Quieting the Voice of Self-Criticism
We are our own harshest critic. In fact, we are nastier to ourselves than we would ever be to others.
After my friend complimented me on what I was wearing one day, she commented, “I can’t wear t-shirts; they show my belly fat.” What? What belly fat? You have to understand, this lady is beautiful, she is not over-weight, and she always looks fantastic. And yet, she is always terribly self-critical.
I’ve been reminded in several different ways lately how we are so much meaner to ourselves than we are to others.
I am naturally a fairly critical person. Ask me for feedback, and I'll give it to you. It's something I have been told to work on. But, I don’t go around thinking, “She wore that skirt last week, I wish she would get her roots done, that scarf really doesn’t match her top.” It’s much more likely that I’m actually thinking, “She always looks great in that skirt, I wish my hair would grow that fast. That scarf looks so soft and snuggly; I wonder where she got it.”
However, I am super critical of myself. I am so careful not to wear the same outfit to work on the same day I wore it last week. I can tell you every problem with my skin, my hair, my body shape. I spend way too much time highlighting what my flaws are, berating myself over my imperfections and reminding myself of all the self-improvement that should be happening.
In my own mind I am completely convinced that everyone I know is entirely focused on me, scrutinising everything I do, say and wear constantly. They all notice every time I get a pimple, put on a kilo and wear the same jeans twice in the same week.
And yet, I hardly notice when one of my friends has a change of hairstyle or gets new glasses. It’s like, “Is there something different?” And if I do happen to notice things about my friends, I love them for it. If someone wears an outfit that is not particularly flattering, I don’t care about them any less, I don’t avoid their company, and I don’t feel that they should change. I love and accept them for who they are.
We are constantly given messages that we are not good enough, and after a while, if we’re not careful, we can start believing them.
You will be more beautiful if you use this cream. Your hair will look so much better if you buy this treatment. You need these jeans to make you look skinny, and these shoes to make you look tall, and this make-up to help you look young because looking skinny, tall and young will make you happy! Blahhhh
You are fearfully and wonderfully made
We often read this verse over our precious children, and it is very true for them, but it is also true for you. We are wonderfully made. With all of our perceived imperfections, God delighted in creating you, and me.
You have better things to do
There are so many more important things in life to focus on. Self-criticism takes so much energy and time. It sucks our confidence and our joy. It turns our focus on ourselves and diminishes our effectiveness to give and to serve.
Character is more important
We know this, but we don't accept it for ourselves often enough. When we are seeking advice, a listening ear, a supportive friend, we don't call our most beautiful friend; we call the wise woman of character. The godly friend; the patient and caring friend. I want to be one of them!
This body won’t last forever
I spent some time this week with the senior's group at our church. Most of these precious saints are 80 years old or more. They have frail bodies and strong faith. They are a blessing to spend time with because they have their priorities right. They love God and love each other in such an inspirational way, and they are generous with their encouragement.
One day we will have a new body. And somehow, I doubt that “Does my bum look big in this?” will be one of the questions I ask when I get it.
I am very blessed to have a strong, healthy body. I take it for granted too often. I will do my best to take care of my body and do the things that will help it work well as I get older. However, I am challenged again not to be distracted from what is truly important by worrying about what other people think all the time. It’s not all about me. And being a woman who is kind and wise and godly is much more valuable than having great hair.
I will remind myself of what God thinks of me and tell the mean girl in my head to sit and be quiet. I don’t need to listen to her opinion anymore.