Birthday gift to myself is a secret Fairy Godmother.

By the time you read this I'm going to be on an island with generator power and no internet, so it's occurred to me I can write any old thing and won't have to read the comments.

Actually I was going to start by apologising for the inferior quality of this column as I'm writing this at 4am before going off the grid but I've decided since it's my birthday tomorrow, things are going to change. First up, I'm going to stop saying "sorry" all the time. And, most importantly, I'm going to stop torturing myself. A while ago my therapist asked me to sit in a different chair and talk out loud in the voice in my head.

That was easy: "You're so hopeless. You're so needy. You're pathetic. You failed again. You could have tried harder. You let everyone down. Everything bad that has happened to you is your own fault. No wonder you always get rejected ..." Also, I have fat knees and no hand-to-eye co-ordination and I'm useless at most things that bring you material success in the world, but you get the point.

Therapists are trained to look a bit blank like Jennifer Melfi in The Sopranos, but my therapist actually sounded shocked. She made me stop because I was too vicious. Then she asked me to talk in my kind, supportive inner voice. But when I tried to do that, I couldn't say anything. Not one word. Being mean is how I've talked to myself ever since I can remember.


The thing is, maybe it's not too late. Even though I'm about to be 48, I've decided I don't want to be like this anymore. I have my young daughter to think of. I don't want her to grow up and feel shame like I did. I don't talk to her harshly - it's easy to be compassionate to other people but be Cruella de Vil to oneself - but she will model her behaviour on how I treat myself. Which is not kind. It is hard to cultivate a kind inner voice. I have a picture in my mind of her: she's a clever old eccentric English woman, a bit like Jennifer or Clarissa from Two Fat Ladies, a bit Doris Lessing, a bit Iris Murdoch, a bit Britain during the Blitz. She is matter-of-fact, no sentimentality, but forgiving, gentle and kind. But even conjuring her up vividly - she is drinking a cup of Earl Grey - is not enough. Trust me, if you've spent years feeling shame about never measuring up to your (impossible) standards, it is not simply a matter of deciding to practise self-compassion instead.

Instead of yoga, my breakthrough was understanding why I was like this, and being able as a result to shop shaming and blaming myself for being this way. Also, boringly, I had to stop practising "dirty behaviour", acting out, being an arsehole, trying to escape feeling these cruddy feelings, because otherwise I felt shitty about myself, and then I felt shitty about the things I had done to try to avoid feeling the first shitty feelings. (Stopping drinking helped.) But it's a work in progress.

As the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit, it is painful becoming real and it takes a long time. There is still the victim me, drippy and saying sorry all the time, and the tyrannical me, who persecutes her. It's like I am Cinderella and the Ugly Stepmother all in one. I am giving myself an inner Fairy Godmother for my birthday. Nevertheless, I almost apologised yet again for the cringe-worthy, earnest, self-obsessed tone of this column.

But then I remembered Carl Gustav Jung: "Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." Wake up.