I am my own worse critic. When I mess something up, I rerun the tape in my head over and over and over, reviewing what I should have done differently. How should I have behaved differently, how should I have planned differently, how I should have thought differently.
Does this sound familiar to you?
For most of us self-criticism started out as a way to learn to do things correctly. There’s nothing wrong with determining how to be better at some skill or how better to handle a situation.Typically, the more we practice something, the easier it becomes and we enjoy doing it more (think of skiing or playing an instrument). However, constant internal self-criticism is often driven by fear, a need for perfection, or a feeling of guilt about not doing what “should” be done. And “should” usually means meeting other people’s expectations not our own truth.
Physically, this type of criticism leads to stress, which cascades into constant anxiety, which pools into a weakened immune system, overworked adrenals and low-grade depression.
Take a moment and reflect on it. If another person constantly criticizes you, you can avoid them. If a given place always stresses you out, you can just not go there. But you can’t get away from your own mind, that critical voice in your head.
So how do we quiet that voice? We address those fears, those beliefs that cause us to believe that such self-criticism is unavoidable. Instead of beating up on ourselves, we create a habit of forgiving ourselves. We start accepting who we really are, not punish ourselves for not being what we think other people want us to be.
Think about it, would you criticize someone for not being able to play the piano knowing they had never taken a music lesson? Of course not, because you would recognize that they don’t posses the required talent and skill. So why can’t you recognize and accept your own limitations? I am a highly impatient person, always have been. I have a hardwired fear that stagnation or indecision will appear to others as weakness or stupidity. So I work on having more patience and physically slowing down. But I also forgive myself (several times a day) when this core character trait flairs up. I don’t allow myself to stress over who I am.
If you think, “I should be a better mom”, maybe you’re already the best mom you can be. More criticism and stressful effort on your part may not bring significant improvement to that skill set. So see that truth and accept it.
If you think, “I should be more financially astute,” maybe not. Some people find it hard to form good financial habits. I could never save a dime but smartly married into financial discipline. That’s the best I could do with that trait. Accept it, release the internal criticism and be comfortable with yourself.
Ask yourself the question, “In what part of my life do I keep thinking I need to be “better,” and then ask yourself, “Truthfully, am I already the best I can be?” Maybe the answer is “Yes.” And that’s all right.
The nuts and bolts of building the habit of self-forgiveness takes a little time and effort. My experience shows we can shut off the critic by embracing our limitations, recognizing we’re already connected to the Infinite Source (what more could we need?), and realizing we can’t control other’s expectations of us.
Meditation helps build the foundation for this radical change in our lives. To learn how to enter the world of self-forgiving acceptance join me at the Sanctuary on March 21st, from 11 to 1pm for my Self-forgiveness – Be Comfortable Being You workshop. It will be the best $25 you’ve spent this year!
~Joe Cachey 2015