Dilute Depression with Self-Compassion

# perfectly Imperfect

By: Erin McGinn

You are a worthless garbage human being. You’re not good enough. You’ll never be enough. Why would anyone want to be around you? 

Are these thoughts familiar to you? Maybe a few of these thoughts passed through while in a dark haze of negativity. Stop bullying yourself

If anyone had said that to your sibling or your best friend, you would have railed against them. Why would you say these things about yourself? The way we speak to ourselves can make us feel better or worse. Reducing the amount we bully ourselves with harsh words and increasing our self-compassion can ease depression.

What Self-Compassion Means

Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness you would extend to your loved ones and realizing that you, like everyone else, make mistakes. 

When depressed, people often criticize themselves, feel guilty, worthless, and/or dislike themselves. Clinically depressed people are significantly less self-compassionate than never-depressed people (Krieger et al. 2013). However, bullying yourself can make a severe depression day worse. Acknowledging that you are trying your best even when you can only roll out of bed may give you more motivation to do basic things in the day. 

Does this sound like fluffy nonsense?

A “common reason people are not more self-compassionate is because they believe it will encourage self-indulgence” (Neff & Knox, 2017). But people who are self-compassionate work more on mastery goals and tend to try again when they fail (Neff & Knox, 2017). Plus, people with low self-compassion display more avoidance behaviors and rumination (Krieger et al. 2013). Avoidance can lower productivity. If you appreciate your strengths, it makes it easier for you to motivate yourself to get help and cultivate a favorable present. 

If you find you’re berating and insulting yourself often, “self-compassion can be taught to individuals to help them cope with negative emotional experiences in an emotionally productive manner” (Neff & Knox, 2017). These exercises below will help you pause, take a deep breath, and redirect those thoughts into something helpful.

Step 1: Write Rants

Take a half hour and write all your thoughts in a stream of conscious style journaling session. Look through these thoughts to see which ones have a negative tint and circle them. Do this exercise multiple days of the week to get a more accurate picture of which ones are negative.

Step 2: Find Common Insults

Go through journal entries and find the negative statements that have similar sentiments. Construct categories of these and give each of them a name. 

For example: There is a phrase in one journal entry that says, “My sibling is better than me” and a phrase in another that says “my student loans make me worth a negative amount of money,” you can group them together into one category called worthless-narrative.

Next, pay attention to these types of thoughts when they crop up in your brain. Label them with the fitting category name and just remind yourself that you don’t have to believe what your inner bully says. If it helps, you can also try writing rebuttals.

Step 3: Build Distance 

Take each category of insulting thought, for example, “I am a bad person” and write a filtering statement around it. For example, “Sometimes I think I am a bad person” (Thought Defusion Cognitive Distancing Techniques, n.d.). This creates a distance between you and the insult. 

Step 4: Peak at the Positives

Once a week, in your journal, list things you like about yourself. The first time it may feel like pulling teeth. But you must list at least three things. The more you do it, the longer your list will grow. This helps build up your confidence.

Step 5: A Different Way to Motivate

If you use harsh language to critique and motivate yourself, this exercise is for you. 

When you find yourself thinking “you’re so lazy” because you are procrastinating on work or chores, take a second to stop. Feel the pain of the name calling, then give yourself encouragement instead (Neff, 2015). In this example, you can rephrase it, “I know the couch is comfy but sitting here is rather unproductive. Working is a good way to get to your long-term goals.” 

Write these rephrased motivators in your journal or on post-its around your house for quick reference on bad days. 

Step 6: Practice

The more you can notice these needlessly cruel thoughts pop into your head, the more opportunities you have to be self-compassionate. You are trying your best. If these exercises aren’t working for you, you can find a few more using the second and fourth links below. For more tidbits on mental health and group journaling sessions, check out The Love Story. Through shadow work and journaling your inner thoughts, The Love Story can help you work with the darker side of yourself to become a healthier, more complete person. Learn more about shadow work using the Producer’s Playbook.

You will be with yourself for the rest of your life. Have self-compassion for the parts of yourself you don’t like and acknowledge the parts you do like. Then living with yourself will get easier.

Begin Journaling Here


Krieger, T., Altenstein, D., Baettig, I., Doerig, N., & Holtforth, M. G. (2013, September). Self-Compassion in Depression: Associations With Depressive Symptoms, Rumination, and Avoidance in Depressed Outpatients. Behavior Therapy, 44(3), 501–513. Science Direct. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2013.04.004 

Neff, K. (2015, February 23). Exercise 7: Identifying what we really want. Self-Compassion. https://self-compassion.org/exercise-7-identifying-really-want/ 

Neff, K. D., & Knox, M. C. (2017, April 1). Self-Compassion. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 1–8. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1159-1 

Thought Defusion cognitive distancing techniques. (2023). Therapist Aid. https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/thought-defusion-techniques

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