As I recently found, I have been critical of others more of late. I discovered a site called Tinybuddha.com, and it has given me insight on how to properly deal with something that was so invisible to me, but very painful to others. Below is a piece written by Rebecca Storch
“Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
There was a time when I lived almost completely inside myself. I couldn’t handle much of the outside world.
Yes, I am an introvert, but back then, I had such low self-esteem that the only place I felt safe was inside my own head. I had a low tolerance for problems and mistakes. I was life intolerant.
Yet, my inner world wasn’t exactly a peaceful sanctuary; it was a cold, discomforting, and harsh place to be. Mainly because I was fat. Or so I thought. I was obsessed with how I looked. My study time was directed at my legs. I appraised my ankles, I graded my thigh gap. And for those failings, I beat myself up.
What terrible thing could have befallen me for me to have retracted into my shell like that? The answer: nothing major. In fact, my childhood was good and my parents were great.
But there was something, or a series of somethings in my childhood that led me to live inside my critical head.
One was that I wasn’t allowed to do much. If anything, I was kind of spoiled. That didn’t really help me because I unconsciously stamped this message on my psyche: “Unable to perform tasks.”
Second of all, I wasn’t allowed to rectify my mistakes. Just small things—a plate I broke was cleared up before I had a chance to, a garden rake was taken out of my hands because I didn’t know how to weed properly. The underlying takeaway for me was: “Just can’t handle stuff.”
With those mottos, I plodded through life, slightly shy and fearful.
But I’m not like that today. In fact, I’m the opposite. My self-talk now is mostly positive, and I encourage myself. I’m kind to myself, and I look out for me.
How did this come about?
A not-so-great relationship. I met someone, and unsurprisingly, depended on them for my self-esteem.
If they thought I was good enough, then I was good enough. But how tumultuous it is to live on the rough seas of someone else’s appraisal! Somehow, amidst those choppy waters, I saw a lighthouse; and it was therapy. I took myself there, and I found a safe harbor.
I also went to meditation classes.
Those two things slowly worked away at me, chipping away at those walls I’d put up around myself. I became mindful through meditation, and through therapy I came to realize I needed to become my own best friend.
So I did. I changed my self-talk. It was a challenge, but I pushed through.
From there on out, my allergy to living life went away. The relationship ended, but I was equipped with new tools for living. I go out and socialize, I embrace challenges, I live my life with my eyes open—and I can handle it.
These are the tools I learned along my way.
Accept what is happening, be it a critical remark or a mistake. When you accept whatever is in front of you, you are allowing yourself to feel discomfort and trusting that you can handle it.
It can feel quite vulnerable to be so open with no defenses and say, “Yes, this is really happening.” But once you start accepting, it gets easier, because you learn that you can cope with it.
It’s not pushing away, or denying, which can feel stressful. It’s a calm response to life. Start with accepting small, inconsequential things like spilling food or sending an email with a typo. This will put you in good place to start accepting the bigger toughies down the road.
Talk kindly to yourself.
When the going gets tough, you need some back up, and the best are self-soothing sentences.
“Everything is okay.” “I am capable.” “I trust that I can handle this.”
They don’t just pop up; you need to work on them daily so that they are there for you when you need them.
This is where mindfulness and meditation come in, because these practices are like sending your concentration muscle to the gym.
Once you become mindful in your day, you become aware of how you are talking to yourself. Making it a daily commitment to change negativity into an upbeat outlook is training yourself for the day when something big goes down. When it does, those self-beliefs will come to your aid.
Allow yourself to be imperfect.
Sometimes you will need to engage with critical people who make judgments on who you are or a public faux pas, and they will demand that you respond.
You have choices in how you do so. It takes time to accurately measure which response is best, so try a few.
You don’t have to be defensive all the time. In fact, you can send your ego on holiday and even agree with some criticism. It can be a huge boost to your self-esteem when you finally allow yourself to not be absolutely perfect, and laugh at yourself instead.
You can choose to own up to a mistake and try again. No big deal, just “Let me start again,” or “That wasn’t right, I’ll come back with it fixed.” No catastrophizing, but solutions instead.
Once you start trusting yourself to find solutions, mega worries become tame, because you have learned that you are someone who can find a way forward.
Finally, you can choose to explain openly what happened, or not. A bit of self-defense is not a bad thing, because you are worth looking out for, after all.
From today onward, believe in yourself and practice self-acceptance. May your life be a wonderful journey that you take part in, every step of the way.