Michael Tompkins, PhD, believes that self-compassion can subdue the inner critic that undermines your self-esteem and self-confidence. It allows you to look at problems from a different point of view and finally become happy. Tompkins talks about how to develop it in the book Getting Rid of Anxiety and Depression. Simple practices to help you manage your mood and feel better.”

The book was published in Russian by the MIF publishing house. Lifehacker publishes an excerpt from the ninth chapter.


Self-compassion is a certain way of communicating with yourself. This is how you would treat a friend who is in trouble, even if he made a serious mistake. Self-compassion turns you into your own supporter, not your opponent. The inner critic falls silent, instead a kind, caring and attentive voice sounds. Self-compassion is the antidote to the anxiety and sadness, guilt and shame that self-criticism instills in you. Self-compassion is made up of three elements: self-kindness, humanity, and awareness.

Kindness to yourself

When you make a mistake or fail, an inner voice chastises you instead of encouraging you. Kindness softens this tendency, and you treat yourself as delicately as you treat others. Instead of criticizing or scolding yourself for mistakes and oversights, comfort and support yourself. Kindness heals the wounds that self-critical consciousness inflicts.

Describe a recent mistake or failure. What did your inner critic say to you? What did you feel at that moment? Did you believe his words?

Now treat yourself with care and understanding and write a few kind words in your address. Try to calm and cheer yourself up by making it clear that you are not indifferent to yourself.

Humanity

You are not the only person in the world who made a mistake, made a mistake, and then decided that he was flawed or stupid. We all have flaws, we are all imperfect. Humanity helps you connect with the entire human race. It reminds you that everyone suffers sometimes and you are no exception. You easily forget about it, immersed in your own experiences. Remember: failure is inevitable. Events don’t always unfold according to your plan.

Remember how your friends, relatives, neighbors suffered. Describe their failures, failures, mistakes. How do you feel when you think that they are ordinary people with their own flaws? What do you want: to criticize or sympathize?

Now draw a parallel between yourself and humanity as a whole. Recognize that we are all imperfect, that everyone gets into difficult situations sometimes. For example, if you get carried away with a friend, remind yourself, “Everyone goes too far sometimes. We are only human.” Describe the factors that influence your painful experience. For example: “I hate myself for taking it out on my kids. If I had slept well the night before, perhaps I would have reacted more calmly. I’m not the perfect mother, but I’m not the worst mother in the universe either.”

mindfulness

Through mindfulness, you become familiar with painful emotions generated by self-criticism or life’s difficulties. Mindfulness involves being open to the present and quietly letting in thoughts, emotions, and sensations without trying to resist or avoid them. Mindfulness helps you embrace pain rather than hiding from it. As a result, paradoxically, you suffer less.

Describe a recent situation in which the inner critic complained loudly and for a long time. What did you feel: sadness, shame, fear, stress? How did you try to deal with your emotions? Did the techniques you used help you?

Now try to accept this experience and the feelings that accompanied it. Don’t judge yourself or underestimate anything. How did the situation unfold? Have your emotions changed? What changes were the most striking? What feelings were the most difficult for you to accept?

Barriers to self-compassion

You may have been suffering from anxiety or discouragement for years and have gotten used to your inner critic. You are probably even wondering if it is worth going against the established pattern of behavior (self-criticism) and trying something new (self-compassion). You may decide that being kind to yourself also has its downsides. Suspicions and doubts can prevent you from embarking on the path of self-compassion.

Write down what does not allow you to be kind to yourself, tell us about your doubts, fears, fears. What possible negative consequences do you see?

Like most people, you have probably fallen victim to one of the delusions that is preventing you from mastering self-compassion. Let’s explore these misconceptions in more detail.

Self-compassion and self-pity are two different things.

Some people think that if they feel sorry for themselves, they will start to revel in their own grief. But self-compassion is not focused on your troubles, but on suffering in general. It makes it clear that life is complicated, and offers to look at your own adversity from a different point of view. Instead of obsessing over problems (getting caught up in haunting thoughts), you can step back and look at them from the outside, presenting them as part of a larger mosaic.

Self-compassion is not dangerous

Someone is afraid to be kinder to themselves, believing that it will weaken their vigilance. He views self-compassion as a weakness that makes a person vulnerable to troubles and hardships. But the opposite is true: you will become bolder and more resilient, because self-compassion builds confidence. People who are able to empathize with themselves are better able to cope with the blows of fate: divorce, chronic pain, job loss. They are convinced that they will overcome all adversity.

Self-compassion is not selfishness

Some people think that being kind and taking care of yourself is selfish and self-righteous behavior. They believe that self-criticism makes them consider others. They are afraid that, having pity on themselves, they will harm relations with others and, as a result, someone will suffer. But self-compassion allows you to give more to others because you can take care of yourself too. A person who is kind to himself is well acquainted with caring, compromise and stability – and this is fertile ground for relationships.

Self-compassion is not an excuse for bad behavior

Someone believes that it is a strict inner voice that does not allow him to stray from the righteous path. And he is afraid that, having given himself an indulgence, he will step onto a dangerous path and turn into a terrible person. However, self-compassion leads to the fact that people begin to be more responsible for their behavior, and not vice versa. You will learn to admit your own mistakes, learn from them and apologize for them.

You won’t become lazy by being kinder to yourself.

Self-compassion does not mean that you start to indulge your desires. You are afraid that, having become kinder to yourself, you will begin to overeat or abandon the sport. But self-compassion will allow you to focus on feeling healthier and happier in the long run, rather than fixing problems quickly. For example, if you’re looking to lose a few pounds and are criticizing yourself harshly for every scoop of ice cream, chances are you’ll give up and finish the whole package. After all, according to your inner judge, this spoon means that you are a fat and ugly nonentity.

Self-compassion doesn’t stop you from reaching your goals and getting what you want out of life.

Many people think that it is the harsh inner voice that makes them work hard and achieve what they want. In fact, the opposite is true. Self-criticism undermines self-confidence, and you become more anxious and afraid of failure. Moreover, a harsh judge turns life into a story of a chronic loser. After all, no matter what you achieve, he insists that you are capable of more. And now you feel helpless and unmotivated, plunge into depression and hardly get up in the morning. Self-compassion, on the other hand, encourages you to work and reach your full potential—not because you have to, but because you want to. You begin to be less afraid and persevere in what you started, despite the difficulties that inevitably come along the way.

Describe what is stopping you from being kinder to yourself. What delusions have you fallen victim to? Tell us about your fears and doubts related to self-compassion, adding to what was written above.

Exercise: Learning to Empathize with Yourself

Just because the voice of your inner critic feels so familiar doesn’t mean you shouldn’t replace it with a reasonable dose of self-compassion. To become kinder to yourself and get certain benefits from it, follow these steps.

  1. Recall a time when a close friend of yours suffered greatly or experienced some kind of difficult situation or failure. How did you react? What exactly did they say? What tone? How did your friend react?
  2. Now remember a situation when you felt bad or faced a problem. What was your inner voice telling you? What exactly did he say and in what tone? What did you feel? What did you want to do?

To become kinder to yourself, remember the three elements of self-compassion. Then complete the Learning to Empathize with Yourself template. For an example, look at how Janine handled this task and how she managed to be more compassionate towards herself.

While doing this exercise, silently repeat the soothing words inscribed in the template and stroke your hand (or hug yourself). Even if you find it difficult to become more indulgent towards yourself and show care, gestures that indicate a warm attitude will help. It is important to treat yourself with kindness, even if your feelings at this moment are far from it. Emotions will come with time.

Describe the results of the exercise below. Did your emotions change when you switched to self-compassion? If yes, why? Which of the three elements (self-kindness, humanity, and mindfulness) was the easiest for you to master, and which was the hardest? Answer the question below: what would be different if you could respond to your own suffering in the way you usually comfort a close friend?

Janine: Learning to Empathize with Yourself Template

Situation Words from the Inner Critic Emotions Kindness to yourself Humanity mindfulness
Having laid the children down, I decided to sort out old photographs. Found pre-divorce pictures, felt lonely and ate a whole bag of cookies I am ugly and disgusting. How can you love me? I deserve it all Shame. Guilt. Depression I know I ate the whole pack of cookies because I’m really sad right now. I thought food would help me cheer up. But it only got worse for me, I hate myself and my body. I want to cheer myself up, I want to please myself. Everything is fine with me. Why not go for a walk? I’ll be better soon Everyone gets sad sometimes, and everyone copes with sadness to the best of their ability. Nobody is perfect. Yes, it was a mistake to eat a whole package of cookies. But everyone makes mistakes and we learn from our mistakes I admit that right now I feel very bad. I admit that I don’t like myself right now. I’m sorry I jumped on the cookie, I’m vulnerable to pain at the moment. I don’t judge myself for the way I feel right now

Exercise: Write yourself a letter of encouragement

For years you have bombarded yourself with self-critical messages. They are probably all very similar. Surely they focus on obvious shortcomings and mistakes. If you hear the same words over and over, it is not surprising that as a result you consider yourself a nonentity, worry about the future and think about it without enthusiasm. But the situation can be changed. The same postman who brings you letters from your inner critic can also deliver a letter of encouragement. When you are sad, facing great difficulties, or want to make a change that scares you, sit down and write yourself this message.

Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Write the way you would address a friend who is facing exactly the same
    problems like you.
  2. Write a letter on behalf of an imaginary friend who is wise, loving, caring, and understanding.
  3. Let that part of you that is capable of compassion comfort the part that is going through difficult times.

Put the letter in a secluded place and periodically reread it, especially in difficult times. As you read, allow yourself to be soothed by kind and compassionate words. At first, it may be uncomfortable to console yourself. But the more often you write and read such letters, the easier it will be for you to show self-compassion.

Here is a supportive letter Janine wrote after a difficult lonely night. The woman addressed herself on behalf of her beloved great-aunt Nancy, who had taken care of her as a child.

Dear Janine!

I know it’s been a tough day for you. The children fell asleep, and you were sitting on the couch, and loneliness fell on you. We all feel lonely sometimes, but for you it is especially difficult, because you love people so much. Divorce has changed a lot – it happens to everyone who has gone through it. But these changes are temporary, and a bright future awaits you ahead, I know this for sure. It will be hard for you to believe, but when your great-uncle died, I felt very lonely. It was a terrible year, and I thought that I would not get better. But gradually I cheered up. I accepted my sadness and loneliness and reminded myself that although I am alone, I am surrounded by family and friends who love and care for me. And I love you, Janine, you are dear to me. Over time, unpleasant emotions will leave you. Just give yourself some time.

Exercise: hand on chest

Touch is a powerful tool. It not only calms, but also enhances feelings of love, kindness and care. Do this exercise whenever you are upset, worried, or want to switch off from anxiety and depression or other emotional reactions, waiting for the feelings to subside. By following these simple steps, you can easily comfort yourself.

  1. Place your hand on your chest near your heart. Feel the warmth of your palm. Slow down, feeling how you are imbued with the spirit of calm and comfort.
  2. Breathe softly, slowly and deeply, directing your breath to the heart area. Feel how the warmth of the hand penetrates your body and envelops it.
  3. Recall a situation when you felt that someone loves, protects you and takes care of you. This could be a partner, a parent, a child, a friend, a therapist, a teacher, or a pet.
  4. Let the warm and pleasant feelings take over you. Perhaps you will notice how the muscles relax, how a sigh escapes, or a smile appears on the lips. Enjoy these pleasant feelings – that you are loved, that you are taken care of. Stay in this state for 30 seconds.
  5. When you’re ready, return to reality. Evaluate what changes have occurred in the body after the exercise. Keep a feeling of lightness and calmness for the whole day.

Note what you felt during the exercise: kindness, care, compassion? Has your body relaxed, has it opened up to the senses? Have you become less anxious, sad, worried? Describe your experience and feelings.

Michael Tompkins' book on self-compassion: Releasing Anxiety and Depression.  Simple practices to help you manage your mood and feel better

Most often, we try to avoid unpleasant emotions, and therefore only increase the depressed state. Psychologist Michael Tompkins proposes to act differently – to develop emotional flexibility. After all, the more stable you are, the less you feel sad and anxious, and the faster you cope with the vicissitudes of fate.

In his book, Tompkins collected the techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapy. 50 – and even more – years of research confirm that these practices help to cope with unpleasant conditions: anxiety, despondency, depression.

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