Truth Byte #31
You are being too hard on yourself.
Judgment is a curious thing. Very little children don’t judge. They ask questions (Mommy, why is that man wearing a dress? Daddy, what is that chair with wheels for? Grandma, why doesn’t Maya have a dad?) but until they are taught, they don’t really know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, what is the “right” answer and what is just plain wrong.
Adults and older children teach them that.
Not too long ago in Western history, children were taught that people of certain skin tones were naturally inferior to others. They learned that “fact”, grew up believing it, and then their actions as adults demonstrated those beliefs. It was their children and grandchildren who challenged those judgments and their great-grand children who are still advocating for ethnic minorities and people of colour in the West.
Not too long ago we believed that it was dangerous to women’s health and the family’s stability to teach women to read. When I told my seven-year old that little historical tidbit last month, he laughed out loud in disbelief. “If moms and teachers aren’t allowed to read, who is going to teach the kids and help them with their homework?” he asked, incredulously. He then told me that there is only one male teacher in his entire elementary school, and he is a substitute. “Boys and girls both need to know how to read so they can understand life and not be tricked,” he said, with finality.
Judgment has a very dark side. We have been reeling from the intergenerational impact of mistaken judgment. For decades we have been trying to dismantle the institutional discrimination it supported.
So what happens when we turn that judgment inward?
Too many of us live our lives with a toxic inner critic as a companion. Sometimes it feels like we can never get it right, never do it right, never be or have enough. When that happens, know that you are listening to that Voice.
I was looking around my home the other day, and it seems no matter where I went, there were things out of place. I would finish with one part of my house and the other part of the house would be a mess. My friendly inner critic showed up, never missing a beat, and went on to explain to me how I was a failure, and how if my single mom who worked three jobs could keep a tidy house, why couldn’t I, (an entrepreneur who makes my own hours and has a loving, supportive husband at home) have a presentable home?
Within moments of that corrosive inner talk, I was hollering at my young children about how I am not their maid and I am going to donate all their belongings to kids who deserve them if they can’t keep their spaces tidy. They cleaned up slowly and silently, without making eye contact, and I internally kicked myself. I should have just put on the "clean up song" like I do every afternoon when I want them to put their things away, and they would have known the drill. Instead, my own inner judgment seemed to make it okay for me to lash out and act like a ten-year old.
We all felt terrible after and I went to bed that night with a migraine.
The critic thrives on comparisons, and won’t quit until you have lost it. Which will give you one more thing to feel bad about.
There is always someone that Voice can find who is managing better than me. Someone who is in a tougher space yet is somehow seems to be coming out roses. And when She can’t find someone real, She will start making comparisons to caricatures and Hollywood/Bollywood starlets who seem to have it all and not be breaking even the smallest sweat.
(Speaking of sweat, when I first started attending Zumba regularly, my inner critic told me I was clearly not doing it right because everyone else was sweating more than me. It’s always something!!)
I have tried all kind of strategies to deal with my critic. And I have found only one that works:
Listen to a different voice.
Alongside my Critic, there is another voice.
This voice is quieter, more loving, and always gives me the benefit of the doubt. This voice reminds me that everything of this Earth will perish, and there is only one vibrant part of my that will survive after my last rites: my soul. I like to think of this voice as the voice of my Spirit, that voice that speaks to me through the breeze in the trees and the waves on the sand and the twinkle in the eyes of my children.
This voice reminds me that even in my weakest moment, I am strong.
This voice reminds me who’s child I really am, and that my true Mother/Father can never leave me.
This voice is much softer than the critical voice, and so it’s often harder for me to hear. I have to be still to hear this voice, and I have to be willing. But once I notice it, the voice of my Spirit is persistent. It points out all the things I am doing right, and reminds me that even if I did nothing “right” for the rest of my days, the fact that I am kind and caring is enough. More than enough.
This voice reminds me that whether anyone else knows it or not, I am loveable.
This voice makes it easier for me to breathe.
Today, I challenge you to get still, and to be willing. You have this voice too, (you have probably already heard it once or twice) and it has something to tell you. I know that other voice, the critical voice, seems more real most of the time, and it’s easy to join in the self-attack wholeheartedly. And yet, that is not making you happy, is it? Make the switch today, and let me know how you do listening to this new voice.
To access this other voice, and be able to listen to it more regularly, it helps to be around others who are on the same path. Join our tribe by subscribing to my newsletter or attending a workshop. Email me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org