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.
Lying 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.
Rehearse the 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.