I am my own worst critic. Cliche. Trite. Worn out phrase. Yes. In making these past four comments about my initial sentence, I have demonstrated the point made in the sentence itself. Let me repeat because it bears repetition: I am my own worst critic.
This is not to say I am a perfectionist. I will not say with 100% certainty whether or not I am or am not a person who professes perfectionism. It’s possible, probable even, but not certain. I do not do everything perfectly. I suppose, as they say, no one does. Still, if something is not perfect in my eyes, in the past, I have gone so far as to say, “Why bother trying at all?” Is this perfectionism? I am not sure. For this reason, I will not categorize myself one way or the other on this.
One could say it could be labeled as black/white thinking. It could be labeled also as harsh or negative self talk in some respects. Another notable way to describe it could be insecurity. Maybe one more could be unrealistic standards.
Whatever you call it, some people would view it as unhealthy. If it immobilizes me, gets in the way of pursuits (getting mentally/physically/spiritually healthier, trying new things for fear of failure, setting goals that I feel I might never reach, etc.), then it could definitely be harmful. It could stagnate me. It could even make me paranoid or at least riddled with anxiety.
This is an extreme way of talking about this. I am my own worst critic, as I said. It may be that within that behavior, I am also being critical of my own critical nature. Counterproductive, wouldn’t you say so?
Maybe what would be more useful would be to get back to the old strategies that helped me be kinder to myself: affirmations, positive journal entries, taking “me time” out from my day (even though I live alone most of the time, I don’t always think of ways to spend quality time with myself; it is hard to explain). I could list positive attributes of myself. I could make sure to do good things for myself all the time, and I could make sure I am always my own best friend. I could make sure I treat myself with the dignity I always feel I should extend to others in my life.
There was a saying from a group therapy I used to attend. It was a very expensive group unlike the free ones I attend now, but never mind that. The saying was kind of like the Golden Rule but in reverse: Do unto yourself as you would do unto others. That may not be the exact wording because it has been years since I’ve been there, thank goodness. Regardless, the sentiment is there. The meaning is that we should be good to ourselves just as we should be good to others in our lives. It’s not a negative thing to practice good self care and to take one’s own needs into account. This can mean many things like taking charge of one’s health, engaging in activities one especially enjoys, taking quiet time, or refraining from partaking in other activities that one might not enjoy so much.
This might seem obvious to some people. Lots of people, maybe, do not seem to find any trouble making themselves a priority. For a lot of other people, though, it can be the hardest thing of all and the lack of this can lead to serious consequences. If someone puts everyone around them ahead of themselves and forgets they, too, are important, then they will not only not be able to continue to care for others, but they may ultimately get sick in any number of ways. It was a hard lesson for me to learn. It has probably been the hardest lesson of my 20s if not ever. It may seem so simple, but for some, like me, it really isn’t.
There is a book that I was directed to by a friend by a philosopher called Ayn Rand, who was born in Russia. I don’t agree with everything she says, but the book is entitled, The Virtue of Selfishness. In it she describes how it is not really altruistic to give to others at the expense of oneself. I do not remember the whole message. The point I am trying to drive home is: It’s great to be giving, generous, and kind. These are great qualities. The world, in my opinion, needs altruistic and nurturing people. It is equally important to nurture one’s own needs, and it is essential that if it is someone’s normal inclination to take care of someone else more than oneself it is important not to forget proper self care in the process. This is not actually selfishness; it is a necessity.