We are our own worst critic. We would never say to our friends what we say to ourselves. We wouldn’t be that cruel. We allow what others say about us to carry more weight than it should and disregard what those who love us, say. Why do we find it so difficult to accept compliments? What keeps us from being able to see in ourselves what others see in us? It comes down to being taught not to toot your own horn, sing your own praises, and not think you are better than anyone else. If you do, then you are a braggart, full of yourself, and arrogant.
There’s got to be a middle ground. I remember, when I was younger, being told I was pretty, intelligent, and had a great personality. I didn’t believe one word of that. I look back on pictures of myself at 18, and think, “Why did I think I was fat? Why did I think I wasn’t attractive? Why didn’t I think I was smarter than the average bear?” I know exactly why. I was raised to be humble. I was taught to never think I was better than anyone else. I was taught to blend in, not make waves, and to just get along with everyone.
I can now say I was very good at that and it was a huge mistake. It was a mistake because it kept me from reaching my potential. I was afraid of what people thought. I was afraid to take chances. I was afraid to be assertive and ambitious. Those things were all negatives in my mind, not positives. How would I know where the line was to not cross over? Not go too far? By the time I had figured that out, I lost out on opportunities that I’d never see come my way again.
I didn’t like myself, not alone love myself. I had such a low opinion of me, I would let people walk all over me, not once, but repeatedly. I had proof of my intelligence in front of me in school transcripts. I received certificates of excellence in many areas of hobbies, school, and work. I heard strangers, friends, and acquaintances say wonderful things about me. Yet, every fiber of my being fought the idea that I could actually be any of those things they said. If I did believe, it would be wrong. I would be uncomfortable if someone said something akin to a compliment. I’d rather believe they were nice people who felt compelled to say something equally nice.
You can’t love yourself if you can’t separate those voices in your head and those negative feelings from reality. We have to see ourselves in a way that allows us to be fair in our judgement of who we are as a whole. Self-affirmation requires a hard, honest look at our abilities, not our failings. While I realize I am far from perfect, I now know that I am good at certain things. I have talents. I have gifts. I am a capable person. I have qualities that others appreciate. I am likeable. Again, not perfect! But instead of seeing my assets, I had trouble getting past the unlikeable things about myself that I assumed or had been told by others. The only way I could end this, was to stop beating myself up and to quit stockpiling everything negative anyone had ever said to me. Not realizing that some people will do that just to tear you down out of jealousy, or to make themselves feel better, I clung to every stinging and hurtful word they said and gave myself regular thrashings with them. They were so deeply embedded, I still uncover shards of them even at the age of 62. Some scarred me badly, but I am a survivor and had to learn to turn those things into a strength. I took the time to get to know me and I revisited, well technically blew apart, my past to find the good attributes. I was able to tweak my memories enough to see that I allowed things to happen to me, and shouldn’t have, because it held me back or hurt me enough to shy away from moving forward. That I was the one who had control over what I felt, thought, or believed about myself. No one else had the right to inflict my mind and soul with negative things. It is healthier to get angry and gain resolve to not allow a person to do that to you than to sit back, accept, and take it for gospel.
So, take the time to get to know what you are all about. If you can’t, talk to those you trust. Figure out why you have trouble thinking better of yourself. Sort through that. Then, start to believe. Believe the good things, have faith in yourself, and build on those qualities that make you unique and special. It’s not an easy path. Just don’t wait as long as I did to realize the truth. Embrace what you learn to love. Then, use it to your advantage. There’s no stopping you now!