Many dysregulated eaters fear not only their self-judgments but, worse, they dread others condemning and belittling them for what they say and do. Do you know what the best protection—no, make that the only protection—is from others’ judgments? It’s having self-compassion for ourselves no matter what.

Think of self-compassion as a soft but tough, tear-proof protective armor surrounding you. People may hurl slings and arrows at you, but with it you walk around unafraid, unfazed, and unharmed. You don’t judge others for judging you nor do you judge yourself for your mistakes or what others think are your frailties or failures. In a perpetual state of safety and security, no judgments can touch you. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to live? Here’s an example of how to use self-compassion.

Say that while visiting, one of your parents makes a comment about how your house could be cleaner, demanding to know what you do with your time. He or she is clearly judging you. Maybe you’re wildly busy with work and taking care of the kids and find neatening up to your parent’s high standards beyond your capacity or desire. Or maybe you’re depressed and think it’s amazing that you can drag yourself off to work every day, never mind keep your home in tiptop shape.

You could view your parent’s comment as a criticism and berate yourself for not living up to his or her expectations or, perhaps, even to your own, or feel badly that you just can’t seem to do anything right. Alternately, you could be kind to yourself and recognize that you have a only certain number of hours in a day and so much energy and you’d rather spend the post-work energy you are able to muster having fun with the kids. If you’ve been too depressed to clean, you could show yourself compassion with the reminder that you do better completing chores when your mood isn’t so low. Or you could tell yourself that not having the neatest place on the block doesn’t make you a bad person and be put off that your parent would be so critical of you knowing you’re going through a rough patch.

Self-compassion is your best defense against judgments which people often make unthinkingly and which generally say more about them than about you. Self-compassion doesn’t preclude your being unhappy with what you’ve said or done or wanting to do better. Most assuredly not. You can still strive to improve, not because you believe you’re bad, but because of the kind of person you aspire to be.