A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend and she was being incredibly hard on herself. She was talking about how insecure she was feeling at work, that she was not up to socializing so feeling like a bad friend and was being short and argumentative with her partner. She was so incredibly hard on herself. This was not new. She is hard on herself all the time and it seems that no matter how many times I, or her partner, tell her what an amazing person she is, she cannot see it. She can not see how good she is at her job and even when feeling insecure, no one but her would know it. She can not see that she is a gorgeous girl and her terms of “fat” and “gross” are doing nothing but continuing to undermine her confidence. She can not see that she is that friend. The one I call when I am a mess, who I can stay at if needing to get away or the one who calls me on my crap in a way that keeps me honest. All she sees is that she hasn’t talked to me in a few days because she is doing unwell. And yet, I can say this for days, and she does not believe me.
“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”– Louise L. Hay
That is hard for me. I want her to be able to see herself the way that I see her and how fortunate I feel to have her as my friend. I want her to see her, flaws and all, and how much she means to a lot of people. I want her to not judge herself so harshly and just straight up be kinder to herself and how she handles her insecurities on a regular basis. I want her to know that bad days are going to happen, her depression is going to kick her ass sometimes and yet she has a strength that a lot of people don’t even realize. I want all these things for her and more.
And then I thought about it. I am not any different than her. Instead, I am a full blown hypocrite. While I am contradicting my friend when she is chastising or talking negatively about herself, I continue to do it to myself on a regular basis as well. Why is that? Why is it so much easier for me to tell my friend, or others, all the good things about them, and why I feel lucky to have them in my life, but I cannot do the same for myself? Why can I be so kind, considerate and thoughtful for those that are struggling around me and then be telling myself to “get my shit together”?
Because, like my friend, I am also way to hard on myself. I can justify it in a variety of ways and argue with you until you are wanting to rip your hair out, but at the end of the day it is crap. It is crap that I critique myself so heavily in the same way that it is crap that my friend does too. I am too hard on myself when it comes to how I handle things at work. I am too hard on myself when I look in the mirror and am insecure about what I see there. I am too hard on myself when I snap at Husband after a long day or don’t acknowledge what is really bothering me. And I am too hard on myself when I share my hobbies, like writing or cross stitching, and make excuses for the positive feedback that I am getting back. It is bullshit.
But, we all do it. Some more than others of course, but I have yet to have one person in my life that is harder on themselves than they are with others (unless they are a narcissist of course). Why? Why can we be so kind to others and not to ourselves for the exact same thing? It is dumb. Period.
And yet, it is never-ending. Someone once told me that I needed to start to talk to myself like I would my grandma or my favourite uncle and I thought “what a great concept.” I would not call my grandma fat or ugly or useless. I would not tell my favourite uncle that he was dumb or too harsh or that people are judging him. When changing that perspective, it actually made it easier to be kinder. It may it harder to say those mean things to myself when I considered how it would make my Grammie, or my mom or my best friend feel. And yet, I stopped doing it.
In this moment I could be harsh and talk about how I have a bad tendency to stop doing things that are good for me, but as stated above, that is not helpful. Instead, I am going to regroup, re-evaluate and remember to be kinder. There are parts of myself that I don’t like, and that others also find challenging, but it is important to remember that those are just parts of me. I am more than those parts and it is focusing on all aspects of myself that will allow to me to get back into that routine and that behaviour.
And the best part of all is that kindness is contagious. If I am kind to myself, and continue to be kind to my friends, it spreads. Instead of spreading negativity, or getting into the “I feel fat too” train, we start to not only shift our own thinking but the thinking of the people around us. Will be it easy? Hell no. It is one of the most engrained parts of myself. I have been spending over twenty years (and for others longer) being overly critical of myself, making it a really hard habit to break. Yet, as it is with my friend, it is no longer a habit that is working for me. So why not try to take steps to think differently, talk differently and hopefully begin to see the positive parts of myself that are there too.
You onboard to try too?