I used to ‘self-bash’ all the time. In fact, I may have been a self-bash-aholic.
“Man, you’re stupid.” “Get off your fat butt and do something.” “What an idiot!!” “What’s wrong with you??!!”
These were all phrases that would regularly come out of my… well, NOT my mouth. That is why I believed they were okay. I would NEVER think to spit such words at another human being, but to myself – acceptable! Normal even.
But then, a strange thing happened to me today. I was feeling a little tired, a little down, so I stepped up to bat with some great bashes – ones that usually produce a home run and… I struck out!!! I tried a few more times with some of my biggest self-bashing swings (which usually involves the word ‘lazy’ in some way, shape or form) and none of it connected. Instead, I subtly laughed to myself and thought: “You know, that self-bashing thing is getting old.”
The most surprising thing about that thought, was I really meant it! It wasn’t some mantra that I had repeated until I believed it, or something I read on a mug, or even in a bible verse. It was a very simple and direct way of saying I’m tired of it. I am tired of the fiendish inner critic that has barked orders incessantly for years. I’m no longer willing to allow the critic to strip me of my squatters rights in this new territory of self acceptance. I may not own or even fully inhabit this territory yet, but it’s starting to feel a little more like home.
So why now? Why wasn’t I able to come to this conclusion twenty years ago when my naive nineteen year old self was already flailing and beginning to drown in this pool of negativity? I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps it took me this long to finally ‘give up’ on this practice because I didn’t realize I had a choice. This inner jousting seemed ingrained in my very being. It was natural. Almost…required. Obligatory to become a full fledged functional grown up. I remember my Dad saying to me once, “It’s reverse psychology.” in response to why he often called us lazy growing up. Maybe I believed this reverse psychology worked. Beat up, berate and belittle yourself, and you’ll respond by fighting back even harder.
I have to admit, that sometimes, it still makes sense to me. Why WOULDN’T I insult myself to get better results? But then I look at my children. I see how they respond to an insult or unwarranted criticism. I see them struggle, half believing it and half denying it. I see them negotiating through a sea of self doubt and frustration. In comparison, when I see them get encouragement, or feel accepted, flaws and all, there is a strong, quiet resilience. I see much more of a willingness to acknowledge flaws and move towards change, with their feet firmly planted in their strengths. Above all, I see hope.
I think I’ve just figured out why my self bashing has finally grown tiresome: I finally have enough evidence behind me to prove that it does not work, and above all, I see hope.
Becoming Ordinary: Day 206