Hard On Yourself Much?
Is it helpful to be hard on yourself?
I am a recovering addict of being hard on myself. I do not say that lightly or in jest. In fact, I was so addicted to being hard on myself I wore it like a badge of honor. I also had people involved in my life that were hard on me.
I distinctly remember someone in my life who used to judge everything I did. They complained about most things I did, or was involved in, and criticized all things that I held dear. I remember saying to this person, “You know, no one can be harder on me than I am on myself.” I said this as if I were sticking up for myself. I was almost proud, as if being hard on myself was helping me be a better person.
Let’s be honest here. What I was actually saying to myself and to this person was, “I don’t like myself so it’s ok if you don’t like me either. Also, I don’t treat myself well, so it’s ok if you don’t treat me right.” Only I had no idea that is what I was communicating. At the time, I was convinced that being hard on myself was the way for me to become a better person. What I was in fact doing was creating stronger neuropathways for my brain to be even harder on myself. I was training my brain how to judge myself more harshly and get to better at mentally beating myself up. I set the expectation so high of what I was supposed to be that there was no way for me to become the person I thought I was supposed to be. As you can imagine, this left me miserable, stressed out, overwhelmed, and it created more opening for people who didn’t treat me well nor valued me or what I had to say. I was consistently being taken advantage of, and I allowed it by not valuing myself.
I still struggle with being hard on myself. Years ago, I used to smoke. It has taken more strength and mental agility to kick the habit of beating myself up than it did smoking. It really is an addictive thing. My brain recognizes it as safe. My brain offers me the opportunity to beat myself up and judge myself every day. It takes consistent, daily work for me to see it for what it is and instead give myself love and grace. Because now I can see it working in the background.
I look at the brain as if it’s a highway. There are the lanes you can see in the front designated for things like “what should I wear today” or “let me check my schedule.” Then there are the subconscious thoughts, the highways in the back that are always moving, always running, always noisy. For instance, in your subconscious you have memories stored that you wouldn’t otherwise know are there. Do you remember the first time you were held the day you were born? No, but your subconscious does. How about the feel of your clothes is stored or the smell of the product you clean your house with? These live in your subconscious and rarely make it to the front lanes unless sparked by a parallel memory or thought. It’s the same with how we think about ourselves…it’s running constantly in the background. It is making decisions for us without us knowing it. That is unless you have someone help you stop the traffic and pick up the car to take a closer look at it. With time you start to notice it, to witness it with a curiosity rather than with judgement.
That shift can help you go from being hard on yourself and allowing others to be hard on you. It can move you to really understanding yourself and accepting yourself for who you are. It can help you to finally love yourself and surround yourself with people like you for who you are and value being around you.
If you would like help with navigating this ever-present highway, I invite you to click the link and set up a time for us to have a free session. I look forward to joining your journey.