I suppose it’s human nature to be critical of oneself, especially when we fail to live up to our own expectations. And that’s when that annoying little inner voice tells us that we’re losers, that we should have known better, or that we shouldn’t have tried that in the first place. I call it trash talk, and it’s so important that we stop beating ourselves up over trivial things.
I’m reminded of how my classmates and I were treated by our professors through four years of dental school. Each day we were told that we weren’t good enough, that we’d never be successful. And I, for one, believed that. Imagine my surprise when I received an award for being one of the top three clinicians in my class of one-hundred and five! Not good enough? What? It took me about three years in practice to overcome the negativity and recognize that I was an excellent dentist.
Norman Vincent Peale is famously associated with the power of positive thinking and often reminded us that we should feed our minds affirmations – positive statements, not negative ones. And the legendary motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, reminded us to “get a check-up from the neck-up” and to “eliminate our stinkin’ thinkin’.”
One of my joys in retirement is to participate in local theater productions. We’re blessed with an enormously successful community organization that produces five shows each year. Whether on stage, behind scenes, or designing props, theater provides terrific opportunities for creativity, personal growth, and camaraderie.
As a member of the cast for our current summer musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, I have struggled to master some of the music. I have often been seen smacking myself on the forehead when I miss a note or two. Indeed, our production’s musical director has informed me that she doesn’t expect perfection – yet. That’s why we have rehearsal.
But it’s the comment made by the cast member I play opposite that really hit home. She said, “You’re the only critic that follows you home. Stop that!”
The bottom line here is that we should be kind to ourselves, just as we are kind to others. An occasional disappointment is not an excuse to “beat ourselves up.” Life is too short. Respect yourself for who you are and what you do, and leave that critic behind.