Sometimes I’ll find myself being overly critical about my not accomplishing certain tasks during the day. The criticism doesn’t feel good. It feels like repeatedly poking a wound. I get a sense that the criticism is intended as a motivator to work harder, but it has the effect of weakening me.
I find that it helps for me to accept that the work I did that day is what I was capable of. I like to think of it as seeing myself through a journalist’s eyes, rather than as a novelist. This helps remove the fuel and the fire from the criticism. It’s my way of being kind to myself. I notice that it also helps me find and learn new ways to be productive during the day that make me feel good, regardless of what I accomplish.
I want to share with you an inspiring article on being kind to yourself called Why You Should Stop Being So Hard on Yourself, by Charlotte Lieberman.
The article says that we’ve evolved to notice our flaws more than our strengths, so that we can learn from our experiences. But what often ends up happening is that we take the flaws and run them over and over and over and over in our minds. This ends up having a destructive rather than a constructive effect on us. We become less productive, which ends up getting added to our flaws loop.
The only productive solution is self-compassion. But according to Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, “Research shows that the No. 1 barrier to self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge,” Dr. Neff said. “And all the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite.”
It turns out, simple kindness is our most valuable tool for living. There’s something powerful about being aware of our feelings of the ways we are not perfect, without the self-criticism.