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  • To survive in this high-pressured, crazy world, most of us have to become highly adept at self-criticism.

  • We learn how to tell ourselves off for our failures, and for not working hard or smart enough.

  • But so good are we at this, that we're sometimes in danger of falling prey to an excessive version of self-criticism,

  • what we might call self-flagellation, a rather dangerous stage which just ushers into pressure and under-performance.

  • We might simply lose the will to get out of bed.

  • For those moments, we need a corrective.

  • We need to carve out time for an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion.

  • We're suspicious because that sounds horribly close to self-pity.

  • But because depression and self-hatred are serious enemies of a good life, we need to appreciate the role of self-care in a good, ambitious, and fruitful life.

  • To this end, we can perform what we've called "a self-compassion exercise", a structured meditation, lasting 15 minutes or so.

  • Lie in bed, or perhaps a bath, turn over a sequence of thoughts that interrupt and correct the flow of your worse self-accusations.

  • For a time, adopt an entirely kindly perspective on your setbacks.

  • The self-compassion exercise goes like this:

  • We're so in love with success.

  • We fail to notice the scale of the challenges we routinely set ourselves.

  • There is nothing remotely normal about what we've tried to achieve.

  • We failed, but given the mountain we were trying to climb, the conclusion doesn't have to be that we're simply fools.

  • We have tricky family histories; we all do.

  • There were things which happened to us at the hands of others which can help to explain some of our current troubles.

  • We're not entirely sane or well, but none of us are.

  • We weren't well set up to carry out certain tasks.

  • It isn't wholly our fault in the here and now.

  • From the media, you'd think everyone was rich and famous and successful, but in reality, undramatic, quiet failure is by a huge margin, the statistical norm.

  • We shouldn't tear ourselves apart for not managing to beat what were, in truth, awesome odds.

  • Tough, self-critical people don't allow themselves the indulgence of believing in luck.

  • They take responsibility for everything.

  • They think winners make their own luck.

  • But they don't, for the most part.

  • Luck is a genuine feature of existence.

  • We're robbing ourselves of fair consolation by believing that we're entirely in control and, therefore, entirely to blame when we crash.

  • You're not only your achievements.

  • Status and material success are one bit of you, but there are others as well.

  • Those who loved you in childhood knew this, and, in their best moments, helped you to feel it.

  • Rehearsed internalized voices of all those who've been kind to you.

  • Bathe in the memory of a love, independent of achievement.

  • "It seems it will never end."

  • That's not the truth.

  • It's just how a crisis feels.

  • You need to reduce expectations to zero for a time.

  • Take each new hour as it comes.

  • And, without being banal, what you need most of all is some rest.

To survive in this high-pressured, crazy world, most of us have to become highly adept at self-criticism.

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