Why are we so hard on ourselves?

I am, without question, my own worst enemy. I have wasted countless hours judging myself, scolding myself, criticizing myself, and wishing I had done or said something differently. I can be impulsive, harsh, crass, and bold. The truth is, I am fine with it 90% of the time. I refuse to simply vote “present” in life, and I strive to be passionate, formulate opinions, and be a productive and contributing member of society.

It’s that 10% I obsess over. If something doesn’t turn out right for me, I tend to rehash it and have trouble letting go. The percentage of myself that really bothers me. The person I can’t stand to live with sometimes. The piece I wish I could subdivide and sell off or pack into a box and mail back to Lands End with the box checked off that says “did not like overall style.” That part of me that needs to be thrown back into a mixing bowl and whisked together with a little more sugar, spice, and something nice (and definitely less salt). For me, a life well-lived wouldn’t be complete without having these goals of continued self-improvement. Still, I need to pat myself on the back a bit more and cut myself just a smidge more slack. In hopes of discouraging my children from self-deprecation, I often read them a book by Nancy Carlson that I think does a fabulous job of encouraging them to cherish themselves called “I Like Me”. One of my favorite lines is the last: “No matter where I go, or what I do, I’ll always be me and I like that.”

I recently came across one of my favorite pieces on this topic of being your own worst enemy, and surprisingly, it comes in the form of an advertisement done by Nike in 1992. Is it a coincidence that I’ve always worn Nikes? I’ve always deemed it to be my narrow feet and high arch, but perhaps a sociologist would say I’m a loyal consumer born out of great advertising. Nevertheless, it’s a great read, and I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Friday!

NIKE print ad, 1992

Why are we so hard on ourselves and so much easier on others?
Did somebody say something once that stuck in our brains and won’t go away? Did we mispronounce something in French, did we trip in front of some guy, did we make some huge mistake that we’ve never gotten over?
What haunts our fine bodies and our fine hearts and makes our heads spin with an image of ourselves we can’t accept? We tell our friends not to be so hard on themselves and we tell ourselves we’re just not being hard enough. We are such funny women sometimes. We blame ourselves when blame does not apply (terrible word, that blame). We feel guilty about what we should have done better (terrible word, that should). We are harder on ourselves, harder than we would be on anybody else, anybody. Complete strangers! Big dogs! People we don’t even like!
And the things we expect are so darn weird, things our mothers once said we should be able to do or our fathers wanted us to achieve or our great Aunt Charlotte wanted us to try and they didn’t know their words would stick like glue to our hearts with a list of expectations wrapped around it. Look: all these requests and all these demands and all these great expectations get old, real old, and only you know when to yell uncle.
Uncle. Uncle. Uncle.
Because for one moment of your life you feel like feeling…perfect. You feel like dashing into those hills or those open roads or right into the air itself and that’s just what you might do.
So ha.
You feel like that rusty old image you carry is slipping away, right over the edge of a mirror and out of view. You feel like moving and if you trip, you trip, if you fall, you will get up. And the air feels like it will carry you and push you and it’s nothing like you feared it would be. And of course everything you expected it would. JUST DO IT.

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