What is the worst thing that could happen if you believed that you are beautiful, talented, loved, and capable of achieving your dreams? It sounds goofy, but it’s a serious question. We spend so much energy putting ourselves down – convincing ourselves that we are ugly, incompetent, and generally unloveable – that I have to assume we are getting something out of it.
The most common gift we seek to give ourselves through self-loathing is protection from judgement. We figure that if we criticize ourselves, it won’t hurt so much when other people point out our flaws and bloopers. Maybe we can even keep people from criticizing us at all – after all, if we’ve already pointed out that we suck, then why would anybody else bother? We’ve done it for them!
Alas, while I understand the goal, this never works. Never. Not for anybody in the history of humanity has this plan worked. You can not inoculate yourself from the pain of other people’s judgements by judging yourself. If you could, I would have done it by now, but I have not, and thus I wish to pass this knowledge on to you, my readers.
But I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Instead, think about your past. Think about times when someone criticized you for something you criticize yourself for (let’s say your husband commented on the state of the kitchen, and you often berate yourself for being an apathetic housekeeper. Now, think of a time someone criticized you for something that you have complete confidence in. Which one hurt more?
Yeah, it still sucks when someone doesn’t think we’re awesome, but not half as much as when someone twists the knife we’ve already stuck ourselves with.
I can hear you thinking “great Joanna, now I know that tearing myself down all the time isn’t helping me at all. Now how the heck do I stop?” It’s an excellent question! Knowing something is bad for you is easy, but stopping the behavior is really hard. Fortunately, I actually do have an answer for you.
My new program, Abandon Your Inner Bully: 5 Ways to Give Yourself a Break (a revitalization of 5 Days of Self-Compassion), is designed to help you start treating yourself like a friend, instead of a target of punishment. Over the course of five days, you will receive five emails with five simple exercises to try, leaving you with a taste of what it might feel like to support yourself with compassion. From now until January 15, it only costs $5 to sign up. And I have a special gift edition, so if you know somebody who think would benefit, you can buy it for them (and print out a gift certificate to put in their stocking!)