If you are subscribed to my Inspire Your Inbox letters, you know that a couple of weeks ago I sent out a pretty vulnerable email. After spending time away healing, I was behind with everything and feeling overwhelmed with all the things I needed to catch up on, while also feeling intimidated about what to write to thousands of people in order to give them enough value.
I ended up just taking a deep breath and sharing the moment. Reaching out through the simple words on the paper and trusting that some of you out there needed to hear what I was going through right then.
The replies I got were simply wondrous. I’m so glad that I hit send on that email, after much hesitation, as reading the responses reminded me so concretely how behind all of those numbers are actual human beings. And human beings relate to honest thoughts from other human beings.
None of us is perfect. No one. We all falter, we all struggle at times. But that doesn’t mean that any of us is failing as a human being.
It’s crazy how much pressure we can put on ourselves to ‘perform’ at a certain level, and even when there are valid reasons for having to slow down, we can put ourselves down something awful. It’s like there’s an internal dialog that never switches off that’s telling us we’re not doing enough, not being good enough. I’ve certainly caught myself thinking and feeling awful things about myself, even just over the past month or two. Reading all those emails from you thanking me for being real, or telling me how relieved you felt hearing that no-one is a superwoman at all times, got me thinking I should probably heed my own advice more often…
And yet, yesterday I was again feeling super angsty about not completing my whole to-do-list for the week. This morning I decided to put a halt to that feeling once and for all and be a bit kinder to myself. So what if I didn’t manage to get my bookkeeping done, or finish shooting all the Pretty Stock images so I could finally launch. So what if I didn’t get completely on top of all the social media, or manage to clear my whole photo editing queue.
Never mind all that stuff I didn’t accomplish. Here’s some of the stuff I HAVE done in the past week:
- finished four website updates (yes, as you can see Her Lovely Heart has a new look, too !)
- finished editing a wedding
- edited a family session
- had two lovely sessions with mentoring students
- sorted out all my receipts
- had a meeting about an upcoming inspirational shoot
- wrote two guest blogs
- uploaded 3 client galleries
- updated all client workflows in my CMS
- invoiced all the things that were outstanding
- performed probably hundreds of the everyday admin tasks we all get through on auto-pilot
So, actually, there’s no reason what so ever why I should be down on myself! There’s a limited number of hours in all our days after all. Being behind on your tasks does not make you a flawed human, it just makes you a human!
Here are the steps I’m trying to take to break out of my cycle of self-criticism. Perhaps you’ll want to join me?
Recognise that you’re taking on the feelings of a victim
Let this sink in. When you think harshly of yourself, how does it make you feel? If a good friend treated you the same way, would you take it? Why do you allow yourself to be bullied by yourself when you most likely wouldn’t take it from anyone else? Self-criticism is damaging and it never leads to positive progress. Instead, imagine how a good and caring friend would treat you. Try to see yourself in that same light.
Develop your self-awareness
When did you start treating yourself badly? When you really think about it, how far back does your self-bullying go? Perhaps all the way back to your childhood when you felt like you didn’t belong and started telling yourself there was something wrong with you. That you weren’t as good as others. Or maybe you used self-criticism to drive your ambitions in school, and then took that habit with you to your adult life. When you think about it now, being as objective as you can, did self-criticism result in the acceptance you were after? If you’re honest with yourself you will probably realise that self-criticism mostly results in you feeling bad, EVEN when you have accomplished something good.
It really is time to just cut it out. For me and for you. It’s time pay proper attention whenever that negative dialogue starts surfacing and shut it down with kindness. This goes for being critical about your own self-criticism, too! Look at the cycle from a distance and give it some perspective. Acknowledge that you did it because you felt you needed acceptance or you lacked support. You did your best to push yourself in the only way you knew how. You know now that even if your goals were positive ones, driving yourself to do better through self-criticism made you feel worse about yourself. You did your best, but you know better now.
Treat yourself with compassion
Whenever you start feeling critical towards yourself as a human, think of that innocent baby you once were. You wouldn’t look at a baby and think that they are failing as a person, it would be absurd. In the same way, just living your life, doing your best, coming against obstacles we all do at times does not make you a failed human being.
Without the blinkers of self-criticism, you can start looking at the subjects of your criticism more objectively. If it’s lack of time, instead of telling yourself you’re a failure, start developing ways to simplify and organise your schedule. If it’s not knowing how to do something, instead of calling yourself stupid, take a caring approach and see how you can support yourself to either seek out education or be ok with asking others for help.
There will always be things you won’t get done or things you won’t succeed at. Treating yourself with care and compassion is a lot healthier way to move forwards and will give you better results than constant self-bullying ever will. Plus, you will feel a lot happier in the process!
P.S. I'm publishing this post four hours later than I planned to, and I'm feeling pretty darn good about it! ;)