Try to picture the last time your work, your passion, or perhaps even you, were put before judgment.
Take a second to close your eyes and ask your body to remember what it felt like as you were gathering your material.
What were your hands experiencing as they typed furiously, shuffled through papers and put together a presentation that could perhaps determine your future?
What did your legs feel like as you walked toward the office of the person whose opinion of you, in that moment, really mattered?
How loudly was your heart thundering in your chest as you watched the time on the clock approach your hour of judgment?
Many of us, in this situation, forget everything we’ve been taught about being kind to ourselves. We pick up our tweezers and scalpels and begin to dissect ourselves.
I should have worked harder…
I should have stayed later….
I should have made better lessons…
I should have practiced more…
I shouldn’t have said that…
I should have been smarter….
I should have proof read…
I should have used my damn brain!
Even before we walk into the room, we have already set ourselves up for failure. There is nothing we can do right, and if praise does appear in our review, we scarcely register it as we are digging for the morsels that will help us excavate ourselves even more.
For most of us, our inner critic is far harsher than any review, any complaint and any confrontation we may have.
We are experts in judging ourselves, for who is there to defend us when the opposing voices live inside of us?
There is always some reason to feel not good enough. This is especially enhanced when someone is criticizing us. The truth is, we all make mistakes. We live our lives to the best of our ability, based on our own experiences. Sometimes our best falls short of what is needed—and that’s okay.
Yet, very few of us hold ourselves with compassion—in fact, we loathe ourselves for who we are in that moment.
We label ourselves in ways that stick to us and cross all the boundaries in our lives. When the outer critic and the self-critic start to work together, we face a monster from the leagues of the most vicious horror stories. We are not only eviscerated, but decapitated, violated and cannibalized.
How are we supposed to cope?
We cope by cultivating a dialogue of compassion and forgiveness within ourselves.
What keeps us out of that connection to ourselves is the fear that we are not worthy of being in it. It is the fear to honestly face ourselves and the wounds we carry that keep us in those wounds. The struggle to love ourselves is perhaps the most difficult one we will encounter in our lives.
In moments of panic, shame and disappointment with ourselves, we tend to exist in the very confined world of what exists in our own heads. Our thoughts are loud, hence they are right.
No, they are not right.
Let’s repeat that: just because our thoughts are loud, does not mean they are right.
We actually can cultivate an atmosphere of compassion within ourselves. Yes, it takes a lot of hard work and a sometimes super-human amount of patience. Those who have that a sense of love and belonging in their minds are able to convince their bodies, their hearts and their souls that they are worth it—that they are good enough.
It takes a daily practice of telling ourselves that we are good, that we are smart, that we are good enough to actually have it permeate into our lives.
Of course, we must all live within the lines of reality. Not all of us are superstars, but all of us do have unique talents and abilities that set us apart from others and that we can be proud of. There is a reason that each one of us is in the position that we are in, creating the mark that we leave in the world.
It is an every day task, looking in the mirror and saying:
Today, I am strong.
Today, I am beautiful.
Today , I am worth it.
Perhaps it is with sticky notes or inspirational statements or constant reminders to breathe, release and move through our pain.
Stopping the negative flow in our minds sometimes feels like attempting to fix a leaky faucet with Q-tips. Yet, if we keep trying, eventually, those Q-tips come together and absorb the water.
Similarly, our daily attempts to reverse that self-talk start to yield results—we see ourselves smiling more, we believe in ourselves and we can even face moments of outside criticism with courage.
Hearing, ‘you are wrong’ does not define you, rather it can be a beautiful opportunity for you to discover new ways in which you can grow, in which you can learn, in which you can take the next step with confident and determined power in your feet.
Yali Szulanski is a writer, teacher and speaker living in New York, NY. She can be found helping people access their voice through writing and discovering her strength and healing in the boxing gym and dance studio. You can follow her journey of healing on her blog. She can also be found on her website or Facebook page.
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Asst. Ed: Amy Cushing/Kate Bartolotta