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IT’S OKAY TO SELF-CRITIQUE
I've spent the past four years trying to uplift myself and become the kind of confident, powerful woman that I've always wanted to be. I developed a deep spiritual practice and read a ton of self-help books to help me overcome anxiety and depression, so that I could live my life to the fullest. I meditated, practiced yoga, studied mindfulness, and learned about a multitude of different philosophies that I believed could help me be happier. All of these things did help me. I no longer heavily struggle with mental health problems and, overall, I have truly blossomed into somebody who can confidently enter a room and not be plagued with negative thoughts about how no one would like me. Truly, I've come an exceptionally long way. However, it seems that on my spiritual and self-help journey, I missed something: self-critique.
Although I've definitely changed for the better and corrected some of my not-so-great qualities, I've truly forgotten to take a good, hard look at myself and be honest with what I need to work on. Often times, we're told that we're perfect just the way we are and that people should accept us and, if they don't, they're the problem. In some ways, that's certainly true. We are all created equally and perfectly and no one's opinion should influence how we feel about ourselves, but part of progressing as a person is truly seeing where we need improvement. If we continue to explain away all of our bad habits with "this is just how I am" not only will we drive away true connection in our lives, but we'll fail to truly be happy with ourselves.
I learned this lesson while reading the book, The Game of Desire by Shan Boodram. Even though, on the surface, this is a book about dating, when you take a deeper look, it's really about making meaningful connections with people, including yourself. This book had five women taking an honest look in the mirror to figure out what was holding them back from creating the kind of relationships and connections that they wanted. A big part of this process was self-analyzing and getting real about what traits they had that pushed people away. This particular part in the book really stuck with me because, being someone who prides themselves in "self-improvement," I realized that maybe I wasn't doing quite as good of a job as I thought.
I expected that people should like me because I like me, but, upon second look, maybe I've been focusing way too much on myself and less on who I am in relation to others. For example, I expect people to take a genuine interest in who I am and my life, but I might not always come across as being interested or caring about theirs. I spend so much of my life being silent and not speaking my mind that, now that I've found my voice, I have a hard time stopping myself from using it too much. I also have found that, because I can be so sensitive, I often put up a front of sarcasm that really borderlines just being mean and that's not attractive to anyone.
My point here isn't about changing ourselves to become appealing to others, but realizing the negative patterns in our lives that are stopping us from finding true happiness. Personally, I think that human connection is one of the most important factors in our lives that keep us feeling fulfilled. I know that for myself, when I feel secluded and alone, those are the times when I'm most prone to depression. But, self-critique doesn't have to just be for the sake of your relationships with others, but also for your relationship with yourself.
Having a good relationship with yourself is absolutely paramount to living a happy healthy life, yet, we don't often prioritize that relationship. Self-love and true acceptance is a huge part of this, but so is self-improvement and truly getting to know ourselves, the good and the bad. You can't have a good relationship with yourself if you're not seeing yourself for who you really are. That means, taking it all in, looking at your positive traits, but also your negative ones and how you came to be who you are today. It means, true analysis into the depths of yourself, figuring yourself out. This process isn't easy and you may find some things that you don't like about yourself. But, that gives you the opportunity to evolve and change for the better and truly fall in love with yourself.
As usual, this got a little ramble-y and probably off topic, but what I'm trying to say is: don't be afraid to get real with yourself. To live our lives to the fullest, we must become the greatest versions of ourselves and keep striving to do better. I know that it can be hard to face the truth about negative patterns in our lives, but the strength that it takes to do just that will only make you a stronger and better person.
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Learn to be your own harshest critic and your most sympathetic critic.
A persons relationship with themselves will determine the type of relationship they will have with others. Having a poor self image for so many year and for a number of reasons, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have very successful friendships and relationships. Now, before I get too far along, a successful relationship doesn’t have to be one that lasts forever. I have had very successful relationships that lasted a period of time and then successfully concluded. Not every relationship is meant to be a forever one. It wasn’t until I found the real me, which is WAY too involved to discuss here, that I started to love the real me. And once I started to love the real me and be the real me, that is when I found true happiness. Now this type of self-discovery wasn’t the read a book kind, this was get into counseling and strip it all away down to the bare bones and foundation and really see where the cracks were and create the best, most solid foundation and begin rebuilding, which was often a painful process. This type of discovery allowed me to decide what I was going to put on this foundation and why. Today, as the happiest I have ever been, I find that when things like covid come along and periods of being alone (which would have crippled me years ago) now provide me with time for me to just be alone with myself, I almost crave “me time” — and to really enjoy that time alone. Now I am more selective as to who I allow into my life, friends or more. I find that by completely loving myself affords me the opportunity to say “no thanks” if what that person brings to the table isn’t what I want. No more settling for halfway friendships or relationships just so I had someone there, because something was better than nothing, right? WRONG!! Now, I am my own best friend, and that allows me to project that total self acceptance outward, if others pick up on it and like it, great! I have had more than one person say after meeting me, “I’ll have what she’s having!” And the truth is, everyone should have it! Your one true love should always be you…