Most of us have a flaw in our self-perception. When we look at ourselves we have a blind spot for our good qualities and a magnifying glass for our faults. This can do a lot of damage to our confidence and happiness.
Did you ever hear the phrase “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” That’s right if we let our self-loathing go unchallenged it can make us miserable and, along the way, all the people we hold dear.
The more we live in this skewed perception of who we are, the more miserable we become. This distorted picture isn’t the truth, but it reinforces the inner dialogue that can keep us trapped in our own personal hell.
Okay, maybe you’re not that mean to yourself but if you have read this far I’m willing to bet that you could do some work on self-appreciation or at the very least self-acceptance. And you are not alone. When I present to a group of people, I often ask, “Who has an inner critic?” and invariably, almost every hand goes up!
The good news is that the way we relate to ourselves is just a habit and habits can be changed.
If we wrote this story, we can write a new one.
First, take a moment to take a deep breath and look at the whole picture. If you’ve recently done something that you are sorry for or embarrassed about, instead of beating yourself up, think about how you would feel if your best friend did something similar. From that perspective, it probably doesn’t look so bad, mean, or whatever negative label you put on it.
Now give yourself a break! Think back to the last time you did something kind and loving. No, don’t jump away like you just touched a hot stove, linger there, appreciate your compassion and generosity. See if you can rebalance the scales a bit.
Remember these wise words of Ashleigh Brilliant, “I may not be perfect, but parts of me are excellent”
So let’s start looking at the whole picture. We are many things, as all human beings are, and that is beautiful and one of the things that makes life interesting and worth living. Life is about learning from our mistakes and if we were perfect we’d never learn anything.
I’d like to suggest that we start today to improve the one relationship that is the beginning of healing all of our relationships
5-Steps to Self-Care
Start small. When you get up in the morning, take note of everything that makes your life a little easier. The toothbrush that freshens your breath; the switch that brings light to a darkened room; the pillow that supported your head last night; the first cup of coffee or tea this morning… And now that you’re on a roll, move on to a little self-appreciation.
Begin to bring that same quality of gratitude to your good qualities both large and small.
- Find one little thing that you appreciate about yourself.
- Take a few moments to savor it.
- Now find another and another.
They don’t have to be big; just something that you genuinely like about yourself. Maybe you make great lasagna, or you have pretty eyes, or you get up early every morning. Write it on a sticky note and put it on the wall by your desk.
Starting now, when you find something to criticize yourself about, see if you can find something you can acknowledge and admire in yourself too, and take the time to let it sink in.
Focus on Learning
The next time you “make a mistake,” instead of beating yourself up, reframe it as a learning experience. When reframed, even the smallest mistakes can help you shift from self-criticism to a growth mindset. Just keep asking yourself, “What can I/did I learn from this? How did it help me grow?”
Once you get good at it with the little mistakes, see if you can translate them to the bigger ones. Start to notice if the time it takes you to switch into this new way of thinking starts to shrink. That’s something to celebrate right there. Since we can’t hold two mutually exclusive thoughts in our minds at the same time, eventually, the more positive view will win out.
Remember that you are part of this wonderful group called the human race. Our journey over the millennia has not been punctuated by perfection after perfection, but by mistake after mistake. We are continually learning and growing. So every time you feel like an idiot, know that there are many humans who have done things that are just as silly and idiotic, if not more so.
The thing that makes stories interesting is the flawed characters that inhabit the pages. We are all imperfect! Yes, every single one of us—period. Thank goodness! It would be a really boring world if there were only a bunch of perfect robots running around. Some would call this self-forgiveness.
Finally, learn to laugh at yourself. Most of us take ourselves way too seriously and tend to see mistakes and embarrassing moments as catastrophic.
How often have you been mortified over an embarrassing moment, only to look back at it with laughter? Life is more fun and lighthearted when we can laugh at our silly, clumsy humanness.