It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes. – Sally Field
Do you judge yourself more harshly than you’d judge anyone else in the world? I know I often do. I’ll be highly self-critical, mentally “saying” things to myself which I’d never say to a friend.
Perhaps this is a habit we, sadly, learn in childhood. We’re criticized over-harshly by an adult in our lives, or we’re teased and bullied in the playground.
I’m sure that’s part of it for some of us. But it may also just be the way our minds work. Perhaps it’s a good force gone too far – the urge to improve ourselves and strive to do better, taken to extremes.
I’m taking Pace and Kyeli’s email course 52 Weeks to Awesome at the moment, and their second mission asked me to tell myself:
- Say out loud, “I accept myself in all ways, just as I am right now,” and mean it.
I found that incredibly hard. I found that I didn’t believe it. Yet, I’m sure I’d have said it to any of my friends without a moment’s pause.
How about you? Does that bring up similar feelings? If you find yourself being regularly self-critical, here are a few techniques that I’ve found help to break the cycle.
Be Aware of Your Thoughts
First, learn to pay attention to what you’re thinking. I’m far from perfect at this, but when I catch myself thinking “That was so stupid of me” or “Why can I never get things right?” or “I’ll never succeed” then I try to take a step back and ask whether the thought it really true or fair.
It never is.
I find that it helps to ask myself “Would I say that to a friend?” – and to question why I treat myself differently. In my heart, I know that it’s not right to consider myself some special case held to higher standards than the rest of humanity … it’s arrogant and it’s silly!
I came across this technique in the book How to Make Your Dreams Come True by Mark Forster (sadly now out of print). He writes almost the whole book in a question and answer format, between him and his “future self” – a projection of who he wants to become (a more patient, thoughtful, supportive person).
The “future Mark” asks questions, and the “present Mark” answers them. It’s like a coaching relationship, but with yourself.
Here’s one of Mark’s examples (from page 41 of the book). As you can see, it’s written in a very conversational, almost stream-of-consciousness style, and the focus is on areas of improvement and on figuring out what’s working:
- Q What’s been better since we last spoke?
A You asked me to find something to put on the ‘What’s Better?’ list about being well ordered. … The only thing I could find was that I made all my phone calls during the day immediately.
Q That’s great! What were you doing that allowed you to get those done?
A I don’t really know. I think I just sort of leapt in rather than put them off.
In general, I find that writing rather than thinking helps me to work through things. Whenever I’ve used the self-dialoguing method, I’ve found it’s been a very good way to be honest with myself, in a supportive way. It’s also a way to bring up new ideas and angles – the question and answer response encourages me to think more deeply than I would if I was just journaling.
I blog all over the place (not just here and on my own blog Aliventures, but for several other sites), and it’s not uncommon for me to get emails from readers saying how much they’re enjoying my writing, or mentioning how a particular post has helped them.
I have to make an active effort to believe these compliments. I mean, of course I believe that people are telling the truth … but I need to remember that these outweigh by far any negative feedback which I get.
You could try collecting testimonials about your work, or saving any “thank you” emails that you get in a special folder. When you’re feeling a bit down, this can be a great resource to look through, to remind yourself how other people see you. Of course you aren’t perfect – no-one is – but you’re probably doing a lot of good in the world.
What helps you to talk more kindly to yourself? How can you be your own best friend? Please share in Comments below.