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This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 208.
Welcome back, everybody. We are on the final week of the 30-day Self-Compassion Challenge. You guys, the growth has been profound to watch you guys, to hear from you guys, sharing what’s working, what you’re struggling with, the major strides you’ve made. I have loved every single second of it.
I will be doing my best to compile all the audio. I think about 27 of the 30 days we did a live or the 31 days. We’ll be doing lives and I will compile them into one whole little mini-course that will be free for everybody on the cbtschool.com. That is yet to come. I cannot wait to hand that over to you guys.
We are on the final week and I wanted to address the elephant in the room, which is exhaustion. Today, I want to talk to you about managing exhaustion because the one thing I know for sure is you’re exhausted. I’m exhausted. We’re all exhausted. It’s so hard to get motivation. It’s so hard to keep going. So we are going to talk about it today. Here we go.
Before we go, I wanted to do the “I did a hard thing.” We do it every weekend. This is from A Life With Uncertainty. They said:
“The last two years have been FULL of hard things. The hardest was telling my husband in therapy that our marriage was the main obsession during my worst OCD spike. I was scared and anxious. He wouldn’t understand. It was such a huge exposure, and I pushed through without seeking reassurance. I CRIED A LOT, but so did he. The hard thing brought a softness to our marriage that I will always have, no matter what OCD tells me.”
This is beautiful. This is the work. Because what does anxiety take the most from us? The people we love. It impacts the people we love. It impacts the relationships and the things we get so much joy from. Holy smokes, A Life With Uncertainty, you are doing such brave, such courageous work. I’m so happy you put that into the “I did a hard thing.” How incredibly inspiring. I just love this stuff so much. I really do.
Before we get into the episode, let’s do a quick review of the week. This is from Nervous Nelly saying:
“I’m so grateful I found this podcast a couple of months ago. It has changed my whole approach to my own and my loved one’s anxiety. This podcast provided so many tools that I practice using and learning to look at my anxiety differently. The biggest change is recognizing that when I’m having anxious thoughts more quickly before they go too far and the automatic responses that I wasn’t even aware of, or should I say that I wasn’t aware, were so counterproductive to my mental well-being. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and please keep doing what you’re doing.”
Yay, I’m so happy to hear that. Nervous Nelly, welcome. I’m so happy you’re here and let’s keep going together, which brings me perfectly into this episode.
As you know, we’ve been doing the 31-day challenge. I think I’ve been calling it a 30-day challenge, and I’m just looking at my calendar and seeing that there’s 31 days in the month. We’ll just be imperfect. We will move on.
We are celebrating the launch of my first and only book called The Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD. One of the things I talk about most in that book and talk about most on this podcast and in CBT School resources is how to stay motivated because it takes so much to stay motivated. But what’s interesting is, so many people in the comments this week said, sometimes it’s not even about motivation. It’s just about getting through the day. How do I get through the day? I wanted to share with you a self-compassionate concept that I use. It may or may not be helpful for you, but this is something I have dedicated my self-compassion practice to and I have really received some amazing benefits from it.
I’ll tell you guys a little bit of a story. As you all know, I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome with a nice side of generalized anxiety disorder in which I manage really well most of the time. But when I am unwell and I’m having a flare-up, which recently I’ve been doing really well, but I recently went through a horrific flare-up to the point where most days I couldn’t get out of bed. I was doing all my sessions from an upright chair where I had my legs elevated. I would go to bed at 7:00 or 6:15 in the evening. It was just rotten, rotten, rotten, rotten.
I was exposed to a concept called “the spoons concept.” This was written by a person who suffered with Lyme. I’ll put it in the show notes, the original article. What she did was she was saying, “Someone wants to ask me, what is it like to have Lyme disease?” Well, she assumed they knew because this person went to all of the doctor appointments and was with her when she was sick. She wasn’t quite sure what they were asking until she realized they were saying, “What is it actually like to leave in your body?” And she said, “Well, think of it this way.” She got all of these spoons out. I think she said she was in a college cafeteria at the time and she laid out these 10 spoons. She said, “For people who don’t have this problem, they have unlimited spoons in their day, and think of each spoon as a degree of energy to complete daily tasks. So one spoon to make your breakfast, one spoon to have a shower, one spoon to go for a walk, one spoon to get to work, two or three spoons or five spoons for doing the day of work, another spoon to make dinner, another spoon to do your taxes and so forth.” She said, “Most people have unlimited spoons. It just keeps going until the evening is done. They don’t even really have to consider their energy and how they expend it. But for me, I want you to imagine that I only get 10 spoons a day, and I have to decide every single day how I use those spoons.”
This was profound for me because what I was struggling with was like, how come everybody else gets to have energy at the end of the day and I am a complete disaster? How come everybody else has breakfast, gets ready for work, goes to work, takes care of their children, comes home, makes dinner, does the taxes, and they’re still not a grumpy, miserable mess at the end of the day? I realized it’s because me having POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome meant that I too have unlimited spoons. I’m going to have to either refuse to accept that and keep using up spoons I don’t have.
One of the main concepts she talks about in this Spoon Theory is, if you go over your 10 spoons, it’s not like you can replenish them. You’re using them up for tomorrow. Basically, if you use 13 spoons today, you only have seven left for tomorrow.
I’ve talked to a lot of my patients with OCD about this, and we really agreed not to become compulsive about counting spoons. I want to really make sure we address that upfront. This is not a science. It’s a concept. It’s a theory. But think of it through the lens of, if you overdo it today, you’re going to have to accept that you’ve got less spoons tomorrow.
I have found that I was living on minus spoons day in, day out. Well, in fact, month in, month out, maybe even year in, year out. No wonder I’m exhausted. No wonder I’m miserable. No wonder I’m anxious. No wonder I’m depressed. No wonder I’m exhausted. I have completely used up all my spoons. So now, I’ve had to accept that I only have 10 spoons and I have to make really skilled decisions on how I’m going to use them.
It has also involved me renegotiating my day. I no longer choose to make breakfast and lunch in the morning. I do it the evening before. I asked for help. I do it in a way where I sit at the dinner table. I always finish first because I inhale my food. As my children and my husband eat their dinner, I’m making the kids’ lunches for tomorrow. That way I’m not standing, I’m still communicating with them, but I’m getting something done, and that works for me. I’ve found many, many ways to manage this, but I also had to accept that some things literally had to go. The most compassionate thing I could do is to protect my spoons.
Now, how does this apply to you? Well, the developer of this theory has now extended it to people with mental illness. She believes it’s not just physical medical illnesses that mean people don’t have a lot of spoons. People with mental illnesses also have unlimited spoons because their spoons are being taken up with fear, depression, panic compulsion.
For you now, I’m going to ask you to consider, number one, you get to decide how many spoons do you think you get a day? Because it’s not unlimited. If you have a mental illness, it’s not unlimited. It’s not possible. You will use up all your spoons and you will go over and feel worse tomorrow. So determine how many you have, and start to be very, very articulate and disciplined and intentional with how you use them. You’re going to probably be like, “Yeah, I expected her to say this.” But one for me is I’m no longer going to beat myself up. I don’t have the spoons for that. Literally, that is my reason for not beating myself up. Besides the fact that it makes me feel terrible is I don’t have the spoons for that. Sometimes people will say to me, “You need to do more in a certain area.” I will say to myself, “Yeah, I wish I could, but I actually, at this time, don’t have the spoons for it.”
Sometimes I opt out of major disagreements, not because I’m afraid of disagreements, but I don’t have the spoons for a ton of conflict. I do that as an act of compassion to myself and an act of compassion for my clients and my family. If I burn up all my spoons, I’m a terrible therapist. No, that’s not true because that’s black and white thinking. I’m not at my best. I’m not at a place where I’m sitting, and I’m connected with my patient. So forgive me. I’m going to correct myself. I’m not a terrible therapist. That’s black and white thinking. I am not connected as deeply as I would like to.
What I do here is depending on the day, I may need to rearrange some things. For you, and I will give you a case study here. One of my patients had a huge exposure hierarchy. She knew she had to get it done. Her OCD was impacting her life severely. So we brought in her family, her husband, or her partner, and she had conversations with her family and her parents and said, “I’m about to embark on exposure therapy. It involves me doing a lot of physical and emotional work. How can you guys support me by helping me and managing some of the things I have in my life so that I can keep track of my own spoons, metaphorically?” Somebody dropped the kids off in the morning for her. She ordered in a meal service, if you have the finances for such a thing.
Her immediate thought was, yeah, but come on, Kimberley. Everybody else can do it. Surely, I can too. I’ll say, “In a perfect world, yes. In a perfect world where you didn’t have OCD, you could do your OCD while dropping your children off. But you do have OCD, or you do have depression, or you do have a medical illness. For that reason, can you give yourself permission to ask for help, to redistribute your spoons? Can you do that for yourself?”
Many times I’ll give you a personal experience that happened to me. Just this week is obviously, I’m a little overwhelmed with the launch of this book. I also run a very medium-sized private practice. I have eight therapists who work for me. I have CBT School, which I’m so proud of, but does take up some of my time. I called my husband and I said, “I give up. I am in over my head. I don’t know how I got here. I completely lost track of my spoons.” He sat me down and said, “Open up your calendar. What’s on your calendar for today?” I told him, and he said, “This one, this one, and this one, just cross it off. It doesn’t have to happen today.” My mind was like, “But come on, come on. It should be done today. It would be so much easier if it was done today. Life next week will be hard if it’s done today.” He goes, “Kimberley, you don’t have the spoons for it today. You either rest today or you use up your spoons for tomorrow.” And I’m like, “You’re right. You’re right.”
See, even I’m not so great at this sometimes. That’s why everybody needs help. I’m never above the work here. I’m always learning myself, but it’s dropping your pride. It’s dropping the ego. It’s dropping the expectations and saying the facts here that I’m exhausted. The facts here is I need a break, or the facts here is I need to shuffle things around so that I can do the thing I need to get done today for the future me.
The example would be a lot of my patients say, “Well, if I take on the Spoon Theory, I have never got enough spoons to do ERP. It’s just too hard.” I’ll say, “You need to do ERP so that you can get your spoons back. Because these compulsions are taking up a lot of your time, or your depression is taking up a lot of your time. We have to do your calm work. For your future self, something else has to go. Something else has to go.” That might be that you don’t get as much exercise. Or like I said, you get a meal service, or that you get your laundry done, or you slow down a little, or you don’t see as many friends on the weekend.
A lot for me has been in COVID. As COVID has started to loosen up a little, it’s also going, “Wow, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the social events.” I still think I need to be protective of my spoons here. Not that I’m avoiding them at all, I’m just making logical, compassionate, informed decisions based on the facts of the spoons that I have.
So I want you to think about this. Again, this is not science. I’m not saying ten spoons is all you get and all this stuff. It’s not a science, it’s a concept. I want you to think about it and see how it applies to you, because having a mental illness qualifies you for being someone who needs to take care of their spoons. Some people don’t like the spoon concept and they prefer to use it like a cup. Like my cup is full of energy, or it’s low on energy. How can I manage my energy levels? That’s fine too. It doesn’t have to be in this method. I just want you to think about how you can manage your exhaustion without letting everything go.
The alternative is, get really clear on what has to get done and what matters to you and rearrange the rest of it. Let some of it go. Don’t please all the people. Don’t please anybody. For me, again, I’m really trying to not think black and white, because that uses up spoons that I don’t have. Not to think catastrophic thoughts, like telling myself bad stuff is going to happen. I’m trying to not engage in that thinking because that uses up spoons that I don’t have. Not ruminating about something I’m angry about. No, I don’t have the spoons for that. The compassionate thing to do right now is to search the internet or to do what you enjoy. Do some crafts or take a nap, read, sit in nature, go slow walk, call a friend, whatever fills up your cup.
All right. That was a lot. I think what I’m going to say here is, a big piece of that is acceptance. That when you’re exhausted because you’re handling a medical or mental or physical disorder, it’s changing your expectations to more realistic expectations and accepting where you are, dropping the shoulds, dropping the I should and I could and all the things and start to take care of you. Start to ask for help.
I love you. That being said, you know what I’m going to say. It’s a beautiful day to do hard things, folks, and managing your exhaustion is a hard thing. Saying no is a hard thing. Saying yes is a hard thing. Please take care of yourself. Please honor what your body needs.
Sending you all love. I’m here for you. I’m loving on you. I am shouting you on. Thank you for joining me for 30 days. Do not give up. This is a 31-day challenge, but I ask that you take it for the next 31 years or 61 years or 91 years, or multiply, multiply, multiply. Do not give up on this practice. This is life. We have to do this work.
All right. Love you guys. Bye.
This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 207.
Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.
Welcome back, everybody. This is a really exciting podcast today. We have back on the show the amazing Kristin Neff. Now, as you all know, we’re doing a 30-day Self-Compassion Challenge and it is the perfect time to bring on Kristin Neff, who has written a new book called Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive.
Now, while the book is directed towards women, it actually is for everybody. So, we’re speaking today in this interview about fear self-compassion and it’s for everybody. It’s particularly valid to those of us who are struggling with anxiety and have to really work hard at facing fears every day.
I am so grateful we got to have Kristin on. She had so many beautiful things to say. If you like the episode, please go over and purchase her book. She too has a book out and again, it’s called Fierce Self-Compassion, and it might help you really deep dive into this practice of fierce self-compassion.
Before we get over to the show, let’s talk about the “I did a hard thing” segment. This one we have is from Eric, and he has said:
“I’ve been working on my anxiety about the heat by spending every day I can in the sauna of my gym. I work up a good full-body sweat, and it feels so uncomfortable, but I stick with it knowing it will pay off.”
Eric, this is so amazing. What an amazing way for you to stare your fear in the face, practice being uncomfortable. I love it.
In addition to that, let’s move right over to the review of the week. This one is from Emily. Emily says:
“Kimberley consistently shares a genuine compassion across all of her podcast episodes. She’s been a source of encouragement on my journey with OCD, anxiety, and depression because her message remains one of the consistent self-compassion while sharing a realistic perspective and the reality of mental health struggles.”
Thank you so much. You’re so welcome, Emily. I am just so honored to be on this amazing path with you all doing such amazing hard things and really doing the hard work. It’s really an honor to hear these stories and hear the hard things you guys are doing.
That being said, let’s move over to the show again. Thank you so much, Kristin Neff, for coming on. I just found this episode to be so deeply helpful with some profound concepts and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Kimberley: Welcome. This is an honor to have with us again the amazing Kristin Neff. Welcome.
Kristin: Thank you for having me. Happy to be here with you again.
Kimberley: Yeah. You have a new book out, which is by far my favorite. I am so in love with this book—Fierce Compassion. Yes. I actually have mine on my Kindle, so I was holding it up, going, “Look, it’s right here.”
Kristin: Thank you.
Kimberley: I loved this book. Thank you for writing it. This is so important for our community because you’re talking about how to use compassion in I think ways that we haven’t talked about before and is so important for those people who are suffering with anxiety or just any kind of severe mental illness or struggle. Can you tell me exactly what fierce compassion or fear self-compassion is?
Kristin: Yeah. Well, self-compassion, in general, or compassion in general is concerned with the alleviation of suffering. It’s a desire to help. It’s the desire for well-being of others, and then self-compassion is of yourself. There are really two main faces that it has, the two main ways that it can express itself. There’s tender self-compassion, which is really important, which is about self-acceptance. It’s about being gentle, more nurturing, warm with yourself, soothing yourself when you’re upset, really offering support, being with yourself and all your pain and all your imperfection, and really accepting a kind way. This is a hugely important aspect of self-compassion because most of us don’t do this. Most of us think we aren’t good enough or we criticize ourselves. We’re really harsh with ourselves.
This is huge. But it’s actually not the only aspect of self-compassion. Sometimes compassion is more of a gentle, nurturing energy, almost like you might say a mother. Metaphorically, a mother or a father, but a parent. Fear self-compassion is more like mama bear, like fierce mama bear. In other words, sometimes in order to alleviate our suffering, we need to take action.
Acceptance isn’t always the right response when we’re suffering. For instance, if you’re in a situation that’s harmful, maybe someone is crossing your boundaries, or someone is harming you in some way, threatening you in some way, whether it’s society. Maybe it’s racism, sexism, or some sort of injustice, or whether it’s yourself. Maybe you’re harming yourself in some way. Although we want to accept ourselves as worthy people, we don’t necessarily want to accept our behavior.
And so sometimes we need to take action to alleviate suffering. So, that could either be protection against harm. Sometimes it’s providing for ourselves. This is especially for women, women who are told they should always self-sacrifice, they should always meet others’ needs. Actually, sometimes for self-compassion, we have to say, “No, I’d really love to help you, but I’ve got something I need to tend to for myself.” So taking action to meet your own needs. And then also motivating change. It’s not self-compassionate to let behaviors or situations slide that are not healthy. So, really taking the action needed to motivate healthy change. But it comes from encouragement, not because “I’m unacceptable unless I change.”
The tender and the fear self-compassion, they go hand in hand. I like to say it’s like yin and yang. We need both and we need them to be in balance. If they aren’t in balance, it’s a problem.
Kimberley: Now this is so good because my first question was how to get it into balance, right? I love in your book, you have a little questionnaire. You fill it out, is there balance, and what side is that all? But can you share how people may get some balance if they’re finding they’re doing one of the other?
Kristin: Yeah. It’s a tricky question, right? Because sometimes we don’t know, but we need to ask. Really the quintessential self-compassion question is, what do I need right now to be healthy, to be well? And just pausing to ask that question is huge. Usually, we’re just doing our daily routine or we’re striving to reach these goals that people tell us we need to reach. We don’t even stop to say, “Actually, what do I really need to be healthy and well?” So asking that question is huge. And then you may not get it right at first. You may think, oh actually I thought I needed that, and I don’t.
Really self-compassion is a process. But it helps to know the different types of self-compassion. You might say, “Do I need a little tenderness right now? Do I need some acceptance? Do I need some softness and gentleness? Do I need to kick in the butt? Do I need to get going? Do I need to stand up? Do I need to speak up? Do I need to say no to people? Maybe I’m giving too much of myself in order to find balance.” You really just have to ask yourself the questions. It’s really the process of being committed to yourself that you’re going to do the work necessary to be healthy and well.
Kimberley: Right. You’ve outlined so many pieces of this puzzle, right? Particularly, and this is why I was just-- I think I reached out to you months before your book came out because I just wanted to hear your opinion on this. For people who are struggling with the inner bully, whether that be the disorder they have, or they’re just very self- critical, it can be really hard to stand up to that. Almost feeling like it’s just impossible. I’ve heard people saying like, “This is just who I am. I’m just going to have this voice.” I’m wondering, you might maybe share where would somebody start with this practice?
Kristin: Yeah. And then we also need to get in the different parts of ourselves, right? Because the inner bully, that’s a part. We also have a part that’s compassionate. We also have a part that feels bullied by the inner critic. So, we’ve got the person who’s pointing their finger. We have the person that feels the shame. We’ve got all these different parts of ourselves. And really all of them need to be treated with compassion, but how that compassion manifests is going to be different.
For instance, I have a compassionate motivation exercise in there, where sometimes what we need with an inner critic is we need to thank it. “Thank you for trying to help me.” This may be the only language it has to try to help us, and it needs to feel listened to and heard. “Thank you so much for trying to help me.” It’s actually not been that helpful, but I appreciate your efforts. That’s almost using more the tender self-compassion for the inner critic. But sometimes it needs the standing up. It’s like the mama bear, like, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to listen to that anymore. You can’t say that. It’s not okay. I’m drawing a line in the sand.” So that’s part of it.
But then also, we don’t want to forget having compassion for the part of ourselves that feels criticized. People who say the inner critic, that’s just who I am. Well actually, who they are is, there’s a part of them that hurts from the inner criticism. There’s a part of them that feels compassion for the pain of that. There’s a part of them that’s trying to help, keep themselves safe through criticism.
Inner critics don’t operate really to try to harm. They operate to try to help to keep us safe. I’ve talked about a lot in my book, my son has very harsh self-criticism and I can see he really believes-- by the way, I’m just going to turn this off. Sorry. It’s going to be cooking for me the whole time.
Kimberley: No problem.
Kristin: My son really believes that if he’s hard with himself, somehow, it’s going to allow him to get it right not make mistakes. So, usually, our inner critic, some part of it believes that if we’re harsh enough with ourselves, we’ll get it right not make mistakes. And that’s the safety behavior. So, we need to have compassion for that safety behavior at the same time that we don’t want to be railroaded by it.
It is complex. The human psyche is complex. Pretty much the answer is always compassion. But what form that compassion takes just depends on what the situation is. There’s no one-size-fits-all.
Kimberley: And I think that it’s so important that you’re addressing both the yin and the yang side. Because there are times when, let’s say somebody’s struggling with incredibly painful intrusive thoughts related to their OCD or their disorder, where they need to really just go, “Wow, this is so hard for you. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” But there are other times where you have to be like, “Nope, we’re not doing this today. We’re not going to go down that road today.” So, I think it’s beautiful that you’re bringing that Together.
Kristin: It’s funny, I have to use both sides with my son. He has both autism and OCD, as I was telling you, and anxiety just to make things fun. But sometimes what he needs is he needs my warmth and compassion. Just that caring, that tenderness. He knows always the bottom line is unconditional acceptance. But sometimes they need to draw boundaries. He’s learning to drive, for instance, and he started having an episode while he was driving and I’m like, “No, you cannot do this while you’re driving. It’s not safe.”
Part of them doesn’t have the ability to stop it, but part of them does. So, it is complex. Sometimes I need to appeal to that part of them that does have the ability, at least temporarily, to say, “I’m not going to go there. You need to choose. You need to stop up.” Sometimes I say it almost really firmly and it shocks him, and it actually helps him to stop. So, it’s complicated.
Kimberley: It really, really is. Now, it’s interesting because you and I were talking before, and I want to touch in because the first part of the book-- the book is directed specifically to women, but it also is addressed to anybody, I think.
Kristin: Yeah. All people live both yin and yang. The reason I do it for women is because women are so socialized not to be fierce. And that’s partly patriarchy. Women have been kept in their place by not getting angry or not speaking up. So, that’s why it’s written for women. But a lot of my male friends have read it and they say they get a lot out of it because first of all, all the practices are human. They’re for all people, not just women.
Kimberley: Right. But the reason I loved it is you did speak directly to getting angry, right?
Kristin: There’s a lot in the front about getting angry. Is it helpful? Is it not? Do you want to share? I mean, I think a lot of people who are anxious are afraid of their anger or are afraid of that. So, do you want to share a little bit about how people can use these practices for anger?
Kimberley: Yeah. Well, because part of the whole messaging of the book is anger communicates expression of compassion. Again, think of fierce mama bear, that ferocity, and think of someone who tries to harm someone you loved. There would probably be this arising of anger that comes up to protect.
Anger is a protective emotion. Now again, anger can be problematic for sure. It’s very easy. What’s the difference between helpful and unhelpful anger? It’s dead simple. Helpful anger alleviates suffering, unhelpful anger causes suffering. We know it can do both. But anger should not be undervalued as an important source of protection and compassion. It energizes us, it focuses us, it gives us energy, it suppresses the fear response, especially with people with anxiety.
It’s funny, my son is afraid of dogs. It’s one of his anxious things. I taught him very early on that when a dog is threatening him to rise up and yell at the dog and flop his arms, scare the dog. He does that. It’s funny, it also helps suppress his fear response for the dog when he does that because he’s basically getting angry and yelling at the dog to back off. I have to say sometimes he overuses it, like he’s done that with poodles at the park. I’m like, “Poodle is not a threat. Poodle will survive.” In his mind, the poodle is a threat.
So, being able to call on that fierce energy, one of the things it does is it does suppress the fear response. So, if you never allow yourself to be angry, it feeds into that fear response. That anger can actually be opposite to the fear response.
Kimberley: Right. This is where this is so beautiful because actually, a lot of the work I do with my patients is, instead of being angry at the dog or expressing anger, is to talk to fear and set the limit with fear. You were talking in the book about the inner critic and the inner voice or it could be the inner fear. I often will have patients say, “No, fear, you can come with me to the dog park or you could come with me to this, but you are not winning,” and getting really strong with an angry back at fear, which I think is another approach.
Kristin: Yes, that’s right. Again, you can say, “Thank you for trying to help me.” In my son’s script, “Thank you for trying to keep me safe, but you aren’t helping.” It’s both. It’s the appreciation. Because we don’t want to feel that any parts of ourselves are unacceptable. If we make our inner critic or if we make our anxiety or OCD, or any of those parts of ourselves feel unacceptable, then we’re harming ourselves.
Kimberley: That’s the key point.
Kristin: We can accept it with love, with tenderness. Just because my OCD is not helping me doesn’t mean it’s not acceptable, and act as a way in which it’s a beautiful part of me trying to keep myself safe. So, it’s differentiating between us as people and particular behavior. Behaviors can be helpful or harmful, but we’re always okay exactly as we are.
Kimberley: Right. And that’s the point. You just dropped the mic on that one. That’s so important. This is actually a question more than a statement—as we’re navigating, standing up to fear or depression is that we’re not disregarding it or criticizing the fear that’s inside us either.
Kristin: Yeah. Because it serves a purpose. All these emotions serve-- and usually, it comes down to safety or the sense of belonging or some sort of deep survival mechanism because these are all evolutionarily-- they came from our brains and our brains designed to survive. So, they have a negativity bias, say they tend to get really anxious. They tend to use the fight, flight, or freeze response. Fight is the self-criticism, flight is the fear response or shame response, freeze is when you get absolutely stuck over and over again, like rumination. Interesting, which may be related more to OCD. I’ve never thought about that. But it might be that that loopy might be the freeze response where you’re just stuck. All of these evolved as safety mechanisms as a way to avoid, like the lion chasing you, and they still remain in our brains, even though nowadays, most of us, at least in the first world, don’t have those types of threats to our physical being as often.
Kimberley: Oh, I love it. Okay. You already touched on this slightly and I just want to go over it quickly is, how might people use fierce compassion as a motivator and as something that encourages them? Because I think the way I conceptualize it is, you conceptualize the basketball coach who’s like, “Get up in there and just go harder.” It’s motivating, but it’s almost also very critical. Can you share a little on that?
Kristin: Yeah. Self-criticism or harshness does work as a motivator. There are coaches like that who do get some results out of their players, but there’s a lot of unintended consequences. Anxiety actually, believe it or not, is one of the poor byproducts of criticism because fear of failure, fear of not performing up to your ability, fear of making mistakes, that actually gets generated. When you know that you’re going to beat yourself if you don’t reach your goals, then that actually adds to your anxiety, and that makes it harder to reach your goals. Fear of failure, procrastination is a classic example. Self-handicapping, some people do that because they don’t want to risk failure because they’re too afraid of failing, because they know they’re going to be so harsh on themselves if they do fail.
But some people make the mistake of thinking that self-compassion is just about acceptance. Like, “Well, it’s okay if you don’t succeed. Well, everyone is imperfect.” Although it’s true, it is okay if you don’t succeed, it is true that everyone’s imperfect, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to succeed. But the reason you want to succeed is very different. Some people want to succeed because if they don’t succeed their failure, they’re going to hate themselves, they’re going to shame themselves. Other people want to succeed because they want to be happy. They care about themselves. They don’t want to suffer. It’s a much healthier form of motivation. It comes from the desire for care and well-being as opposed to fear of failure or inadequacy.
And then because of that, when the bottom line is, “Hey, I’m going to try my best. I’m going to do everything I can to succeed. But if I fail, that’s okay too,” what that means is anxiety levels go down. There’s less fear of failure. There’s less procrastination. There’s less performance anxiety. This is the key. When you do fail, you’re able to learn from it. I mean, it’s a truism that failure is our best teacher. If we shame ourselves when we fail, when we’re full of shame, we can’t actually learn. We’re just hanging our heads. We can’t really see clearly. We can’t process. But when it’s like, “Okay, wow, that hurts. Ouch. Well, everyone fails. What can I learn from this? It doesn’t mean that I’m a failure just because I failed.” That ability to learn actually helps your motivation and helps sustain your motivation. It’s just much more effective.
We know this with our kids and a lot of coaches know it. Not all coaches know, but a lot of coaches know their players. They may be tough like mama bear tough. But the thing about mama bear is you also know mama bear loves you. She’s doing it because she cares. When she’s just snarling at you, you don’t get that sense of being cared for. You get that sense of being inadequate. We know the difference, including with her own internal dialogues. We know the difference. Does this come from a place of care or a place of shame?
Kimberley: You know what’s interesting, and you probably know this, probably experienced this, but as I was writing my book, I was saying nice things, but I caught myself saying them in a tone that wasn’t nice. I was going, “No, I haven’t said anything.” I was saying like, “You could do it, keep going,” but the tone was so mean like, “Keep going!” Do you want to share a little bit about that?
Kristin: Yeah. Well, tone is so huge. One of the main ways, the idea that the feeling of compassion is communicated, especially the infants before they get language, is through touch and through tone of voice. Universally, we know the certain types of touch that feel caring and supportive and others that feel either indifferent or threatening in some way. Also tone, there’s a certain quality to the voice when it’s caring versus when it’s harsh. Most of that is communicated to infants before they know how to speak. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it, and it’s also how you hold your body. There’s physical touch. But even just like, is your body slammed or is upright, physical signals of care are really important. We teach both right.
Kimberley: I’m asking this actually for myself because it didn’t occur to me right now is how might I be fierce with the tone? How does the fierce tone sound?
Kristin: Yeah. It’s firm, but it’s not harsh. It’s like, “No, that’s not okay,” instead of, “No, that’s not okay!” It’s not vicious. It’s not, “No, that’s not okay, you stupid idiot!” It’s like, “No, that’s not okay.”
Kimberley: Yeah. That’s the nuance that I think I have to work on.
Kristin: “It’s not really okay. Is it okay?” It’s like waffling and wish-washy. By the way, I’m saying this, it’s not easy to get it right, and I get it wrong all the time. Fierceness and tenderness have to be balanced. My problem is, even though I was raised as a woman and for most women, they aren’t allowed to be fierce, I’m actually probably more yang than yin just by nature, just by my genes. My problem is I am too fierce without being tender enough. I’m always apologizing and saying, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me,” because I get out of balance the other way. Sometimes I just say it so bluntly and I forget to cushion it with some sort of niceness or reminder that I care. And that’s not healthy either.
It’s a process. It’s not like a destination, you get there and you’re done. It’s like, “Okay, I got it wrong this way, got it wrong that way.” You always have to be trying to recorrect. But as long as you allow yourself not to have to be perfect, then you can keep going. You keep trying. It is a process. It’s a process of compassion. The goal isn’t to get it right, it’s just to open your heart. So, as long as we do all of this with an open heart, out of goodwill, the desire to help ourselves and others, then it’s okay. But it is tricky, and I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t. It is.
Kimberley: Yeah. Here I am thinking that I’m really good at this stuff, and I was hearing my tone and going, “Wow, that’s not cool. You’re saying kind things, but not with a great tone.” I have two more questions or things I want to touch on really quickly. Will you talk about these two topics of fulfillment and equanimity? I know you touched on them in the book, but I loved what you are to say.
Kristin: Yeah. Fulfillment is also an aspect of self-compassion. So, if we want to help ourselves and be well, we really need to value what’s important to us. First of all, we need to know our values. Is it just what society says? You have to earn a certain amount of money. You’ve got to look a certain way. You’ve got to be popular. What’s really important to us? Sometimes it’s personal, like music or art or nature. Sometimes it’s honesty or sometimes it’s helping others. But we know our inner values. Part of compassion is asking ourselves what’s really important to us and valuing ourselves enough to actually fulfill our own needs.
Again, there’s a gender difference. Men have raised feeling entitled to get their needs met. It’s not really the question. Of course, I’m going to get my needs met. Isn’t it to everyone? Well, actually, not necessarily. Class, and a lot of things go into this, but gender certainly does.
Women are valued for being self-sacrificing. Women are valued, especially toward their kids, for denying their own needs and helping others. That’s how people like us. That’s how we get our sense of worth.
So that sets us up in a situation that in order to feel worthy, we have to give up what’s important to us, which actually undermines our own sense of self. Sometimes the term we use is “Give to others without losing yourself.” Part of that is knowing what you need to be happy and fulfilled and giving yourself permission to take the time, energy, effort to meet those needs. It’s not instead of other people, it’s in addition to. It’s including yourself in the equation.
My research shows that self-compassionate people, they don’t subordinate their needs, but it’s not like my way or the high way. They actually are more likely to compromise and say, “Well, how can we come to a solution that meets everyone’s needs?” And that’s really what we need to do to be balanced.
Kimberley: Yeah. I loved that. I really did. Oh my goodness, this is so good. Before we finish up, would you tell us where people can hear about you and your book or your books? Tell us where we can get to you.
Kristin: Yeah. Probably the easiest place to start is just my website, which is self-compassion.org. If you Google it, you’ll find me. I got in early, so all the algorithms come to my website. Just type self-compassion, you’ll find me. On that side, I’ve got, for instance, if you want to test your own self-compassion level, you can take the scale that I created to measure self-Compassion. I have guided meditations, I have practices, I have exercises. I have a new page on Fierce Self-Compassion that especially has fierce self-compassion exercises. I have research. If you’re a research nerd, there’s hundreds and hundreds of PDFs of research articles on there. There’s also a link to the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, which is really the nonprofit I started with Chris Germer that does self-compassion training. That’s also a really good place. You could take courses online. You can get training really easily now.
Kimberley: I’ve taken the training three times and in three different ways. One was a weekend. One was the eight-week course. One was a two-day. I think that can meet everybody. Online, I did one of them that was finished online because of COVID. Really, really great. So, thank you. Is there anything you feel like we’ve missed that you want to make sure we cover before we finish up?
Kristin: I just like to encourage people just to try it out. I mean, the research is overwhelming in terms of the well-being and strength and resilient self-compassion can give you. Life is tough and it’s getting tougher every day with this pandemic and global warming. I mean, everything is really, really tough. So, we have this resource available, this resource of friendliness, of kindness, of support, just available at any moment. You don’t have to sit down and meditate. You don’t have to even go to a class. You just have to think, what do I need to care for myself in this moment? You can actually do it. It’s like a superpower that people don’t even know they have. It’s just like to tell people, “Hey, you’ve got this ability. It’s right in your back pocket. You just need to remember to take it out.”
Kimberley: I love that. Thank you. Thank you so much for your time. I’m so grateful.
Kristin: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.
Have a wonderful day and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.
Kristen Neff’s Website
This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 206.
Welcome back, everybody. How are we doing? We are on week 3 of the Self-Compassion Challenge. So welcome if you are new and you haven’t caught up with our Self-Compassion Challenge. We are doing a 30-day Self-Compassion Challenge for everybody, so everyone can dabble in their self-compassion practice, maybe strengthen their self-compassion practice, and hopefully thrive with their self-compassion practice.
Today, we’re going to talk about the roadblocks to self-compassion. Now, this is coming directly from my new book called The Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD. However, even if you don’t have OCD, this will apply to you. I did a poll on Instagram with almost a thousand people who wrote in and polled on the biggest roadblocks that they’re having, and I’ve compiled it. Thankfully, I used it in the book. The cool news is there were so many people who agreed on those top eight roadblocks. So I wanted to share them with you today. We’re going to go through each and every single one.
But before we do that, I would like to first do the “I did a hard thing” segment. Now, for those of you who are new, welcome. The “I did a hard thing” segment is where you write in and you tell me the hard thing that you have done.
Today’s is from anonymous, and they have said:
“I just got on a ship for a daily trip and I forgot to take with me my medication. I don’t use the medication that much, but I do feel safe when I have them with me. This makes me anxious, but I am choosing to manage my anxiety.”
How cool is that? Sometimes things don’t go as we plan, and we have to rely on all of our tools and it sounds like Anonymous is doing that in an amazing way.
All right. I have been doing a review of the week for people who submit a review for the podcast. However, as I’m recording this, the reviews have started to come in for the book and I couldn’t help myself but share the very first review for the book. It made my heart explode. I was taking a walk. My friend called me to tell me there was a review, and I basically burst into tears. So here we go:
“I’ve read a number of books on OCD in the past, but Kimberley’s emphasis on self-compassion and its place in the ERP process is so, so refreshing and so very important. This is a must-read for anyone with OCD or anyone helping a loved one through OCD. It is a beautiful day to do hard things.”
Thank you so much for that amazing review. The reviews literally are changing my life. Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you, when you write a book, there is so much anxiety involved, at least there was for me. And so to have people enjoy the book is just literally the most amazing thing. The most amazing thing. I had no idea. Number one, total massive respect to any author of any kind. Writing a book is very, very hard. And so, I’m just honored to be able to help people in that format as well as this format, and in addition to CBT School and in my practice. What a joy.
All right. Let’s get to the show.
Let’s talk about the Common Roadblocks to Self-Compassion. Now, the first one is related to OCD. Like I said, if you don’t have OCD, stay with me because the rest are really going to maybe resonate with you, but this one is very much hands down, was the number one roadblock people reported who have OCD to have a roadblock with self-compassion.
In the book, we go through each and every one of these in detail, but today I’m just gonna quickly knock each one of them out. So here we go.
Your obsessions do not determine whether you are worthy or deserving of self-compassion. The minute you say that, you’re giving too much importance to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. So the big thing to remember here is, your job is to have these obsessions and not respond to them as if they’re important, and to practice taking care of yourself, whether you have them or not, that this idea that you’re not deserving of them is completely false. In fact, we talk a lot about calculations in the workbook. Some people like we have these weird algebraic calculations where we go, me + obsessions = undeserving, or me + intrusive thoughts = I’m a bad person.
I want you to keep an eye out for these little nuanced calculations that you have in your mind because they are dead wrong. Your thoughts are thoughts. Your feelings are feelings. Your sensations are sensations. You are not disqualified from being treated with respect and kindness because of them.
Now in the book, we use a case study where we talk about this idea of stigma around mental illness. I really want to urge you, as I do in the book, to start to break this belief that there is anything wrong with you for struggling with a mental illness. We have to be the change here. We have to lead by example.
If you have a mental illness and someone has shamed you, or you’ve experienced the stigma of that, your job is to be the change by treating yourself how you would treat anybody else who was struggling with a mental illness. And that would be with kindness and respect and care and nurturing.
You’re not disqualified, again, because you have a mental illness. There is nothing wrong with having a mental us. That doesn’t mean you’re less worthy, less valuable, less successful, less lovable. We have to break through all of those faulty beliefs we have around mental illness because it’s no different to a medical illness.
In my belief, the more you suffer, the more you tend to that suffering with kindness. It’s not like, oh, well, some suffering is okay. We’ll give some of my suffering kindness, but not the ones with mental illness because society has told me that there’s something wrong with that, which is absolutely incorrect.
This is a common one, and I fall into this category as well. Sometimes when we’re anxious, we rush too much, we speed along, we try to push it away, and we don’t stop to go, “Wait, maybe I could be just kind. Maybe I could just be really gentle with myself while I feel anxious. Maybe I could slow down and tend to my anxiety.” Maybe that’s the answer instead of trying to push it away or have it be gone, because that is the answer.
Now, this is a really good definition of what we would call “emotional reasoning.” It goes under the cognitive distortion that, just because I feel it, it must be true.
Now, just because things feel wrong doesn’t actually mean they’re wrong. It’s often because you’ve been taught for many years based on society or your family about what’s right and wrong, and we’ve never stopped to question, is that even true? Because it’s not wrong to practice self-compassion. In fact, it’s effective to practice self-compassion. It’s helpful to practice self-compassion.
We’ve already sort of declared you’re worthy and deserving of practicing self-compassion. So your job is, even though it feels wrong, do it anyway. Do it anyway. It might feel awkward and weird to start with, do it anyway. It might feel bizarre and self-centered, do it anyway. That’s what we want to do.
Whoa, this one is so strong for some people. So many of my patients and clients have told me in the past, “If I don’t beat myself up, I’m going to turn, you know, it’s the only way I get myself to do things.” And I often say, “Okay, maybe that’s true. It might work. You might find that self-punishment and self-criticism does motivate you. But is there possibly a more effective way? Is there possibly another way that you can motivate yourself? And yes, self-compassion can be used as a motivational force. Is there another way you could do it that actually doesn’t create more problems?”
In the book, one of the main concepts I talk about is compassionate responsibility, which is where you honor what your needs are, and sometimes that you do need to get things done.
So you practice motivating yourself using what we call a kind coach voice instead of a critical voice. Both have the same outcome. Both are motivational. One tends to bring you down and the other one tends to cheer you on and make you feel empowered. Let’s choose the latter. Let’s choose the voice that says “You can do it. Keep going. You’ve got this. Keep trying. It’s okay that you fell down. Just one minute at a time, get up and keep trying,” instead of the critical voice and the punishing behaviors and voices.
This goes together with the last one. A lot of people are afraid that if they’re self-compassionate that they’ll just become some sloth that doesn’t do things and lets themselves go. I’m here to say, no. If that’s what happens, that’s not self-compassion anyway.
Self-compassion is doing what you need to live a good life. It’s not letting yourself off the hook all the time. Sometimes it can be to say, “You’ve had a rough day, it’s time to rest.” But a lot of the time it’s saying, “Yeah, you’ve got some hard things to do.”
Let’s be so gentle and so encouraging of you as you do those hard things. The whole phrase “It’s a beautiful day to do hard things” is a self-compassionate statement. You just didn’t know it yet. We didn’t call it that, but that’s what it is.
The thing to remember here is, maybe you want to check your definition of lazy and weak. For me, this has been a huge part of my recovery, especially having a chronic illness and mental struggles. Is taking time off to rest really the definition of weak and lazy? No, it’s just what human beings do. Humans need to rest so that they can restore themselves to go and do amazing hard things. Sometimes we’re taught to believe that you should never rest, and you should never be lazy. And so you don’t give yourself that basic need of restorative rest. So, so important.
Now, this is a big one, particularly for people with anxiety. This comes under the misconception that we must constantly brace ourselves for the worst. We must constantly be hypervigilant and hyper-aware of all the possible dangers. And so we have to constantly be scanning for danger, looking for danger, what’s going on, what could go wrong. We know, number one, that that’s compulsive in nature. It keeps you stuck in anxiety. But it also is a block, a roadblock to your ability to tend to your suffering, tend to the sensations that are uncomfortable, the feelings that bring pain to you.
So an exposure, we want to actually practice not engaging in those hypervigilant behaviors and practice being uncertain on whether you will snap or not, or lose control or not, and just tolerate the uncertainty of that. Sometimes self-compassion is an exposure in and of itself because when you’re practicing self-compassion, you’re not engaging in those compulsive rituals that keep you stuck in that cycle. It’s really, really cool that it can be both an emotionally intelligent behavior, but also be an exposure. It’s like to bang for your buck, I guess.
Now, we’ve had amazing guests on the podcast who have addressed this, but I will address it again. Being self-centered is not the definition of self-compassion. Self-centeredness is this idea that we’re egotistical and everything has to be about me and so forth.
What I have found in my own practice is, the more self-compassionate I am, the more I’m able to tend to other people’s needs and be aware of other people’s struggles and difficulties because I’m connected to my suffering. The more I am aware and meet my suffering, the more I can acknowledge and be in relation with other people when they’re suffering. I can sit with them and go, “Yes, me too.” I can tend to their pain without having to make it about me because I’m there for myself. I don’t need other people to make it about me anymore because I have already tended to my needs. I have unconditionally been there for myself, so I can be there for other people. It’s so, so important.
So that is the top 8. In the workbook, I have room for others. There’s lines where you could add your own and you might find you have your own roadblocks. They are valid too. Identify them and keep an eye on them.
The main work here is once you catch them, and you know they’re happening, you can then move on to dismiss them and correct them and move towards tending to your discomfort, being kind while you ride the waves of uncertainty and anxiety and discomfort. It’s so, so important. It’s so, so important.
Let me go right to the top. You deserve this. YOU. Yes, you. I’m talking directly to you. I’m looking you right in the eye. I’m going to conclude this episode by saying YOU DESERVE SELF-COMPASSION.
You are valuable.
Your pain matters.
You deserve kindness and respect and tenderness in your suffering. Your suffering is important. It’s not irrelevant. It’s not silly. It’s not childish. It’s important. You deserve to tend to that kindly. I’m talking to you right now. I hope you’re listening.
All right, folks sending you so much love. I hope that you’re finding this Self-Compassion Challenge helpful.
Continue to follow on the lives on Instagram. That’s where we’re doing tons of live work. Continue to look at the emails. If you’re not signed up for the newsletter, please do. You can go to cbtschool.com and click on Resources and we can sign you up there. Or you can click on the show notes, we have links there where you can sign up and you will get all the challenges that you need for each day and each week. They’re Monday through Friday, we take the weekends off because that’s the self-compassionate thing to do.
All my love to you. Really go and be gentle. Go and be kind. Go and honor and respect your own experience. It’s so important.
I’ll talk to you soon.
Welcome back, everybody. We are on week 2 of this Self-Compassion Challenge. For those of you who are new to the podcast, or didn’t hear last week’s episode, go back and listen to that. We are on week 2 of a 30-days Self-Compassion Challenge. My whole goal is that you learn how to treat yourself kindly and compassionately as you move through difficult times.
We are doing this to celebrate the launch of my very first book (The Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD), which I am so proud of and so excited about. Thank you to everybody who has purchased the book, supported me on social media, shouted me out to their friends and fellow followers. I cannot tell you how grateful I am. If you have got the book and you’re enjoying the book, please do go and leave a review over on Amazon, share your honest opinion or share your thoughts on social media or with anybody you can, because the more people I can help, the happier. I am.
We are moving on today in this episode onto the second most important part of self-compassion in my mind. Now, this is taken directly from the book, even though the workbook is called The Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD. This is a concept I talk to all my clients about. It’s something I constantly check in with myself about, and it has been probably one of the most important parts of my recovery in mental health in many, many ways. So I am so excited to share this with you.
Before we do that, I do want to go over and share the review of the week. For those of you who are new to the podcast or are old to the podcast, I love your reviews on iTunes. It helps me reach more people. So this week is from Looney Lovey. It says:
“A gift of a podcast. I am so incredibly thankful I found this podcast. I have experienced OCD since I was 10, and this has been one of the most amazing tools. I seriously thank God for leading me to this podcast every day. It is like having a therapist in your pocket. Kimberley is so sweet, and her openness and kindness make the listener feel so welcome.”
Thank you, Loony Lovey.
The next thing I wanted to share is the “I did a hard thing.” Now, let’s take a step back here and really look at self-compassion as really being a hard thing. And so, a lot of you have actually written in and said, self-compassion was one of the hard things that they’ve been practicing. However, this week we have a hard thing from anonymous and they’ve said:
“I have a fear of disease. I recently had two close friends get a diagnosis where this would make me feel fear for myself and my family. I chose to show up for my friends and continue on a daily basis, working on my mental boundaries, not making their illness about me, and my fear is about that stopping me from supporting them. I struggle with feeling everyday body sensations in myself and wonder if I am next. But this is so amazing, this whole ‘I did a hard thing.’”
Anonymous, amazing work. It sounds like you’re really showing up and letting your values make your decisions, not your fear. This is so cool. This is just so cool that you’ve done that. Look at you go. Doesn’t that just show that fear doesn’t win, right? That love and connection and values win every single time. I just love this one so much. Thank you so much for sharing.
I have a ton of submissions, but I will share again very soon where you could put those submissions in if you’re wanting to put your name in. Okay?
All right. Let’s get over to the meat and cheese of the whole episode today.
So we’re talking about a concept. Now, this is not scientifically proven, I have to disclose. This is my conceptualization of one of the main things that get in the way of self-compassion. I’m going to tell you a quick story.
When my son was in kindergarten, the teacher had this system called the clip chart. I want you to imagine the clip chart is just a piece of cardboard, and in the middle of the piece of cardboard, it’s like a long narrow rectangle. In the middle is a peg. And the peg is put right in the middle and there is just a normal neutral face.
Above the peg are these different ladder rungs. There’s a smiley face, there’s “You did well,” then there’s a bigger smiley face. And then at the very top, there’s this huge smiley face saying, “You get a treat.”
Now under the peg is a sad face. And then under the peg is an even sadder face. And then under that sadder face is a really, really sad, but almost mad face. And next to it, it says, “Call your parents.”
This is a ladder system that if a kid isn’t listening, they get clipped down. If a kid is doing really well, they get clipped up. At the top, if they get clipped up enough times, they get a special treat, some toy from the toy box. If they get clipped down enough times, the teacher calls the parents.
This is what we would call a behavioral modification tool to help encourage kids and motivate children, usually five-year-olds, on how to act and how to behave. It’s incredibly efficient. As long as it’s not done in a shaming way, it can be a really motivating way of keeping kids feeling like they’re being motivated in courage. They’ve got something to look forward to. They’re working towards something.
The problem with this is, even if you haven’t got a clip chart and you weren’t given one in kindergarten, our society runs by a metaphorical clip chart. If you act well and you put a smile on your face and you get good grades, you get clipped up. If your body looks a certain way, you get clipped up. If you make a certain amount of money, metaphorically, our society will clip you up as if you’re doing well.
Now, likewise, if you’re struggling, often we clipped down. We do this to ourselves. Not only society, but we also clip ourselves down. “Oh, I didn’t do well in that test. I’m going to clip myself down.” Sad face. “Oh, I’m struggling with my panic today, or my anxiety today. I’m going to clip myself down. I did compulsions today. I’m going to clip myself down.” We use this metaphorical motivation system all the time.
Now within society, we also have this inbuilt view on mental illness. This is also about racism, and there’s so many different levels of the way your body looks, social media followers. Again, like I said, how much money you make. There’s socially so many expectations put on us, that we also buy into that.
Sometimes, because we rely on this metaphorical clip up and clip down system, we use only this system to motivate ourselves, which ultimately means we’re constantly on this checklist of how much we can get done so that we can feel good about ourselves. We’re constantly clipping ourselves up and down as if worth depends on it. And that’s the piece I want you to remember.
We do this, and we make this calculation, that if I’m clipping up, I’m worth more. If I’m doing my homework well, I’m worth more. If I don’t have a mental illness anymore, I’m worth more. This is not true. This is all lies.
This is one of the main points I make in the book, which is, when we’re stuck in a clip chart way of seeing ourselves, our identity, our worth, our value, we’re constantly anxious. We’re constantly afraid of dropping the ball.
One of the most compassionate things we can do is to drop the clip chart system completely, to recognize. This is what I say to my patients all the time. You’re always at the top of the clip chart. Nothing you can do is going to drop your worth down – no mental illness, no body shape, size, color, hair color, short height, tall. None of that changes your worth. None of it. I’m specifically here talking about your mental struggles. You do not get clipped down worth-wise because of all of the struggles you have mentally.
I have had so many patients and clients tell me they don’t deserve self-compassion because they’re struggling so much with this mental illness, because it’s putting their family out. It’s impacting their loved one’s lives because it causes them to do compulsions all night long. And therefore, they deserve to be clipped down. I don’t agree with that respectfully.
Everybody is at the top. You’re having a bad day? You’re still at the top of the clip chart. You’re having a good day? You’re still at the top of the clip chart. Every single day, you deserve a treat, a fun, joyful experience. A pleasure, a reward. You got through the day. Celebrate. You don’t get clipped down. We have to throw out the clip chart system.
Now, does this mean you have to give up trying? Absolutely not. Does that mean that you don’t study for your test and you don’t show up to work and you don’t try to make life better for you? Absolutely not.
You do the things that you value. You do the things that fill up your heart. If you value getting a good grade in school, put in as much effort as you can because you value it, not because you’re on this conditional worth system where you’re just trying to prove that you’re worthy and good.
Don’t do treatment. I talk with my patients, why are you doing ERP? Are you doing it because you want your life back from OCD? Or are you doing it because you feel embarrassed or ashamed for having to do compulsions?
Neither is wrong, but the compassionate thing to do here is to move from a place of values, what matters to you, what makes you feel like it gives you purpose in this life, what keeps you connected to your loved ones – instead of clipping yourself up and down on this worth ladder, because that’s temporary and it’s conditional. We want our self-compassion practice to be unconditional. That’s why we throw out the clip chart. It’s unconditional.
You’re having a hard day? You get self-compassion. You’re having a good day? You get self-compassion. You’re having a day where everything went wrong? You get to have self-compassion. We don’t clip you down because of that. And that is the real important piece I want you to take away.
I want you to think about, if you had a clip chart, what are some of the things you’ve been telling yourself? I want you to write this in your journal, really reflect on this. What are some of the things that you clip yourself down for? What are some of the things you clip yourself up for?
Do you get engaged in this sort of mental worth calculation? “Oh, I’m worthy today because I A, B, and C?” Because that’s not true. You’re worthy whether you did that or not.
Do you beat yourself up because of things you’ve done? That’s you clipping yourself down. You’ve said, “I’ve done something wrong. Therefore, I need to be punished.”
The whole work we’re doing this month is to move towards like we talked about last week, asking yourself, what do I need in this moment of suffering? The clip chart is usually one of the main reasons people don’t give themselves what they need, because they say, “Oh, I did A, B, and C today. Therefore, I don’t deserve it. I clipped myself down.” I have to keep saying to my patients and clients, “No, no, no. You’re at the top. You’re at the top every single day. You deserve kindness and care and compassion and treats and pleasure and joy. But most of all, compassion.”
So that’s the concept of the clip chart. I want you to draw it out. Put the system. What do you have to do in order to be at the top in this metaphorical clip chart? What do you have to do when at the bottom? What bad things do you consider yourself clipped down to the bottom? And really reflect on, is this really kind? Is this a compassionate way for me to treat myself?
If it were up to me, my advice is, put yourself at the top. You get compassion every single day unconditionally. Throw out the clip chart. It works for five-year-olds in a classroom, but it doesn’t work for you in a lifetime. It doesn’t work for you in your life. You deserve more than that. You deserve kindness every day.
So let’s take a minute. Let’s slow it down and just check in, and just sit with this idea that no matter what, no matter what happens today, no matter how you acted or behaved or performed, no matter what grade you got on the test, no matter how you showed up, let’s just reflect and honor that unconditionally, you deserve self-compassion.
If you hear a voice saying, “Yeah, but blah-blah-blah,” whatever the blah-blah-blah is, is where your work is. If it says, “Yeah, but my thoughts are horrendous, therefore I’m disqualified from this,” there is your work. You’re doing too much judgment around your thoughts. If you go, “Yeah, but I did this one bad thing, it’s unforgivable,” I go, “Okay, send your compassion around that. Go hard on that. Because that’s the thing that’s getting in the way of you really tending to your pain and suffering the way that you deserve.”
You might say, “Yeah, but I’ve got too much anxiety. I’m too sick. I’m just too unwell. I’m too messed up. I’m too hopeless. I’m a failure.” We’ll do some work around that. Reflect on that, because that’s the roadblock, which we will be talking about in other episodes to come.
Alright. I love you guys so much. Really take a minute and receive the love I’m sending you right now, the compassion I’m sending you. I hope you’re taking care of yourself. I hope you’re facing your fears. I hope you’re tending to your suffering as best as you can.
It is a beautiful day to do hard things. You knew I was going to say it. So I want you to lean in here. Double down on this practice. You deserve this.
Have a wonderful week, everybody. I love you. Talk to you next week.
Today is the day that my very first book is out in the world for you to get. I could just die of excitement. So, for those of you who don’t know, I spent a large part of 2020 writing my first book. It is called the Self-Compassion Workbook For OCD: Lean into Your Fear, Manage Difficult Emotions and Focus on Recovery. I could cry. I am so excited that it is finally here. It was such a huge project in my life. Now I’m just thrilled to share it with you guys.
Now, what does that mean for you? You can go and purchase the book wherever you buy books. You may order it on Amazon if you don’t have a bookstore near you. But in addition to getting the book, which is literally like, ah, I put my whole soul into this project – what you can do in addition to that is this month, for the month of October, we are going to do a self-compassion challenge.
Now, before you turn the stereo or your iPhone or your iPod off, stay with me because I really strongly believe that this challenge could change your life, whether you have OCD or not. I really want to focus this month on improving your relationship with yourself, improving your relationship with self-compassion, working through the roadblocks that you have. I’m going to be doing a lot of live instruction on Instagram and hopefully on Facebook as well, depending on technology. But if you don’t follow me on Instagram, head over there, if you’re not signed up for the newsletter, head over there, because my goal is to really nurture you through this process and get you having a self-compassion practice that is rich and fulfilling and healing. So, so, so important.
Today, we’re going to kick it off right away. We’re going to talk about the first main point I want you to do. Before we do that, let’s do a couple of important pieces.
So first thing, we’re going to do the “I did a hard thing” segment. This one is from Elle and she has said:
“I sat outside in 92-degree weather to eat my croissant. Even though being in overly hot places makes me anxious, I just wanted to be outside.”
Thank you so much, Elle, for that submission. Really what I hear you saying is you were willing to tolerate heat, which is often a really big trigger for people with anxiety, but you did it because it’s what your soul was asking for, which is a huge piece of what today’s podcast is all about.
Now we’ll move on to the review of the week. This is from Cynthia. She said:
“I’m so excited to share these podcasts with my clients. I was first introduced to Kimberley’s clear and compassionate teaching style when I took ERP School for therapists, which is the CEU course. In the past three weeks since taking the course, I recommended both the course and podcast to my clients. So helpful. Thank you, Kimberley.”
Yay, I’m so happy to hear that, Cynthia. All I have to say, it’s all coming together. I feel like years of hard work of the podcast and courses and the book, and I feel like so many people are getting on board and they’re starting to face their fears and they’re learning these skills and it makes me so overjoyed. So, thank you so much, Cynthia. Thank you, Elle. I’m just feeling such gratitude right now.
Okay. Here we go. We are on Day 1 of the 30-day challenge to self-compassion. Now, I know I’ve done a lot of work on self-compassion before in the podcast. You can go back and listen. I’ve interviewed the most impressive people on self-compassion. You can go back and listen to those episodes. But for today, I want to go straight to the most important piece. We’ll work through some other things later through the month and some roadblocks, but here is the main tool for this week. Are you ready?
I want you to take a couple of breaths. I want you to check in with yourself. You can do this in the form of meditation. If you’re driving, please keep your eyes open on the road. But if not, you may close your eyes and check in with yourself.
Where is the discomfort and the pain in your body? Where is the suffering in your body? Is it in your chest? Is it in your shoulders? Is it in your head? Is it in your heart? Is it in your stomach? Is it in your fingertips? Is it in your legs? Where is the suffering? It could be all over your body, and that’s okay. But just check in on where it’s at.
And then I want you to ask yourself this one question: What do I need right now?
I don’t want you to argue with yourself. I just want you to honor what first comes up. What do I need right now?
Sometimes our instincts are to say, “I want this pain to go away.” But a huge part of self-compassion is honoring what’s really happening. It’s really this truth-telling practice where you have to accept, okay, that’s not an option right now. Otherwise, you would’ve done it, right? You would’ve done the thing to remove the discomfort. If there’s an itch, you probably would’ve scratched it by now.
Often the pains that we feel, the ones that cause us the most suffering are the ones that we can’t simply get rid of the anxiety. We feel the depression, we feel the headaches we have, the stomach aches we experience, the grief, the loss, the anger. All the things, right?
So instead of bargaining with whether it should be there or not, I just want you to radically accept that it’s there and ask yourself: What do I need right now? And often what you need is kindness. Some tenderness around the suffering.
And that might be the thing that you come up with. Before I segue to the next step, it might be to take a deep breath. It might be to slow down. It might be to rest. We’re going to be talking about that throughout the month. It might be to actually give yourself some time to fill up your cup. It might be to set a boundary with somebody. It might be to say NO to something, as long as it’s not something that you’ve previously been doing as a compulsion. We don’t want to use self-compassion as permission just to do more compulsions, but really check in on what do you need right now.
And then, this is the next main piece of the homework for today, what do I need to hear right now? What do I need to hear? What would I love to be told? What would nourish me? If a warm kind loving friend came in the door right now, what would they say to me? What do I need to hear?
Your homework for this week is to say the thing you need to hear, all the time. It might be, “I’m here for you.” It might be, “It makes complete sense that you’re feeling this way.” It might be, “I have your back.” It might be, “I see your pain.” It might be, “Your pain is important.” It might be, “You are enough.” For me, I will tell you the thing I have really had to listen to.
I actually just had a conversation with a dear friend who’s a therapist. I put my hand on my chest and I say, “Dear sweet one, just be with your body and trust that it will hold you and carry you through this moment.”
You’ll hear that some of the statements I’m using, they’re not saying, “We’re going to make everything okay.” They’re saying, “I’ve got you. I’m going to be there for you. Your pain matters. It’s important. It’s valid. There’s nothing wrong with you.” That’s the message I want you to encompass and embrace.
But it’s going to be different depending on the moment. So what I’m going to say here is the advice that I need right now in this moment of suffering is going to be different in an hour. The advice I give myself in an hour, that compassionate check in is going to be different to what I need tomorrow.
And so your homework is ideally, get yourself a journal or a notepad or a Google doc form or notes in your phone, and I want you to do a check in every day, at least once, and write down: What do I need to hear right now? And put in what you need to hear right now. Because what you’ll do is you’ll gather a list of things that you can rely on, sayings and statements you can rely on, at times where you’re so anxious and you can’t even access your compassion itself, or you’re just needing some guidance. These small statements can be a monumental part of your recovery, particularly when you’re totally frazzled and panicked, and you’ve lost all ability to see the rationale. So that’s what I want you to practice.
Your compassion practice, again, isn’t an attempt to remove your discomfort, but to tend to it, to lean into it, to practice being your strongest supporter through your discomfort. I want you to strengthen that voice. It might be very, very, very, very, very shy. It might be very, very timid. It might be very insecure at this time. But with practice, this is a skill that you can learn so that voice in you sounds more like a mama bear, a strong mama bear than it does a timid, uncertain person.
That’s your homework. I want you to check in, I want you to get yourself a journal and I want you to start to document this stuff. Dabble with it. See what works, what doesn’t.
Some of the things that I’ve shared today might help, and some of it might not feel right to you, and that’s totally okay. It’s different for every person. That’s why we ask the question: What do “I” need? Not “What does Kimberly need? What does the neighbor need?” but “What do I need?” Because I matter, and you matter. So, so important.
So, that’s it. That’s your homework. I want you to practice it. Come on back as much as you can to the newsletter, Instagram, social media. I’m going to be doing as much as I can, really trying to double down on people’s self-compassion practice.
You don’t have to have OCD to be a part of this. I’m doing it in celebration of the book. Now that I have it in my hands, you could see me right now, imagine me holding it, like gripping it, like so excited. Now that I have it in my hands, I feel like a light shone on these important practices and I just want you to take them on and have them in your life.
So, there you have it. I’ll meet you back here next week and we will double down on the next piece. And the next piece is my absolute favorite topic, the favorite part of the chapter in the entire book. So I can’t wait to share that with you. Okay?
All right, team. Go and be kind. Check in, strengthen that voice inside you. And I will see you next week for another episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit.
All my love. Don’t forget. You know what I’m going to say? It’s a beautiful day to do hard things. I don’t ever want you to forget that.
Have a wonderful day, everybody.