    Thanks for the reviews, I was looking for some new reads, plenty to chose from here

  2. March 17, 2014 / 7:11 am

    Your welcome, lots of life transforming wisdom here, enjoy, let me know how you get on with those you choose.

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