Self-Compassion: The Antidote for Self-Criticism

therapy for self-criticism san francisco

How we talk to ourselves deeply impacts how we feel and how we care for ourselves.

Is the voice inside your head demeaning, demanding, and relentless? If so, you likely have a harsh Inner Critic.

Our Inner Critic is a composite of messages we received from the world while growing up. While many times these messages were meant to protect us in some way, they can become harmful when they’ve gone unchecked.

Many smart, thoughtful, creative people wrestle with their Inner Critics.

Helping clients recognize their Self-Criticism and build Self-Compassion is at the heart of my work as a therapist.

To give you a sense of the impact of your inner criticism as well as the benefits of learning more compassionate ways of relating to yourself, check out the list below:

Self-Criticism would have you believe you’re never good enough so why bother trying anything new.
Self-Compassion helps you take healthy risks by reminding you that no one’s perfect and even though you feel scared, you have challenged yourself in the past and been okay.

Self-Criticism emphasizes doubt, which erodes confidence and inner trust.
Self-Compassion emphasizes balance, which can promote a fuller, more accurate picture.

Self-Criticism makes you feel inadequate and looks for ways to rub your face in your flaws.
Self-Compassion helps you see yourself as real and deserving of some credit and kindness.

Self-Criticism preaches that its way is the only way to keep you from making a fool out of yourself.
Self-Compassion reminds you that it’s okay to be a work in progress.

Self-Criticism narrows and shrinks.
Self-Compassion opens and expands.

Self-Criticism believes that bullying is the only way for you to learn from your mistakes.
Self-Compassion knows that making mistakes is a part of being human, and that learning from mistakes usually happens best when you are free to understand what didn’t go to plan, as opposed to when you’re distracted by being criticized.

Self-Criticism says you deserve to suffer.
Self-Compassion says you deserve forgiveness.

Self-Criticism yields stress and spiraling.
Self-Compassion brings groundedness and centering.

Self-Criticism insists on punishment and destruction.
Self-Compassion advocates for clarity, perspective, and right responsibility.

Self-Criticism isolates you.
Self-Compassion connects you to the world through shared humanity.

Self-Criticism is being hard on yourself.
Self-Compassion is being here for yourself.

Self-Criticism has become automatic. You can be critical to yourself without even thinking about it.
Self-Compassion is brave; it’s unchartered territory. It may feel unfamiliar at first, but with practice, it will come with more ease.

If you can’t seem to get away from self-judgment, therapy can help.

If you’re interested in learning more compassionate ways of being with yourself, contact me at I love helping people create these types of transformative shifts.

Photo by Guillaume Lorain on Unsplash 

Getting Out of the Stuck Places: How Therapy Helped Me

getting unstuck in therapy san francisco 

I moved to San Francisco from the east coast in my mid-twenties with one suitcase and the vague hope of "finding myself".

Even though I didn't remember packing it, all of my "stuff" seemed to follow me. For me, this "stuff" included pervasive anxiety, chronic depression, and heaps upon heaps of self-doubt. I'd been cycling through fear, shame, and numbness, and I felt very alone and unsure of how to proceed.

I had a fantasy that my new locale would give me a clean slate from all of these uncomfortable-to-feel feelings. While I dabbled in denial and avoidance, it didn't take long for me to realize that my "stuff" wasn't so easy to shake, and I couldn't just go on about my life pretending it wasn't impacting me.  Finally, I sought out support in the form of therapy, and it made a huge difference for me.

It felt so good to be real about what was going on for me- how tough it was for me to move toward the future I wanted when I didn't know what I wanted it to be or how to get there.

Therapy helped me take a good look at the ways that I was getting in my own way. Gaining more awareness about the parts of me that felt terrified to move forward helped me to begin to see a bigger picture of myself and helped me to find compassion for the “stuck” feeling I had previously only felt loathing for.

Learning that my insecurities weren’t who I am, but rather old beliefs I’d been lugging around, helped me to more thoroughly “unpack” and make space for new ideas about myself, ones that were more updated, congruent, hopeful, and true.

So, how about you? What have you been toting around with you for a while? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and sift through your “stuff”? What do you imagine you could gain?

If you’re feeling nervous about what you might discover along the way or how to go about dipping your toe into the pool of self-exploration, I get it. I have been there myself. I’d be happy to venture with you and support you in getting unstuck. Please feel free to reach out to me at

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Making Friends When You're Shy

how to make friends when you're shy san francisco

Making friends can be a challenge regardless of your temperament. It requires finding people you connect with and building a trusting and mutually supportive relationship. It can be vulnerable and bring up insecurities. Shyness can make it extra scary to reach out because of the fear of humiliation or rejection. These fears can range from mildly uncomfortable to quite extreme. Sometimes it can feel easier to avoid trying to make friends all together.

Keeping to ourselves is one way we try to protect ourselves from the pain of being disappointed. Through isolating, we try to keep ourselves safe by removing the possibility of being let down.

But, what about the parts of us that do want to connect? What about the parts of us that would like to have meaningful conversations with people who get us? Friendships can be deeply nurturing, a lot of fun, and an important resource when we’re going through difficult times. Having solid people in our life can help us feel more grounded and confident. Having pals to run ideas by, share experiences with, and relate to can enrich our overall wellness.


Some Things to Keep in Mind

If you find that you clam up in big groups, it’s totally okay to keep your friend circle smaller, or to have multiple friends, but see them in small groups or one-on-one. You don’t have to be constantly surrounded by people if you don’t want to. You can determine your interpersonal sweet spot through trial and error. What’s too much or too little social interaction for you, and how can you tell and make appropriate adjustments? Your life doesn’t have to look like a sitcom. You don’t always have to be around a collection of people if it leaves you feeling drained. Enjoying a walk in the park with one good pal can feel really refreshing. Figure out what works best for you, including how many friends you can and want to keep up with.


Not Everyone Needs or Wants the Same Things Out of Their Friendships

This means that you don’t need to “force” a friendship. If something doesn’t feel right, you’ve tried to address it, and it’s still off, it makes sense to seek out friendships that feel more supportive and aligned. If you want to connect on a deep personal level, and a person you’re getting to know doesn’t want the same, it’s okay to seek out closeness with another person. Maybe you do really like the person who tends to stay a bit more on the surface, but mostly as someone to do outdoorsy stuff with as opposed to have rich philosophical discussions with. It’s totally fine if some of your friendships feel more deep and intimate than others in different ways. Consider what you’re getting out of your hangouts in light of what you’re contributing to them. If the proportion of giving or receiving support feels unbalanced, it’s good to have a conversation where you ask for what you need. It’s important to show up because you want to, not because you feel obligated or don’t know how to say no.


How To Go About Making New Friends

There are practical pieces to creating a network of social support. If you want friends, how to find them might feel like a mystery. Think about what you’ve already tried and where you feel you’re getting stuck. Is your shyness getting in the way of approaching someone in one of your classes and asking if they want to plan a time to get together to study? Are you able to reach out, but you find yourself unsure of what to say when you’re around folks that could turn into friends? What ways are you psyching yourself out? What do you need to take a risk and strike up a conversation with that person you always see at the cafe reading graphic novels?

Shared interests can be a great place to start in finding your people. Meet-up groups, online forums, and other events around a specific topic that you care about could all provide an opportunity for connecting with people. A common interest could be a favorite artist, a social issue that reflects your values, or a new skill you’d like to learn. Friendships aren’t all about sameness, but it’s a good starting point. Ongoing classes, groups, or volunteer opportunities can be especially helpful because they give you time to sit back and observe for a while without the pressure of “now or never” that you may feel at a one-time event. If you’re not sure where to start, you could make a list of hobbies you’re interested in and search for opportunities (such as an acting class, a cooking course, or a book club, just to name a few).


Be Aware That Tough Experiences Aren’t Proof That You Should Give Up

Sometimes when things don’t work out, we can find ourselves thinking, “I knew it. No one likes hanging out with me. I’m a total loser. I shouldn’t have even tried”. This is a way that a critical part of us tries to keep us small so that we won’t have to feel as much discomfort. It’s a noble effort by that part, but, here’s the thing that it doesn’t realize: it’s totally okay to experience discomfort! It’s a part of life to sometimes feel awkward. It’s very natural to have a full range of emotions. And, something else the critical part of us doesn’t totally get is that we can handle it. We can tolerate disappointment. We can ride the wave of anxiety. We can feel bummed out and still be okay. We don’t need the extreme level of protection from feelings of pain that our inner critic thinks we do. We have encountered adversity before and gotten through it. We are capable and resilient.

Feeling a sense of belonging is important and having people in our life who know and care about us can have a number of benefits.

If making friends as a shy person is feeling tricky, know that you’re not alone.
For further support, you are welcome to get in touch with me at
I offer individual therapeutic services for adults and teens as well as Shy Club, an in-person 8-week small group for teens and young adults that meets in my Downtown San Francisco office.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Ms. Salo.

The Weather Within

feelings and moods san francisco 

One of my favorite teachers in grad school started each class with an exercise where she asked us to notice the weather outside- be it sunny, blustery, or overcast. She then guided us in shifting our focus to our internal landscape by asking us what the weather was like inside. She helped us get in touch with and track our inner experience. Did it feel calm? Foggy? Was there a storm brewing?

Each time the class met, I noticed something different- some days, I felt warm and bright, while other days, I felt more heavy and ominous. Staying with my experience in the moment, I would notice more and more- subtle currents, textures of temperature I hadn't been aware of before, sharp turns from one forecast to another, more and more layers and nuance.

What I took from this was that just as our external environment changes and evolves, our personal process is always dynamic and fluid.

Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, writes, "You are the sky. Everything else- it's just the weather".

In this way, we are bigger than our thoughts and feelings. We have moods, but we are not those moods at our core, even though it may feel that way sometimes.

It doesn't mean we ignore the weather. Just as on a rainy day, we may equip ourselves with a raincoat, water-resistant boots, or an umbrella, we can also make accommodations for ourselves on days that we're feeling emotionally stormy or soggy. For example, bringing around a comforting object, such as a smooth stone or an inspiring quote we jotted down on a napkin, wearing soft socks or a favorite scarf, and toting a pouch of tissues could be ways that we care for ourselves in the event of showers.

Sometimes weather changes come out of nowhere. Despite any discernible warning signs, sometimes a downpour catches us completely off guard. Or, the sun finally breaks through weeks of gray skies.

Weather- outer or inner- is not always predictable or convenient. It ebbs and flows, rains and shines. Movement is natural; change is inevitable. Feelings drift away and return. We can't push weather away, nor can we will it to stay. We can be in the present moment and track our experience.

Surrendering to what we cannot change can help decrease our suffering.

Whatever the weather, becoming a keen observer can help us show up for ourselves in important ways.

The goal is not to remove or prevent certain types of weather or feelings. It's to acknowledge those experiences and set ourselves up so that we can brave the storm.

Bringing attention to the subtle cues your body, brain, or heart sends is one way to stay present for yourself and gain a greater sense of what you are needing at any given time. What ways do you check in with yourself? What is the weather like inside for you right now?