by Adriana Villavicencio
How often do you criticize yourself on a job you’ve done or give yourself a hard time about messing up? Would you tell any of your friends some of the negative remarks you make about yourself on a daily basis? If we aren’t disparaging or dismissive of those we love, why should we ever be that way with ourselves?
The NY Times reported on a recent study, which showed that people who were supportive of others were actually less supportive of themselves. These individuals struggle with feelings of guilt and show themselves little self-compassion. I see this among a lot of successful Latinos. Sometimes, it seems like we are striving to prove to ourselves, to our families, to the world that we can achieve despite growing up poor, or learning English later than everyone else, or being told we were less capable than others. We want to make our community proud, so we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to be great. When we fail, we bear the brunt of our negativity.
But this habit of self-criticism isn’t unique to any particular demographic:
I see it in relationships when people blame themselves for their partner’s unhappiness.
I see it in schools when students feel shame over a project that isn’t just right.
I see it when women talk about food in terms of being “bad” for eating what they want.
I see it among artists whose talented displays are admired by everyone save for themselves.
I see it in myself when I can’t do it all, be it all to everyone all the time.
Self-criticism doesn’t Work
Sometimes we’re hard on ourselves because we think that will help us reach our goals: I must never have cake because I look terrible in these jeans. But experts in psychology tell us that people are less motivated by negative talk. In order to change behavior and produce results, we need to practice self-compassion not just self-discipline; we need to come from a place of abundance, not deprivation.
Positive self-talk – as corny as that might sound to some – not only helps us achieve our goals, but it also results in lower levels of depression and anxiety. Self-compassion is also associated with higher levels of happiness, optimism, wisdom, extroversion, and initiative – qualities that will also produce the outcomes you want.
So what does self-compassion look like? It can be daily affirmations…take a page out of this little girl’s morning routine. Or meditation that centers on finding peace with how things are instead of how they should be. Even giving yourself a hug, writing yourself a love letter, or taking yourself out can be acts of kindness we normally reserve for others but can be just as therapeutic when turned inward.
Abandoning self-criticism isn’t about setting lower standards or settling for less. It’s about accepting your humanity and being generous with yourself when you make mistakes, the way you would forgive a friend or a lover. It’s also about learning to become unattached to outcomes that have to look a certain way. Sometimes, “success” comes in different packages and not always on our timetables. Letting go of rigid expectations while still staying committed to our ultimate goals – love, life, happiness – is a goal worth practicing until perfect.
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. -Joseph Campbell
To learn more about Adriana, visit The Radical Ideas.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.