Why does it seem that it is easier to criticize and judge ourselves than to support and uplift? Where did it happen that our inner voice turned negative (and I believe that it did actually TURN negative, rather than our being born with it)?
I’ve written in the past how negative information resonates deeper and longer than the positive, but when we’re born into this world, we don’t know the difference between good and bad, positive and negative.
Perspective is something we learn, yet at the same time, what and how we learn it is, in part, influenced by how our brain works, and in part influenced by how we receive information.
By this I mean that some of us seem to have the propensity for optimism and positivity while others lean more in the other direction. As it turns out, some of this might be genetic, but genes are only influencers, not dictators, of our world-view.
Mindset is much more determined by our life experiences. As we experience our world, we begin to frame those experiences. And many of those experiences that framed our thinking of today, happened a really long time ago when we were much younger, inexperienced, and naive.
We then started to perceive what our experiences meant to us. Those perceptions eventually created beliefs which became drivers behind our behaviors. The behaviors then affected our experiences, which ultimately reinforced our perceptions and solidified our beliefs. This perpetual cycle is what I call a Mindset Feedback Loop.
Our mindset is shaped by how we identify with our outer world, and that guides how we relate to it. So if we are our own worst critic, what does that mean in terms of how we think about ourself and how we show up with others?
Our own worst critic.
I believe that our inner criticism is rooted in judging ourselves based on perceptions we’ve created by comparing ourselves to others. And I think it’s worth saying that the keywords here are judgment and perception.
The more I talk to and observe other people, the more I realize that many people have negative perceptions of themselves that they try to hide by behaving the opposite way than they feel.
People who try to come across as confident, might at first appear that way, but they also might overcompensate by appearing over-assertive or pushy because they don’t feel that way on the inside.
People who want to appear capable and put-together but have huge insecurities and feel like tremendous failures on the inside, often create the opposite impression in others, whether the other people are conscious of it or not. Something just feels off.
Why can't we be friends?
I find this potential disconnect to be very sad. Why shouldn’t we feel good about ourselves? Why can’t we like who we are, and believe in our abilities?
Somewhere it became a social faux pas to accept ourselves for who we are. To revel in our gifts, and to take care to nurture a positive sense of self.
That being said, I sense a shift is in the works where it is becoming not just acceptable, but also expected, that we make an effort to know ourselves better. To attune to our inner self, in order to tap into what it is we truly want out of life, and to believe in ourselves enough to go after it with a confidence that is more than skin deep.
4 key ingredients to inner friendship.
In thinking about Befriending Ourselves During Change, I realize that there is an invisible, yet very real, line between inner confidence and narcissism. That will likely be the topic of a future post.
Assuming those reading this are interested in the former, because they feel they are in some way lacking and want to change how they perceive themselves, here are a few quick tips to add to your toolbox for developing an inner friendship. And if you want something that goes deeper into shifting your mindset, check out this new online course in the works:
It is hard to befriend someone we don’t know very well, and so getting to know ourselves better is the first step to take. In doing this, we begin to notice what we like and don’t particularly like about ourselves.
Acknowledging that there are, in fact, things that we like as well as dislike, is the key to developing a close, and full, relationship with ourselves.
This one is harder than it sounds. It’s time to accept ourselves for who we are. Not just the good parts, but all of us.
We all have flaws, and accepting that they represent a part of who we are just as our strengths do, is something we often do more for our friends and loved ones than for ourselves. Being a friend and loving who we are, warts and all, requires that same level of commitment.
I believe that forgiving ourselves is a requirement for accepting, but it isn’t until we try to accept ourselves that we can truly recognize what we need to forgive, and how crucial it is that we do it.
There are times when we do things we don’t understand or that represents a part of ourselves we just plain don’t like. Sometimes our words, actions or intentions hurt others, and other times they hurt ourselves.
Some say that these ‘shadow' behaviors represent a part of us that we have turned our back on, and, as a result, are acting out like a child who feels they aren’t getting enough attention. Acknowledging and accepting our shadows are crucial in order to forgive.
In order to move forward, we must weed through and discard old and outdated beliefs. The stories we’ve been telling about ourselves are rooted in the past. Do they really represent who we are today?
Why not release them and create some space for some new and improved stories?
Who do you love?
Befriending ourselves should be easy, since there isn’t one person we’ve spent more time with during our lives than us.
It seems as though it would be easier and more fun to live within friendship and alignment than amidst constant belittling and pressure. And yet, for those of us who have created in ourselves our own worst critic, it might seem outlandish to shift this around and instead forge a friendship.
As always, it comes down to choice. Who would we rather spend our time with, and who do we draw motivation from; the friendly voice of encouragement, or the harsh, judgmental critic?
For some it might be the critic. But personally, I’m tired of that voice and find that instead of motivating me, I now rebel against it.
I’d much rather spend my days with a friend. For those who agree, I hope these tools and tips are useful in developing that relationship in you - if you're looking for additional guidance through coaching or my new online course on mindset, click here.
Thanks for reading!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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