Your Own Worst Critic
How many times have you heard this or something like it?
"You are your own worst critic."
Some of us may have heard this (or thought it) for so long that we not only believe it to be accurate, we own it.
I once read a quote from a controversial author who was asked if she was her own worst critic. She replied, "Actually, no. I've read my book reviews, and know for a fact that I'm not my own worst critic."
So, you probably aren't your worst critic because there is undoubtedly someone out there who is a way worse critic of you than you. Feel better?
That last bit was tongue-in-cheek, to be fair. Still, for many of us, even though we may not be our own worst critics, we're the most frequent and challenging to dismiss.
Our criticism takes the form of anything from an inner monologue that relates nothing but negativity about how we view ourselves ("I'm so stupid!" "I hate myself!") to punishing things we say relating to how others see us ("Why do I always do that?" "They must hate me!"), and a host of things in between.
And sometimes, our inner critic indirectly draws God into our self-criticism and loathing when we refuse to offer ourselves grace for mistakes we've made or things that have happened outside our control ("I deserve this." "God must hate me!").
The late Pema Chodron wrote extensively about these inner monologues and how detrimental they are to our peace and flourishing.
For Chodron, our inability to show ourselves grace is part of a more significant problem: Most of us never recognize the image of God in ourselves, even if we manage to see it in others.
Learning to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves is important. The reason it's important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn't just ourselves that we're discovering. We're discovering the universe.
I need to hear that repeatedly because I tend to not treat myself kindly or with respect. I have a terrible habit of turning all of my frustrations with my own frailty inward, never willing to give myself a break.
Most of us tend toward this kind of behavior in some fashion, and then our misguided and calloused frustration with ourselves can just as quickly pour out as anger toward others.
We need to view ourselves with the eyes of God, which shouldn't be hard for us since we are made in God's image. We must offer ourselves grace, accept the disparate aspects of who we are, and learn to love the person we see in the mirror.
May this be so for you, me, and all of us. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.
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