I don’t know about you, but I can be pretty hard on myself!
Somehow I’ve always been like this – like being hard on myself came with my basic operating system or something.
In the past, I didn’t realize I was being hard on myself. I thought whatever criticism I leveled in my own direction was more than justified (and likely not so harsh as what I really deserved).
Later, I met some people, like my long-time mentor Lynn, who begged to differ. They thought perhaps I was being just a teensy weensy bit too tough on myself. While at first this viewpoint was slow to catch on, with more detailed explanation about “other people’s side of the street” I began to let a little of that self-harshness go.
In some circles, I suppose this tendency to be hard on myself is called “perfectionism,” which I also have.
And in some ways, being hard on myself is a manifestation of wanting to do things perfectly. Not everything – but the things I really care about – I tend to set the bar so high with those that I might as well build a rocket ship and explore Mars while I’m at it.
But this is not just perfectionism. It is worse. It is ownership. It is shame and guilt and blame all wrapped up into a particularly untidy and unattractive “to go” package that I can carry around with me everywhere.
For a time I got a little better at not taking everything inside and around me so personally. If I sucked at it, so be it. If someone else sucked at it and I didn’t somehow pull double duty to make up the difference, so be it.
This was mostly during the MentorCONNECT years, when my daily to-do list became so over-the-top overwhelming that dropping some of the self-harshness was a form of self-preservation. (i.e. It doesn’t matter if you’re mad at yourself if you’re also dead.)
But then that time period passed, and lots of new challenges arrived to fill the void.
New challenges, of course, can be a rich source of self-criticism, most particularly because it is nearly impossible to tackle any of them as if you know anything at all about how to tackle them.
So these days, some days I am irked at myself for being too demanding about having a quiet casa and surroundings. Other days I am irked at myself for picking a movie I didn’t enjoy and “wasting” two precious hours I now really want back.
There are days I get mad at myself for every little speck of dust or dirt I find on my floors – especially the ones that are still there after I just swept the floor yet again.
And then there are days I am mad at myself for being in pain, like, clearly I must still be eating wrong/moving wrong/sleeping wrong or my thyroid and everything else that’s out of whack within me would have gotten its act together by now.
In all this, I suspect there are a handful of days when I just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and there really is no explanation for the crankiness I feel. On those days, I do try to give myself a little space to just tiptoe through it as best I can without doing any real damage.
But as for the rest, I can now look back to a time period in my life when I had zero awareness of being too hard on myself. During those decades, I just thought everyone was that hard on themselves. I thought it was natural to demand even more than my best and expect to get it, too.
Today, the only thing that has really changed is that now I do have awareness that I tend to be overly hard on myself. I am very, very aware of this. But I am still not sure where that fine line is between “too hard” and “not hard enough” and “just right.”
Awareness is always good – with awareness comes the power to make different choices. But now I not only get mad at myself for not doing things right, but now I also get mad at myself for being too hard on myself – a double whammy.
Ironically, this is also what is helping me now to ease up even a bit more. First I have to notice that I’ve attempted to tackle the world again. I have to get myself up, dust off my knees, rearrange my clothing and wild hair, take a few deep breaths and call a truce.
Next, I have to notice that even though the truce has been offered and accepted, it still isn’t helping because now I’m mad at myself for being mad at myself. So then I have to call another truce and chalk it up to the extensive self-love learning curve I am clearly on.
It is really hard to do this! It is really hard to take a deep breath and JUST. BACK. OFF. MYSELF.
I don’t have a lot of practice in this maneuver yet. I am not polished at saying to myself – kindly, “Hey, just let it go. Ease up. This day isn’t lost yet. What if we just let this one go?”
When I can do it, it usually works. I let the other person have their side of the street back. I briefly scan my side of the street to see if there are any parting tidbits of wisdom I can benefit from and then split for more protected pastures.
I unravel the ravening beast of perfectionism + self-annihilation that has coiled itself around me, unhook the leash and just let it go charging off to somewhere (hopefully) far away from my person to blow off steam.
I take another deep breath. And then I do my utmost, absolute perfectionistic best to LET. IT. GO.
Today’s Takeaway: How do you help yourself get un-mad at yourself? Are there any specific things you say to yourself, or don’t say, or do or don’t do, to let yourself off the hook and try to make the most of what is left in your day? I’d love to hear what works for you!!