Work Stress and Self-Compassion

Taking stock of critique and channeling wisely

Posted Mar 07, 2014

My client Marie spent much of the weekend crying. She is having problems with her boss. A top performer at the same company for many years, she now reports to a new hard-edged person who dislikes her, or so it would seem. The mismatch is making life miserable for Marie. In her last evaluation, she just met expectations, when for ten years before that, she had surpassed. Marie felt that the set goals had been unrealistic for the time frame. This assessment felt degrading.

Critique can be hard to take.

If you were passed over as a child, you could readily feel put down and not stand up for your self. Do an Evidence Log as suggested by CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) expert Dr. Amy Wenzel at the Beck Institute to objectify your accomplishments. Seeing yourself for who your really are, have become and what you have done will help you feel more deserving and give you inner courage.


Perhaps you feel quite knowing inside and speak freely. This can provoke ire, thus punishing responses in people above. We need a healthy level of entitlement—not too little, not too much—just as we need a healthy level of anxiety.

I once had a client who was fired from a job he loved and was good at because he felt the need to correct his boss and could not control the impulse. There are ways to defer to higher ups while still feeling strong and autonomous. Express insights perhaps posed as questions so as not to put yourself at risk. Choosing when and where to channel your energies is a form of self-mastery and therefore empowering.

Yesterday I was taking the train to jury duty in lower Manhattan. Two women got on and sat in the seats next to me. One said, “My boss is psychotic.”

I apologized for eavesdropping on the conversation but told her I was writing a blog about this and would she tell me how she dealt with the situation.

She smiled, thought for a minute and said, “I told her you are my manager but God is my boss.”

Her friend added, “Just ignore. Let them feel superior but I know they are not superior. It’s that and the bills.”

Take stock before getting swept up into an intense reactivity either inside your mind or through your behavior with others. This is a form of self-compassion.