Before I begin I want to share some truths:
- I can be very hard on myself.
- I am 40 years old and coming into my own in many ways but I can’t help but see all the time I wasted.
- Sometimes, I speak to myself in ways I would never ever speak to another human being.
- The standards I have for myself are a little ridiculous.
Well, it all begins with the F-word.
This past weekend, I had a girls’ trip to one of my favorite places in the Catskills. It’s a little country spot I often rent with the most amazing airstream carriage house and cozy loft.
We were getting ready to go to my favorite spot: Peekamoose (the foodie in me wants to tell you all about the exquisite farm-to-table cuisine there, but I have to stay on topic. So, just go there. You will not regret it.) when one of my girlfriends says, “Di Ana, it has been hard to be around you this weekend. I love ya, but you are so hard on yourself it forces me to be hard on myself. I can never live up to the standards you are holding yourself to and being around you makes me criticize myself.”
That stopped me dead in my tracks.
She continued, “You have become so judgmental of yourself. You’ve got to forgive yourself a bit.” I wanted to justify my actions, but I didn’t. I knew she was right. She even backed it up with two examples that really hit home.
She said, “You talk about your body with such harsh words and I think your body is beautiful and in better shape than mine. So you gained seven pounds. So what?? And we were just making a casual dinner the other night and you were so hard on your cooking. I mean it’s girls’ weekend not dinner for the Obamas, and even if it was—same rules apply—Barack & Michelle will deal [I definitely cracked a smile at this]. I just wish you could be a little gentler on yourself.”
And this is the infamous F-word: forgiveness (of myself). Self-criticism is not the catalyst for change, self-acceptance is. Let me repeat that again (it’s a good one):
Self-criticism is not the catalyst for change, self-acceptance is. The road to self-acceptance is forgiveness.
As I went to bed, snuggled in with my cozy down comforter to the sound of the creek outside my window, I was grateful I had a friend who wasn’t afraid to be real with me in the most loving way.
I also noticed a shift in myself. As she spoke to me, I didn’t defend and justify, but rather I took in the feedback without immediately going to failure. That is a change—for sure. I was able to identify that the person she spoke of was not who I wanted to be, a critical person that makes others feel badly about themselves. I drifted off to bed a little lighter and oddly happy.
While sitting on my yoga mat the next morning (um, my first yoga class in over a year, mind you) I was silently tearing myself to shreds as I sat next to miss-32-years-old-practicing-god-knows-what-position-with-her-tight-ass-post-two-kids-body.
This really was pushing my despair button. I mean, I was just trying to master sitting in “criss-cross applesauce.” (My niece’s sweet way of describing Lotus position.)
I closed my eyes but began harping on all the “missed classes.” No yoga in sight since last summer, what a joke I was, and as I sat in Lotus I could feel the seven pounds peering out over my elastic waste as if to say, “Hey you, ya’ lazy sh*t…,” but then I heard my dear friend’s wisdom. I decided to chill out with the exorcist-evil voice and take a deep breath. I reluctantly began to “Ohm” with the class and connect (although somewhat forced) with a much-needed self-acceptance.
The teacher starts off by saying, “Your only job is to be aware of yourself. With that awareness do something different in your practice today.” And into the first Downward Dog I went, opening my heart and quieting my mind. What did I choose to be aware of? The F-word. I need to forgive myself more. For me, it is a road less traveled, but off I went.
I committed to forgiving myself for that one hour. I forgot what the hell Warrior II was and I forgave. I wanted to cower in Crow cause I couldn’t remember how to get into it—I forgave. There was the moment where I was looking at someone face-to-face and thought: perhaps I am facing the wrong direction. I smiled at them, turned around, and wait for it…I forgave.
As I finished that class in Savasana I remembered the saying, “How you practice yoga is how you practice life,” and I decided it is time to take the practice off the mat. Even as the ink is barely dry on this commitment to myself, there are already voices reminding me about areas in my life that I wish were different or more fulfilled, but I realize I cannot criticize them into existence. I can only continue to accept where I am today—shortcomings and all, and keep opting in. It sounds so damn easy as I write it, but I commit to Project Forgiveness for myself.
So today, we could all take a little closet inventory. Whatever you see (I don’t care how dark or ugly or familiar it may be) if it brings up any sort of self-criticism: Stop. Dial it back a little bit, gently hear my voice, and feel my hand on your shoulder saying, “Forgive yourself, today” and chill the damn out.
Forgiveness is where we begin to make change. We can all put forgiveness on the top of our To-Do lists and do it.
Live the intention.
I will do it too—right beside you. Creating a lasting marriage or relationship is not rooted in criticism, building a body you love is not rooted in criticism, and creating change is not rooted in criticism. It is rooted in forgiveness and that’s the f*cking truth.
We are all exactly where we need to be.
~ Di Ana Pisarri
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Frank Kovalcheck/Flickr