The Inner Critic

As I have been writing more about myself I am noticing a trend. I am very quick to point out my faults and failures. I can poke fun at my shortcomings, laugh at all my foibles. But, I have a really hard time saying anything positive about myself. It’s like there is a mental block. I have decided to be curious about that. Am I too afraid of getting prideful if I mention something that I’m good at? Or worse, am I so used to only looking at the negative that I can’t even come up with positive things to say about myself?

Let’s look at some of the things in which I poke fun of myself.. Housekeeping. I’m not a good housekeeper. I don’t dust. I rarely take care of the piles of clutter that accumulate. Mopping happens when my feet start sticking to the floor. But here’s the thing. I am so much better at keeping house than I was 19 years ago. I am now able to keep a tidy house. Not a clean house, but a tidy one. Considering where I started from, that is amazing. Let’s also look at the fact that I genuinely despise housekeeping. It does not give me happy feelings to clean. I feel like patting myself on the back and getting a sticker every time I clean because I dislike it so much. It’s like watching the kid who hates vegetables to the point of throwing up, eat a big salad every day. I really need to give myself credit for the amount of self-discipline and selflessness I exhibit every time I pick up the broom and start sweeping, or go and wash the dishes. I somehow make myself do the distasteful every day. (Ok, there are the occasional days when I give in to laziness and don’t clean at all, but then I have to pay for it the next day.)

I make fun of myself because I’m not a great cook. But here’s the thing. I am a fast and efficient cook. I can prepare a meal for 12 people in 30 minutes. I am creative. I can take whatever remnants I have in my pantry and fridge and somehow make a meal out of it. I am also a thrifty cook. I can take a very small amount of money and somehow stretch it so that everyone has been fed and no one is hungry. I am not a gourmet, but really, considering I’m feeding 12 people, I do alright.

I make fun of myself because I am absent-minded and not the most observant person on the block. I am rarely going to notice what shoes you are wearing. I’ll probably forget what outfit you were wearing as soon as I’m not looking at you. Forget about me noticing your haircut. But, I do notice people. I notice what kind of mood people are in. I notice who is feeling tense and out of place at a party. I notice what kind of vibes you give off: friendly, uncertain, scared, angry, aloof. I notice these things. I notice people. Just not the outer-layer of the person. I am simply tuned in to a different level of what’s going on.

I make fun of myself because I do not have any of the handyman/handcraft/do-it-yourself-project type skills. Don’t ask me to make things with my hands. But, I can make things with words. I can communicate very well. I’m good at taking thoughts and putting them into words so that other people understand exactly what I mean. I’m good at running interference in my home because I can see where there is a breakdown of communication between two people, and I can help them communicate their thoughts better and thus defuse the situation.

I could probably go on for a while about this. But I do have a point I want to make. I have a feeling that I am not the only person who’s inner-critic speaks a lot louder than their inner-encourager.  No one has ever been as mean to me as I am to myself when I start in on the self-criticisms. Usually I’m not even aware of this inner-critic. It’s just there, part of my thought life. I trip while walking down the sidewalk. My brain says, Well, of course you’d trip, you are so clumsy! You’ve always been so clumsy! You probably looked like an idiot. And I just nod and accept it. Yep, I’m a clumsy idiot.

How do we get this voice to stop? I am hashing this out as I write. I don’t have all the answers. But something comes to mind. When my children are afraid, I always tell them to speak truth over their fears. You’re afraid of the dark? Ok, let’s speak some truth over that. The dark is just absence of light. There is nothing in the dark. It’s just your bedroom. There are no monsters. There are no bad guys. It’s just your bedroom. Truth. It helps with fears. I wonder if truth would help with criticism? Let’s speak truth to that voice. Wait a minute. I’m not a clumsy idiot. There was an unexpected rise in the sidewalk and I wasn’t able to anticipate it and so I tripped. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Tripping does not automatically make me an idiot. It just means I am human and susceptible to the laws of gravity.

I think it’s hard to stop listening to that inner-critic because deep down, we think it’s right. We have not fully grasped truth yet. We still don’t quite believe that we are created in the image of God. We don’t quite believe that we are a unique wonderful person. We don’t quite believe that God loves us in a deep, passionate way that defies understanding. We don’t believe. And it’s easier to listen to that inner-critic than to fight it with truth.

I have for many years now had the belief that if I could ever truly understand the depths of God’s love for me, if I could truly embrace that and live in it fully…I would be invincible. Unstoppable. There would be no boundaries on the things I could do if I could fully live in that truth.

It’s a journey, I’m still reaching for that goal. Maybe the first step though is to stop listening to my inner-critic. Start confronting that voice with some truth. I think it would be a giant step in the right direction.

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