So many of us are overly concerned with the opinions of others. We make comparisons that are invalid, project onto others what their opinion of us is, and often reject ourselves before anyone else gets a chance to. We do these out of insecurity. What we’re overlooking is that our judgment of self tends to be far harsher than how others judge us (assuming we’re not surrounded by a**holes).
I was meeting recently with a very talented therapist who has a nasty habit of being highly self-critical. This is not at all unusual for those who work in the healing and helping professions. It’s well intended. More than anything else, we want to be effective in serving others. Unfortunately, the way we often go about critiquing ourselves is anything but healthy.
I asked her to notice her process of observation and how her inner critic seems to have impossibly high standards. We discussed how those expectations were never consciously chosen but rather are part of her quest to, “just keep getting better.” I often ask folks, “How good is good enough?” They usually realize that no matter how much they strive, they never feel especially good about themselves or their work.
If you want to constantly get better at your craft – that’s awesome. Here’s an important step in that process that you’ve likely overlooked: Learn to have appreciation and respect both for who you are and what you do. If you are endlessly striving, you’ll never notice that you’re better than you used to be – healthier than you used to be – more focused and more capable.
Ideally, we learn to critique ourselves the same way we do others. When we offer feedback to people we respect, we make sure that our criticisms are constructive and insightful. We notice what they are doing well and praise them for it. We spot opportunities for improvement, but we do NOT devalue the person or the product they’re creating.
We are free to relate to ourselves as we do others. This is easy to understand and hard to do. It takes a lot of practice to unlearn our bad habits and to silence the “inner critic.” Please consider this next piece long and hard:
Your inner critic is very likely not any part of your authentic self. Rather, it’s a set of internalized voices and ideas from people in your past who probably weren’t very healthy.
Encourage, appreciate, and respect yourself and watch how readily you make gains!