Isn’t it amazing how a week can unfold? As I was mulling around the different topics for this blog post, two different moments of enlightenment sealed my decision to address the issue of self-criticism. The order of the two instances also reaffirmed my decision to examine why we’re so hard on ourselves.
The first experience was with my daughter. We were out for breakfast with her Nana, enjoying some girl time together. Afterward, we were heading out to shop so Nana could buy Sophia her birthday present. My daughter is going to be thirteen years old next week – oh, Lord help me! A few weeks before this outing I sat Sophia down and explained to her that due to my current financial situation she would be receiving her present from my side of the family after her birthday. I thought she understood the serious nature of our conversation.
Well, as we were enjoying our eggs and waffles, and pancakes with Nana, Sophia asks if I have any money on me. I replied, “yes.” She then proceeds to prod me about buying her present for her that day. Abruptly, and in an agitated tone I blurt out to her, “you just don’t get it, do you?” My anguish quickly turned to crying, and I left the restaurant to go to the car and compose myself. Sophia promptly followed and apologized profusely. She knew she’d pressed her luck, and suddenly realized the brevity of the conversation we had weeks ago. We hugged, forgave, and ventured out on a wonderful shopping excursion with Nana.
Later that day I unleashed a brief mental assault on myself. I sat in my bedroom and let my mind unravel such thoughts like I was a failure, I wasn’t good enough, I was a horrible mother. I allowed a woe-is-me breakdown to engulf me, and then as quickly as I let those thoughts consume my psyche I evicted them. I’m not ashamed of the course of events that has resulted in being the most cash-strapped I’ve ever been. I harness loads of pride from my journey, am enjoying some freedom, and exploring new ventures in my present, and see a bright future on the horizon.
The next morning I sat Sophia down again and communicated with her about my feelings and asked her if she fully understood why our situation was what it is. I asked her if I needed to explain things better and invited her to ask questions. Sophia has a great life and pretty much gets what she wants when she wants it. She’s traveled to many countries, engages in extra-curricular activities, has lots of friends and a huge blended family that doats on her. I reminded her of all of these things and asked her to be grateful for what she has. This was undoubtedly a teaching-learning opportunity for both of us.
The next day, I received a message from a friend of mine. It contained a video, and her note to me read, “this reminds me of you. You have the ability to inspire people…even when you’re going through hard times. Please always know that you’re inspirational…keep being you! I love you! Miss you!” She must have been channeling my vibes. Clearly, I needed a boost, and her message provided just that.
I proceeded to play the video of a woman (who resembled me) chatting with other women about how they viewed themselves. From what I could gather, she was a life coach, and the women she was conversing with were her clients. The exercise was to try and uncover why we’re so cruel to ourselves (especially women), and why we’re so nonchalant about criticizing ourselves using words and thoughts, we would never think of imparting on anyone else. The views her clients expressed about themselves ranged from feeling like an inadequate mother or wife; feeling like a failure because the weight gain wasn’t shedding. One woman categorized herself as an exaggerating, selfish-liar who wasn’t a good person, another woman called herself lazy because she didn’t keep up with the cleanliness of her home all the time. These were harsh criticisms.
As the life coach neared the end of her conversations, she handed the women a picture of a young girl and asked them to say how they were feeling about themselves to the girl pictured. Each woman was holding a photo of herself as a child. I’m sure you can deduce that the women couldn’t bring themselves to do this. In fact, they got emotional at the thought of doing so. The next question the coach asked was, “what would you say to this little girl?” Answers included:
- You’re enough
- You’re worthy of the life you want and your opinions matter
- Don’t change who you are for people to like you
- You can do it. You’re a good girl
We all have an inner child to protect. That child holds our innocence, our dreams, our hope, and compassionate heart. When we beat ourselves up or put ourselves down, we’re damaging our current and young being, and potentially harming our future self.
So how do we stop with the self-smackdowns?
- The first step is acquiring an awareness that you’re sabotaging yourself. Can you recognize it in you, and own it? Once you can harness your thoughts, you can begin to reshape them.
- Once you’re aware of your own thoughts, you need to become mindful of how the people around you think of you. If there are people in your circle who think poorly of you, then you need to protect yourself from their negativity. Don’t let other people’s criticisms of you infiltrate your mind and give them validation. You may have to change your people and your environments to do this.
- Eat, sleep, and breathe positivity. Write down how epic you are and all the remarkable ways you’re going to live your life. Write a lot, and then read your words over and over again until they sink in and you believe it. Develop affirmations and say them out loud – every day – and then sit with your words and let them take you over. To break free from self-criticism you have to shift your thoughts from negative to positive.
- Start and end your day with something you’re grateful for, and make sure it’s something different every time. Journal your gratitude so you can remind yourself of how fabulous your life is.
- Visualize your self-love. Create a vision or Pinterest board to continually refer to on the road to internal lovey-dovey-living!
- Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31 NIV). Give and be gracious.
- Celebrate your uniqueness! We’re all different for a reason. Our differences are what make our world so awesome. Flaunt your individuality!
- Spoil yourself! You deserve it – whatever it may be. If it’s to have five minutes of alone time, take it. If it’s going on a weekend trip by yourself, go. If it’s locking yourself in your room to read a book, do it!
- Live in the present moment. Don’t go backward or propel forward. Peace out exactly where you are right now!
- Be gentle with yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Acknowledge you’re doing the best you can and move at your own pace. Do it gently!
I just finished reading You are a Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero. I highly recommend it. Her entire message and practice are all about loving yourself fierce! I’m going to end with an excerpt from her book:
“Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities.”
With all the love in my heart! XOXO