This blog post may be solely for me, and perhaps I should have journaled it, but just in case there is someone else who needs to hear this...Here we go.
We as people can be tough on others. Holding them to high standards and unrealistic expectations. These standards and expectations are often heightened when applied to ourselves. But by pushing ourselves to meet unrealistic expectations, in the event we fall short, our inner critic can become ruthless.
Standards and expectations are oftentimes subconsciously created, informed by the opinions of society, culture, religion, or family and friends. Whether spoken directly or indirectly, these opinions filter our standards, goals, and expectations thus creating the lens through which we begin to see ourselves. Our lens is also warped by past hurts and disappointments, a driving force behind our actions and behaviors.
With these factors influencing our outputs, it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of life, trying to keep up with and impress people we don’t even know! CRAZY, right? In our attempts to run the race and maintain the pace we end up running on empty, tired, not happy, and truthful pursuing a life or lifestyle that is not a true reflection of us.
It is terribly easy to get caught up and become influenced by others! It happens without us even being aware of it. For example, we may clean our house all day, every day because of the remarkably clean Pinterest houses we see. Or we may visit a friend's house, whose house is always spotless, and feel guilty or ashamed because we left dishes in the sink overnight and have unfolded clothes on the couch. We hear this all the time that social media is the ‘highlight reel’ of people’s life. Yet, we still see it and pursue a similar life. Or we see the “fruits of their labor” and now we are working from sun up to sun down trying to have the same or similar fruits as they have.
Sometimes we are working hard to make up for past failures and disappointments. Thinking that our success will make up for it. Maybe it’s wearing expensive clothes to distract from your perceived flaws or to make you more acceptable by a particular crowd. Maybe it's the effort you put into your yard because having the greenest grass you believe shows you are worthy of your neighbors’ admiration and will make you more likeable.
Whatever the cause or reason, it pushes us to constantly work and to be in pursuit of things or status. There is nothing wrong with work or to pursue goals. The problem is when we do it and our reasons or motives behind the action are unhealthy. The standard that we are to measure our life against is the standard that God has set for us. The world, others, and even we will have thoughts and opinions. However, if it doesn’t line up with the standard of God, it is not what we should use as our rubric.
Let me share this with you, God says:
YOU ARE LOVED
YOU ARE FORGIVEN
YOU ARE ENOUGH
YOU ARE WORTHY
Read this more than once because I want you to get this.
This is important because many of our actions are rooted in:
When we don’t know who we are in Christ we easily get caught up running in the hamster wheel of life dictated by society and others. Trying to prove or be loved, forgiven, enough or worthy, when you already are. Let’s get off the hamster wheel and let the standard that has been given to us by God be the standard for our life. The standard by which we make decisions and guide our actions.
I know society tells us to work hard, sacrifice is required to have success, too much white space on your calendar means you aren’t doing enough or you aren’t being productive. In the same breath, we are also incredibly hard on ourselves. We create a standard and expectations for ourselves that are too high and possibly unrealistic, and when we don’t meet them our inner critic starts badger.
Giving yourself a break can start with:
It’s easy to focus on what we didn’t get right, how we haven’t progressed as far as expected, how our house, kids, and car don’t measure up, and what we can’t do. Listing those things comes easy to us. What if we took time to focus on the positive, on other aspects of us?
Here is an exercise for you to try:
1)Think about your strengths, gifts, talents and accomplishments. Write them all down. (That’s right, a total brain dump. And I recommend you go ‘old school’ using a pen and paper.)
Don’t be modest. Be honest, kind and generous with yourself. And identify every single thing you’re good at. Every little thing you’ve accomplished. Everything you’re proud of.
Don’t hold back!
2) Think also about what you love about yourself. For example, ‘I love how I’m a problem solver.’ Or maybe ‘I love the way I care for my kids.’ Be sure to write it all down. (If you’re having difficulty coming up with a response to this prompt, ask your spouse, family or close friends.)
This exercise will feel strange. As women, it won’t feel ‘right’ to brag on ourselves. But understand this isn’t about being boastful or arrogant. It’s about giving yourself a break from the badgering our inner critic offers. It’s shifting your focus from the negative to the positive. It’s acknowledging that you are good at many things despite your past, your mistakes, or opportunities for growth. It’s ok. You are a unique creation. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are God’s wonderful masterpiece.
Keep your list handy and whenever your inner ‘mean girl’ speaks, read the list aloud. As you recite your own awesomeness, the ‘mean girl’ lies will begin to fade away, until one day that voice will no longer be audible.
3) Take some time to think about the areas of your life where your self-critic speaks up the most. Pick 1-2 area and take some time to reflect the following:
KEEP YOUR EYES FIXED ON GOD and stop letting the world and others influence how you live your life. The grace that God so freely gives, give some grace to yourself.
J.Branch is a wife, mother and child of God. She is passionate about helping others live the life they desire, have fruitful relationships and know who they were created to be and to live a life of purpose.
To connect with me about speaking or facilitating please contact me at contact me.