At some point of my life self-criticism became the norm. I’ve heard myself play down compliments instead of saying a simple thank you. I’ve said, “do I look fat in this?” or “I’m just not good at ___”. I get reassured by well-meaning friends. Generally, a group chimes in and says no! you’re great! you’re not fat! I’m good for a little while then have to ask again. While reassuring in the short-term, it’s not a positive way to interact.
I’m not sure when I started to be so hard on myself. I recall I was in Portugal when a fellow tourist took a photo of me and two friends. When I asked for my phone back I asked her, “do I look skinny?”. I wanted reassurance. I expected a polite “yes”. Instead, she said a curt “no”. I had to laugh; to be fair, the picture was not flattering. Suddenly I had a realistic view of myself. She didn’t call me fat, just didn’t say I was skinny. She told the truth. I realized my body is not magazine perfect; so few people are. There have been moments in time when I was very thin and ideal and looked for reassurance. In Portugal at that moment I began to stop saying “I’m so fat”.
When I changed the way I talked about my body, I started to see my inner critic more clearly. I like to think of her as an obnoxious 2-year-old. She’s doing her best to keep up the defenses and keep me safe. She figures pointing out faults ahead of time won’t hurt as much as someone else pointing them out. That’s fine but I seem to be the only one noticing these gaping faults. Even my boss informed me she won’t be buying into my self-criticism anymore. It might be time to try something different.
My friend Kate is different. We do not sit around being hard on ourselves. If she hears self-criticism she says, “don’t kick your puppy”. Aside from the obvious don’t kick small furry animals, she means don’t be so hard on yourself. I love the saying. We all have a tender inside that needs some TLC. I imagine a soft defenseless critter that needs caring. It helps me catch myself being critical. After years of saying things to myself I wouldn’t say to an enemy, the image has given me clarity. Now I practice not kicking my inner self.
A few things I know for sure. (Thanks Oprah.) I’m far from perfect but that is just fine. My body can work, run, bike, swim, fish, hike and love. I don’t stare at mirrors looking for faults anymore. My inner child can hang with my little furry puppy and they’ll keep each other safe. I don’t kick small children either. A very wise woman once told me, “if you can name it you can tame it”. Inner child prepare to be named and tamed. Trudy? Selma? Polly? Rita? I’ll let you know what I name her.
Suggested article of the day.
- Stop participating in self-criticism, it’s boring.
- Enjoy your body. In 10 years you’ll look back and think you look great. In another 10 you’ll do the same.
- Say thank you when someone compliments you.
- Don’t stare at mirrors, unless you look great then stare.
- Don’t kick your puppy. Definitely don’t kick actual puppies.