07 November 2011

Hard on Yourself

If you’re like most people, you’re pretty hard on yourself.  You judge yourself pretty quickly, and you’re pretty harsh when you do so.  Never mind that you wouldn’t judge others nearly as harshly as you judge yourself, for you’re able to convince yourself that you deserve your judgment, while others deserve sympathy and compassion from you.

I recognize this trait in others because I've suffered from it myself.  And while I sometimes try to kid myself that I’m over it and have been for a while, I know in my heart that this simply isn’t true.  I judge myself harshly, and it’s not easy for me to forgive myself for silly or stupid or ignorant things that I’ve done.  And this hurts me, for it keeps me hanging on to my past, while I should be much more focused on the present.

I made a mistake a few days ago, and I’m still pretty upset at myself for having done so.  It doesn’t really matter what that mistake was, and most people probably would think nothing of it.  But every time I think about it, I cringe.  I wish I could have that time back, and I feel a momentary twinge of guilt and anxiety for having made that mistake.  It takes me a few moments to remind myself that it’s over, that I’ve made amends for it, and that I need to leave it in the past, where it belongs.  But even as I write about it now, I’m wishing that I could re-do what I did then.

I know that part of my tendency to beat myself up over mistakes is a pretty common trait of Adult Children of Alcoholics.  As one of those people, I have to keep in mind that I will show some of the traits inherent in growing up in a household with an alcoholic as one of the parents.  But on the other hand, I do know this already, so my mind tells me that it should be possible to rid myself of my tendency to be so hard on myself, to lower my expectations of myself to more realistic levels.  My mind can say that, but it’s also my mind that tends to judge me and make me feel the guilt and anxiety that result from my previous mistakes.

What purpose does it serve for you to be unnecessarily hard on yourself?  If you were to sit down and write down the positive effects of being so and the negative effects, how long do you think each list would be?  I know that for me, there’s no real purpose served in beating myself up and making myself miserable over things that already have gone by, as long as I’ve made amends to any people to whom I’ve made amends.  Life is about living in the present moment, and when I pull myself into a negative moment of the past, what am I doing to my present?

I’ve decided that this is one of my major goals for the time being–to work on being less harsh with myself, judging myself more fairly and without unrealistically high expectations.  I want to be kind to people, and I want to do good things, but I don’t feel that I deserve the harsh feelings that I give myself over relatively minor mistakes.  When I can leave them in the past, where they belong–after having learned from them–then I can free myself up to live more fully and completely in the now.  And that’s a beautiful place to live.

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