Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To be my Friend, not my Critic

I'm around myself for 24/7 and others, including my kids, are only around for a part of that time. In other words, they can get away from me on occasions but I can't escape from myself. For this reason, I made a conscious decision that I might as well be a friend to myself rather than a judge or a critic.

You see, too often in the past I've been the sort of 'friend' nobody would want to hang around. I've kept doing the critic routine on myself. Constructive, loving feedback is one thing, but critics are the sort of people who make snide remarks and keep telling us how we've fallen short. We don't enjoy their company because this goes on non-stop. "You didn't handle that very well, did you?... You stuck your foot in it... You have to work harder... You fell short again." They simply make us feel miserable and judged. We are always relieved to get away from that type of person but the problem is, we can't get away from ourselves.

When we think about it, we admit we probably want to be friends with ourselves. We believe the criticism is something we do for our own best interest, to help us improve. So often, people who find themselves frequently miserable and depressed contact psychologists and life coaches, pouring out lots of time and money looking for help outside themselves. All that may be necessary is to simply ask, "Am I my friend or my critic?" I've noticed so often that seemingly difficult and long-standing problems may be best solved by deceptively simple changes in thinking.

A few months ago, I started speaking to myself gently and kindly. "You got through a day selling books plus a rental inspection all in one week, and took Emma to her Art lesson. That's pretty good going." Recently, I made a faux pas and possibly upset somebody by making the wrong assumption; something I would have normally beat myself up over. I remembered that I'm now doing kind self-talk. "It really wasn't your fault because nobody told you any different and you were acting the best way you thought you should." Amazingly, it did make me feel much better and allowed me to quickly put the incident behind me instead of dwelling on it. Wow, kind self-talk promotes closure.

It works when you receive negative feedback from others too. Instead of getting all upset and giving them power over me, I prefer to tell myself, "Well, he/she obviously has a shallow idea of who you are." I love it when people make friendly gestures to me and assure me that I'm doing OK in their opinion. Well, my own word is as good and meaningful as anyone else's. When we practise kind self-talk and being our own friend, we can have days crammed with valuable positive feedback like this.

I find I've got to carefully keep it up though, or it's easy to fall back into old habits without realizing. Last Saturday, I showed up an event where many SA authors were showcasing our wares. I told myself that my seven books presented a really great display, but then later, I wanted to go over to speak to couple of 'high-profile' authors but as they were deep in conversation with others, I chickened out. I didn't want to take the risk of being snubbed or summarily dismissed.

Disgusted with my chicken-heartedness, I started thinking, "I'm never going to change. I'm just a wuss who isn't going anywhere. I'm supposed to be doing positive self-talk. Well, that's a laugh, isn't it?"

Hey, hang on, stop! I'm my friend, not my critic. Time for kind self-talk. "Being a bit nervous is OK. A bit of reticence is nothing to get critical about. Your seven books look very appealing and you know how confident you are that their pages contain some great stories. Do you realise what you're doing? You're getting critical for being critical of yourself, and you also have the sense of humour to see how funny that is."

I'd recommend reaching out to be your own friend to anybody. If you haven't tried it before, I think there is a lot of truth in a saying I once read, that the person who approval you've been trying to earn most is your own.


  1. There is incredible power in the thoughts we think to ourselves! Positive and negative. Sometimes I find it best to be my own friend by telling myself the truth. But this can seem so hard when even the negative thoughts seem true. So, when the lines get fuzzy it's good to remember to check in with The Truth. What is his opinion of me this side of salvation? And when we base our friendly self talk on that steadfast, love saturated truth, it is so much easier to walk on.
    Thanks for another honest, thoughtful post.

  2. Paula, old foot-in-mouth here knows how you feel. But I learnt long ago that having issues I need to give up to God reminds me of what I am - a work in progress. And that's just how I like it.

  3. Hey Paula! What you doing in my head? Seriously - you are not alone in these feelings. Many creative people - and especially writers - have the same thought patterns. Praying we'll all be strong by leaning on The Strength He provides.

  4. Great advice Paula. Are you sure you aren't studying psychology?!

  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone.
    Penny, definitely a great Rock to base our self-talk on.
    Rose, sounds like you know the wisdom of being easy on ourselves.
    Trevor & Janet, thanks for the encouragement and vote of confidence.

  6. Wise words, Paula. And even for those of us who are aware of this fatal flaw in ourselves, it doesn't hurt to be reminded that we need to be kind to ourselves.

    Peace and Laughter,

  7. Very true and very wise. I must be a better friend to myself.
    Thanks Paula :)

  8. Being our own positive friends or life coaches does make a big difference. I've been doing that too... just need to stop doing it out loud when people are around! One of the gems from The Search for Significance is something to the effect of "It'd be nice if that person thought well of me (or if I did a perfect job at that) but even if that's not how it is, I can rest in God's love and grace."

  9. Thanks for your comments, everyone.
    Janet, I've come across some people who do believe in doing it out loud in public :D, but I'd be far too self-conscious.


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