The Anguish of our Self-Criticism

At what point in our lives did we become so self-critical.  Did we learn it or is it just inherent? Why are we so hard on ourselves and so much easier on others? Did we make some huge mistake we have never gotten over? Is it something someone said that stuck in our heads as a child that still rings loud and clear now? Is it something our mothers once said we should be able to do, or our fathers wanted us to achieve and they didn’t know that their words, wrapped up in a list of expectations, would stick to our hearts like glue, haunting our souls and making our heads spin with an image of ourselves we cannot accept.

We are a society that thrives off of adversity, and pointing out these characteristics often starts in early childhood when we begin to highlight the negatives… “You should be able to do this by now” or “you should be better at…” or any of should have’s for that matter, they all leave little notches in the personality we are trying to carve out. The education system often spends more time explaining that your child needs to improve in whatever area, than they do pointing out the positive’s, and this continues through all of schooling and carries over into the work world. For example, if someone is not good at public speaking we recommend a book or ship them off to a course to improve that skill, but what if, in fact, that skill is just something that person is not good at, regardless of any amount of training or research. Instead, this person who is actually fantastic at accounting gets judged for being poor at one thing instead of being praised for what he is actually good at. We are always pointed in the direction of fixing ourselves so the focus on the negative becomes predominant, resulting in that inner critic we all deal with at one point in time or another.

It’s the voice in your head that convinces you that those “should have’s” from so many years ago still hold the same power. It is the voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough, pretty enough or smart enough. It is quick to point out any mistake or error in judgment and likes to ponder over those that have already happened. Our inner critic is just flat out mean. We tell our friends and family not to be so hard on themselves, and then we are harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else. We blame ourselves when blame does not apply and feel guilty about what we “should have” done better, or could have done differently. Our critic implies that if we try something new, we will fail and therefore holds us back from even taking the first step, and the sad thing is, even when the negative is somewhat balanced with the positive, it always seems to leave more of an imprint.

If we let it maintain its power over our minds we will soon become accustomed to the negativity, so much so that we form our thoughts based on the lies it has told us. It is amazing…the power of the brain to convince itself of something that feels so incredibly real but is based upon negative untruths, and unfortunately there is no magic pill to silence that critical voice in your head. There is no shortcut to muting that voice; it is a matter of practice and time. In the meantime, tell it to shut the hell up. Tell it there is no longer space in your mind for it to occupy. Remind yourself that you are smart enough, pretty enough and good enough every time it tries to tell you otherwise, because you are. That voice served its purpose at the time it was needed, but we don’t need it screaming throughout our lives, we want it down to a low murmur. So try something new, say what you have always wanted to say, do what you have wanted to do. Stop letting that voice of adversity rule your thoughts and actions. Regardless of what that voice says, if you fall, you will get back up.

 

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