It’s hard to be kind to ourselves. We want to be better than we think we are. This can be a good thing, because who wouldn’t want to self-improve? But sometimes focusing on our (usually perceived) flaws is unhealthy, and it can become hard to break that habit.
It can be memories of regret: why didn’t I push myself out of my comfort zones when I was younger? Or it can be worries for the future: am I taking the right steps to reach my goals in my personal and professional lives? Am I even sure of what I want? If not, when will I figure it out?
While it’s not an easy task to kick the old habit of self-criticism, it’s not impossible either.
Many of us tend to dwell on negative things that happened during the day, in the past, or that may happen in the future. I’ve found that journaling helps a lot with this. For one thing, when we journal we can recount some of the positive things that happen in the day, and as Shawn Achor describes in his TedxBloomington talk, this can “[create] lasting positive change.” But, as someone who often worries about seemingly small and at times irrational things, I’ve also found that it helps to record worries in a journal. It almost makes it as if we are reciting our worries out loud; when you read it back, your small or irrational worries seem to sound silly, and it helps put things into perspective.
Regarding the future, it’s hard to know who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to do. I don’t think it ever gets easier. Well, maybe eventually, but it seems to take a long time. For me what I find most difficult is to resist being influenced by others for the sake of pleasing them. In that kind of situation, you only end up hurting yourself. Without a strong trust in yourself, it’s easy to back down from decisions you’d otherwise easily make. Going along with that, it’s also important to trust that you will get to where you want to go, and be who you want to be. With time. When you’re ready.
Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult task of all, is learning to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made. Forgive yourself for feeling like you let someone down. Realize that no one is and can be perfect, including yourself.