The gift of self-criticism

"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself."

As someone who tends toward perfectionism, I've heard that message a lot. And I don't like it.

For one, it feels shaming and judgmental. Who is anyone else to say how I should or shouldn't relate to myself?

Even more than that, though, I think it is bad life advice. Because sometimes I really mess up! And sometimes self-criticism is exactly what is called for.

If I think I'm not supposed to be hard on myself, I'll be afraid to even look at those areas of life where I may not be doing a good job. I won't want anyone else to point them out either, so I'll be hyper-defensive. I'll see myself as weak and fragile. And any problems I'm creating will just get worse.

I know this because I've seen it play out in my life, and it's something I want to change. 

I want to remember that it is okay to be hard on myself, that self-criticism is not the same as self-hatred, and that being honest with myself about the ways I mess up can be a huge gift.

To that end, here are some reminders that I wrote for myself earlier this week, which I share in case they resonate with you, too:

You have permission to be angry and disgusted with yourself for choices you make out of fear and laziness. You have permission to feel ashamed for living irresponsibly and ignoring your impact on others. You have permission to feel regret for the ways you've betrayed your values and blamed others for your unhappiness. You have permission to hate being human.

You also have permission to offer yourself love. You have permission to forgive. You have permission to let all these feelings go. You have permission to re-commit to your values, to set new goals, to try something new. You have permission to ask for help. You have permission to change. You have permission to live.

Have a wonderful week!

Using hindsight to re-commit

Earlier tonight, instead of writing this blog post, I found myself in a long and heated argument with my husband -- which I realize, in hindsight, I could have totally prevented.

By listening to his actual words, rather than what I was reading into them.

By recognizing his good intentions, and trusting in our common goals.

By humbly considering that I don't know everything, and that he may have valid concerns.

Or, at the very least, by stopping to re-focus when I could see we were both worked up.

But instead, I persevered (ha!), and successfully engaged in over an hour of defensiveness and fear and negativity. Followed by a long period of journaling, apologizing and reconciling. 

It was good learning, I suppose, and I'm getting an unexpected new blog post out of it, but there are so many other ways I could have used that time.

I share this not out of shame or self-pity, but because, after messing up, it feels good to remind myself what I'm really committed to.

Listening. Trust. Humility. Self-awareness.

These things matter, and they are worth practicing over and over again. Along with huge doses of self-compassion and forgiveness.

Thank you for practicing along with me.