While sitting in the lobby of my favourite downtown Calgary Yoga Studio, I was waiting for my tea to steep as I flipped through a few magazines that were spread out on the bench beside me. I came across this interesting quote in one of the articles: “We often judge our insides which we know intimately, by other people’s outsides, because that is all we can see.” This was an excerpt from The Mindful Way Through Anxiety by Susan M. Orsillo, PhD and Lizabeth Roemer, PhD. I was instantly thrown into an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Someone finally said everything I was thinking!
We are our worst critics and often say the most negative and downright rude things on a subconscious and conscious level. Some of the things we wouldn’t even consider saying to other people yet we are comfortable tossing them around on our own sensitive psyche. We know the very core of our character, the most intimate and lovely attributes that we possess. Yet we disregard the attractive qualities and allow criticism to define who we are as an individual. We are full of love, warmth and compassion yet we call ourselves out like a criminal jerk as if we are a stranger to our own mind and body. We feed ourselves endless toxic self-hate and worse we actually talk ourselves into believing every word of it. This idea of “I want to be better” becomes the daily mantra when it should be “I am great.”
Now I understand if there’s some confusion…
Don’t we always want to improve? In fact doesn’t everyone preach “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying?” Of course, but we shouldn’t get stuck in this negative mindset that we always need to be something more that what we already are. When we do this we allow this idea that we are incomplete, and if we live each day with this idea of being imperfect we become unhappy, ungrateful, depressed, bitter, and out of touch with the present. We look to the future on what we want to be instead of focusing on what we can do in the present moment to improve ourselves to be happy and fulfilled.
It’s about understanding the areas you know you need to improve in your life without disregarding how truly amazing you already are. It’s a balancing act. You’re great right now! You can not be anything greater nor lesser at this present moment, right now is definitive and true. The future isn’t real as it hasn’t come to pass, and the past isn’t your truth anymore as it has already passed. You are who you are right now detached from past and future limitations. You can change your circumstances for the future by acting now, not by fantasizing about being someone you’re not with things you may wish to have or not to have. That is true pain. When we struggle in the present moment over things we can not have right now. Struggle is trying to be more than what you are. This idea of “I want to become better” means you aren’t already whole. You are already whole, perfect and beautiful in every possible way right now. This however doesn’t allow you to not make goals for yourself and to not push yourself and grow past your comfort zones.
In Social Dynamics we talk about giving value to others freely, it’s important to realize that you are part of that equation too – the relationship with yourself. If you value feedback on your work then ask for feedback from others. Sure, people take value from us in certain circumstances but we are some of our worst offenders. We take away our own happiness and instead insert doubt and misery.
When walking down the street we might look at passerby’s or at billboards with envy. We want the things that others have – be it a physical attribute, a characteristic, or material possessions. We see the new iPhone, the lean physique, the jacket that they paid on credit or the car keys they have twirling around their fingers that we desire to have for ourself. We have no actual idea of who they are on an intimate level like we have of ourselves. So why do we put other people in the spotlight and ourselves in the mud? We build up other people and smack ourselves down in the process. Is this why we are so afraid of connecting with others? Why do we start to shake and go into cold sweats at the idea of walking up to a complete stranger (especially the ones we find desirable) to start a conversation?
Your own self-doubt and judgment is than mirrored and you instantly throw yourself into a panic over what they will think of you. Your inner-demon utters words into your ear only assuming what they are thinking of you to insert fear to hold you back and withdraw.
Who’s to Blame?
We can blame society, social media, the internet, video games, your parents for the impulse of being critical on ourselves but let’s take a minute and point the finger at the real offender: yourself. We create these illusions of other individuals based on the interpretation of their exterior and your own critical self-judgements. They haven’t said anything about you, but you let your mind wander with the assumption they will pick you apart like you do to yourself.
We are completely backwards. We have become so critical on ourselves and other people instead of realizing the simple beauty that we are equal in these positions, that we are all critical of ourselves and fearful of others perceptions and judgments. There’s so much relief in this understanding: I can walk by a stranger and know that they are as equally scared of me as I am of them, and they are fighting their own internal demons as well. With that knowledge – wouldn’t you feel more compelled to open up to someone and share your story? Your passions? Your interests? Are you more apt to tell them that you admire them and in return tell yourself you admire who you are as well? What we project on others is how we view ourselves.
Be kind to yourself and realize your internal battles are similar to those around you. Do not judge as you will be judged, either equally or even in a harsher manner. Meet each person with no expectations or assumptions of their character and hush the voices that say you aren’t good enough or that your less admirable qualities will be seen. Give value freely: to yourself and to everyone around you. If you can celebrate your own successes, you can celebrate in others. This simple, yet not easy, internal regimen will help you grow into a happier individual who has more value to give. If you are full of light and love, you will be able to give that to others. It all starts within. Be gracious, gentle, and understanding with yourself, and that will project into your exterior relationships thus improving your life, the relationship you have with yourself and the people around you.