It’s 3:00 AM and I am still wide awake. Exhausted, yes … But wide awake. Despite the desperate plea of my aching, tired body, my mind refuses to shut off. In fact, it won’t even slow down. Spinning in thought spirals, predictable patterns emerge … What I said was embarrassing … The way I handled that situation was wrong … I am so incompetent … I don’t deserve any of what I have … I can’t believe how stupid I actually am … I can’t believe how out-of-shape I’ve become …
Like dominoes, one of these thoughts falls forward toppling down the next, and the next, each landing upon the fury of my mind with a relentless thud. The last shred of energy I muster goes towards convincing myself that even if they are true, these thoughts are pointless nonetheless. I certainly can’t change myself, my life, or anything else in the middle of the night. But it’s futile, because I’ve already started down the dark tunnel of self-criticism. And once, I’m there, there’s no turning back.
Whoa. Sorry, that was dark. & I definitely don’t like to start off my blog posts that way. But alas this blog isn’t just about the ‘Silver Linings,’ it’s about the ‘Storms’ too.
To begin, I want to say that the scenario I described above is something I used to experience A LOT. Like … A LOT, A LOT. Fortunately, as I’ve worked on my anxiety in the past few years, these uncontrollable thought spirals have definitely slowed down and are now few and far between. That means, my sleep for the most part is uninterrupted. But, that doesn’t mean my journey with self-criticism has ended. Instead, it’s just chosen to exhibit itself in a very different way.
With that in mind, here are the top 3 ways in which my battle with self-criticism appears, and the top 3 ways I’ve learned to handle it.
1. When I Make A Mistake
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like to let myself be human. In fact, I can’t think of anything I despise more. If I make a mistake at work, if I burn our dinner, or even if I forget my re-usable grocery bags when I go shopping, I really take it to heart.
For some inexplicable reason, I hate that I’m not infallible. In my ideal world, I would do every single thing right literally all of the time.
But I don’t live in my ideal world, and therefore I do make mistakes. In fact, I make a heck of a lot of them. And when I do, I often find myself with a knot in my stomach for hours afterward, dwelling on what I did wrong, overwhelmed with guilt, embarrassment, and shame.
How I’m Learning To Handle It
First and foremost, I have learned that there is immense value in finding someone to confide in. For me, I often speak to Mac and tell him exactly how I’m feeling (for example: shameful), and why (for example: I said ‘good morning’ in an afternoon email). When I say it out loud, it quickly begins to feel better. Vocalizing my thoughts makes me realize that they may not be the end of the world after all.
Next, I ask myself: “If a friend had made this mistake, would I be judging them?” Chances are, the answer will be ‘No.’ If that’s the case (which it pretty much always is), I do my very best to use that to put my mind at ease.
2. When I Compare Myself To Others
This one is probably something the vast majority of human beings in the 21st century can relate to, because (duh) social media. For the most part, I have what I’d consider to be a healthy amount of self-love and confidence. It’s not something I struggle with hugely at this point in my life.
That is, until I find myself giving my thumb a two-hour work-out scrolling on Instagram. There are so many women on there who are skinnier, prettier, richer, and a million other things ‘more’ than me. For some unknown reason, there are times when I really let this habit of comparison get to me. This is not healthy.
How I’m Learning To Handle It
My own Instagram Feed is full of my favourite moments and highlights of my life. I choose not to share my unfiltered moments of darkness, because I want to my social media to be a platform of positivity. I do my very best to remember that the same applies for most people online. While their feed may be perfectly curated, there is no doubt that their life is not. Remembering this, and making an intentional choice to limit my social media when I start to get down on myself has proven to be the best plan of action when these thoughts strike.
3. When I Place (Too) High Expectations On Myself
I was raised in a household where our parents had extremely high standards for us. I’m incredibly grateful for that because I believe it paid off. We had rules and standards, and for the most part we truly did live up those.
Now, as an adult however, I sometimes find myself insisting upon similarly high standards for myself. What’s different now though, is that sometimes the standards I set are completely unrealistic. I often have the habit of expecting myself to be everything to everyone at all times.
Friends … If you find yourself doing this let me tell you right now … Unless you are Wonder Woman, this is not going to end well. We cannot be all of the things to all of our people. It’s simply not possible. And by expecting myself to be this way, I’ve found myself falling into the trap of self-criticism time and time again.
How I’m Learning To Handle It
I’ve learned that seeking validation from others to feel good about myself is not a fruitful approach. Validation from others will always be inconsistent and unreliable. Likewise, validation from myself is not necessarily a guarantee either. I am a human, who like everyone else is inconsistent. So setting the expectation that I will please everyone (even myself) on a daily basis is completely silly.
Instead, I’ve chosen to take time to meditate and pray on this. I am working on finding peace with who I am, as I am. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t continue to work on improving myself every single day. But I do this from a place of self-love, not from a place of self-hate, and it feels a heck of a lot better that way.
This is a simple mindset shift that is leading me towards so much more inner peace than I’ve ever had before. I hope that if you use it, it brings you the same!
My friends, I hope this piece has spoken to you. Self-Criticism is an uphill battle, but it also something I know I’m not dealing with alone. If you’ve faced similar obstacles, please share what’s helped you! I’d love to hear your thoughts. The support of community is what makes life so much better done together.