I’ve been thinking about something the past few days.
I’m so hard on myself. Why is that?
After my last rambling post, I woke up the next morning with a pit in my stomach. I felt exposed, raw, and weird. Almost like an awkward walk-of-shame, tiptoeing about the morning with sinking feeling of regret and vulnerability.
It took everything I had in me not to pull down that post.
I mentioned that to my sweet boyfriend, who said some things that got me thinking.
What was I ashamed of? Honesty? Openness? Admitting weakness and showing faults and releasing the facade of perfection?
Isn’t that what I want? Authenticity?
Genuineness isn’t always pretty. And it shouldn’t be. So what if I don’t have it all together sometimes? No one does. I wouldn’t fault my best friend, or my sister, or my boyfriend, or even the stranger on the street, if they had an off day and possessed feelings and said things that contradicted the way they normally feel or strive to be. So why can’t I extend myself the same grace and acceptance?
This topic has came up multiple times in therapy. My extreme levels of self-criticism. My lack of self-acceptance. My overreaching quest for a perfect presentation, to always be the right thing and do the right thing.
And honestly, I’m light years from where I used to be. I can genuinely say I like myself now. I like this person, I trust her, and I believe in her. But I am still so critical of her sometimes.
When she is taking steps forward, progressing, motivated and headstrong, it’s easy to like her. But when she slumps, when she has doubts and falls back into old habits, I just slam her. I don’t see her for what she is — utterly human, experiencing inevitable and necessary human emotions that will never be completely steady. I immediately ‘doomsday’ and call her a failure. And then feel regret and shame, not only for having tripped and stumbled down a few steps on the climb, but for getting embarrassed about it instead of shaking it off.
This is the gray area I’ve been working on for the past year or so. Breaking the pattern of black-and-white thinking, of good-and-bad, perfect-and-failure. There is an entire spectrum between the extremes, and it is okay to fall anywhere in between at any given time. No, in fact, not just okay — expected. And accepted. Desired, even.
So why, when I have recognized and know these things so logically, do I still give myself such a hard time sometimes? Not only with grief, but everywhere. Self-image, career, goals, fitness, relationships, even writing. What’s with the need for perfection?
Like The Beau said, “stop being so mean to my girlfriend!” (He’s so cute.)
One of the most outstanding pieces of advice I was ever given on this journey of widowhood was this — there are no should’s. Be gentle with yourself.
So many people, widows and parents and children and siblings and friends and all sorts of people suffering from grief, have found me through my writing and this wonderful amazing ride of life. And I don’t hesitate for a second to suggest this to them, to extend them that grace.
It’s more than time to do it for myself.
And not just when it’s easy to do, not just in those moments when I’m doing well and it’s easy to like myself.
But in those moments when I’m experiencing the morning-after-vulnerablities. When I’ve fallen down and embarrassed myself. When I have snapped at someone or failed to complete a task or don’t have the right answer or any answer. When I’m not on point.
That’s when I need to stop being so mean.