Too often, we are our own worst critics. Why? There are many reasons. Sometimes, we use self-critique as a kind of armor. We say to ourselves, “ If I demand more of myself than others can possibly demand, then I can’t be criticized.” Nice idea, but it doesn’t work that way really, does it? Self-critique may be about filling in the outline of a self others have drawn in the stories they told us about ourselves — lines that may not be right or true.
Self-criticism can be a flag — a signal of low self-esteem — and a brutal cyclical master never letting us raise our heads up to see that even a simple change can move us forward. Certainly honesty with ourselves is not a bad thing. Living in denial, refusing to see who we really are, what our actions truly say about us, is certainly not healthy. Embracing denial vs. reality can lead directly to us harming ourselves and others in myriad ways. Truth telling is important. But too often, self-criticism isn’t truth telling… Isn’t being honest with ourselves. Too often, it’s repeating the mantra of others who undervalue or render invisible the best parts of ourselves — the parts that scare us (and them) because they are the parts that can change our lives and change the world.
This week, work on telling the truth about yourself to yourself, so that you can live into that truth in relationship to others. If you have behaved badly, be honest about it and ask forgiveness and move on. If you have been put down, assess where the real growing edges are, make a plan to work on them, but shove aside what is not true — it belongs to the lie and not to you. And recognize that words that devalue, that harm, or that hide beauty, whether they originate inside yourself —and are directed at the self — or whether they come from the outside and the voices of others —- they not only steal joy but they steal life. Your life is valuable. You are valuable. You, when you live and speak and act in ways that genuinely express self-care, self-respect, and care and value of others —you will change the world.