Are there relatively small things that you do or say or have, that make you super insecure once you start focusing on them?
Friends tell you they have no idea what you’re going on about. You’re fine! You don’t do X. You don’t have a monstrous face. Etc.
You know they’re right, rationally speaking but somehow it just doesn’t feel like they are right. Once you start honing in on your flaws, they are so huge that you wonder how anyone could miss them!
Let me ask you something else… did you have a very critical parent? Someone who, when you felt good about yourself, would point to something that was “wrong” about you and that you’d failed to notice? Maybe it was your hair, maybe it was how you expressed yourself. Maybe it was how you chose to dress. Maybe it was how you decided to put away the dishes. You got criticised, so clearly, you “missed” something important. Perhaps you decided you’d try harder next time to catch your flaws…
If both of these points resonate for you, then here’s what might be going on: you were conditioned to look for small things you’d missed that were wrong about you. If you could spot those things before your parent did, you could save yourself the humiliation of having it be pointed out publicly. You also got to save yourself from unexpected disappointment: feeling good about yourself and then be taken down a notch. Being the first to spot your own flaws gave you back a sense of control. Much like M&M in the movie 8 Mile where he criticises himself, taking away the opponent’s ammunition.
Victory! Right? Except now you have that critical negative person on the inside, 24/7.
So while doing this helped you save face, it’s hurting you in the long run. If you have this critical parent around a lot still, it’s time to tell them to shove it. If they’re not around anymore, then there’s no need to prepare for them. Either way, it’s time to let this critical self-assessment go.
Here’s how you do it:
In moments when you feel bad because you’ve spotted something small and “very wrong” with you, know that you are doing a few things:
1. You are coming from the assumption that there is something wrong with you – “that’s just a given! All you need to do is figure out what….”
Painful right? If you can see that for what it is, a lose-lose way of thinking, that is not even accurate (trust loving friends over your own inner critic!) then you can start to actively question if it’s true. What if there is nothing wrong with you? What if you’re just stuck in a habit?
If you can accept that, then move on to step 2.
2. Realise that you’ve been making use of an amazing ability to focus and zoom in. This is a great skill to have! It’s like googlemaps inside your brain: there’s the earth… and there’s your street!
The problem is though, the more you zoom in, the more you lose perspective. If you start staring at a piece of trash on the street and you give it all your attention, you’ll start to feel bad about your neighborhood. Right? Suddenly everything seems crappy and filthy.
But, it’s just ONE small piece of trash! Zoom out! Zoom out!
Focus is a great skill to have, yet the more you zoom in, the more you can lose perspective too.Click to tweet
If you feel bad about a perceived flaw, chances are it’s because you’re too honed in on it. You treat that tiny piece of trash like it is the whole earth. It’s not. Zoom out, look at the beautiful river too. Look at the city park. Look at all of it, not just the small piece of trash.
When you start to zoom out, you’ll be able to see that “in the bigger scheme of things” the thing you were so worried about is just a small detail. Other people don’t really notice! They see the whole you. Or at least, they see a bunch of things about you, not just that one tiny issue. If you go around pointing it out to people though, who knows, they might start zooming in on it too.
So don’t try to make others see the flaw you see. Check with friends once, if they don’t see it or they see it but point out that it’s a small issue, then use the steps above to zoom out. It’s a small detail. It doesn’t have the importance you were taught to assign to it by your criticical parent.
Oh, and one more thing: people who always have something negative to say about others… it’s not about you. It’s not about what you actually are or do. It’s about them feeling bad and looking for a reason.
If you’re a pretty decent person overall, they won’t have anything “big” to pin it on. So instead, they’ll find the tiniest of issues, blow it out of proportion, and then make it seem like this “fault” of yours is creating problems for them. They “love” you so much, but oh, if only you weren’t so [fill in the blank]! It’s just another way to make things your fault. If it wasn’t for your hair, you’d be so perfect and lovable right now! Guess what, even if you “corrected” your hair, they’d instantly find something else to criticise.
It’s b.s. Don’t do this to yourself. If you end up blowing something about yourself out of proportion, zoom back out. Then look at how you’re feeling. Insecure? Criticised? Anxious?
A feeling or situation set off this “defend against other people spotting flaws” mechanism. As you zoom in, you just feel worse though. You’re literally preparing for the worst. Yet, if someone alienates you because of your hair, or your nose, or the word you used, or the way you snort when you laugh… are they worth fretting over? If people can’t relate to, like you or appreciate you because of something minor, then they’re just not your people. Chances are, they are like that parent OR you are afraid that they will be (even if they totally aren’t!).
It’s much better to zoom out, see the bigger picture of you, give yourself some love, and go out and see how you’ll be treated. How you’re treated over minor issues tells you a lot about the other person. It does not necessarily tell you anything about you at all.
In the end, this whole self-criticism is a way to try to get love. In a very complicated way. You learned – by means of a dangling carrot – that love was almost available for you… if only you’d be perfect!
That’s a lie. It’s a ruse. It’s a con-artist trick. The person telling you this doesn’t have the goods. They don’t have the love. But as long as they can convince you that they do, and that it’s your fault that you’re not getting the love… they can string you along.
Look at it like an empty promise. “Oh, I will pay your education for you, if you give me X”. Then X turns out to be something unachievable. Meanwhile, you think: this person is so great, they are willing to pay for my education! You think you have a pretty good relationship with this person. You never discover that they don’t even have the money. You never discover they have huge loans and are in debt! You never discover it, because they keep fabricating new conditions and new clauses so that “regretfully” they just can’t give you the money, because you did something wrong.
It’s easier to see with money, than with love. Yet, love is not some kind of “achievement reward”. If it’s presented as such, there is no love there in the first place.
Don’t buy into the idea that you’re not lovable because of some small imperfection.Click to tweet
Give yourself a hug right now. Do something nice for yourself. The “only perfect people get love” story is just that, a story. It has nothing to do with love. People who think they can dole out love this way have no idea what love actually is.
They don’t have the goods. Stop looking to them to give you something and give yourself what you need instead. I know it’s not the same, but it’s a start. What you give yourself is something you can control, even if it’s hard. What other people do or don’t give to you is something you don’t control, ESPECIALLY with dangling-carrot people.
You need some love right now, find a way to give it to you. You deserve it not because you’re perfect. You deserve it because you’re a human being and human beings need love.