Why do we find it so easy to attack ourselves?
Many of us say stuff to ourselves that we wouldn’t DREAM of saying to someone else.
We’re harder on ourselves than we would ever be on anyone else.
We give other people many benefits of many doubts that we don’t give ourselves.
After all, most of us supposedly “know” how important it is to love ourselves. We have the importance of self-love stuffed down our throats by inspirational quote after inspirational quote after inspirational quote.
So what’s our deal? Why are we so hard on ourselves.
For many of us, it’s what we saw modeled.
We grew up with people who didn’t give us the benefit of the doubt.
We grew up with people who were quick to dismiss the things we did right or well- -but perseverate on the missteps we made.
Very often, when we grow up believing we are undeserving or incompetent, we seek out “evidence” for those beliefs in our behavior…and we find it.
That is, we find it by focusing on the stuff that we don’t do well, the stuff at which we fail, the stuff that doesn’t work out…and telling ourselves that that’s evidence of the “real” us.
The other stuff, the stuff that goes well and works out and that we’re good at? That stuff “doesn’t count.”
After all, as many of us were told repeatedly growing up, “even a broken clock is right twice a day.”
The truth is, no child growing up is inherently “bad”—but we have that message programmed into us again and again.
Some of it is cultural.
Many of us grew up misunderstanding the concept of Original Sin (the Christian Judeo idea that, at some point in human history, human beings disobeyed God, as dramatized by the Biblical story of Adam and Eve— and that every human is henceforth born in a state of “sin” that needs to somehow be cleansed) to mean that we, personally, are in a position of swimming upstream against our essential “badness.”
Some of us grew up being beaten over the head with what we were told was “tough love”— which, oddly, seemed long on the “tough,” but a little short on the “love.”
But for most of us, it’s pretty straightforward: one way or another, we internalized the idea that we were not competent at life nor worthy or happiness.
If we happened to display competence, it was a fluke— or so we were made to feel.
if we happened to be happy for a moment, it was undeserved— or so we were made to feel.
Many of us did not grow up believing that we had the ability to become competent at life— and that we had the right to be happy.
So what now?
Now, we have to start where we are.
Many of us STILL don’t believe we are competent at life or worthy of happiness— and our lives and behavior reflect this belief.
Many of us are now in the position of having to heal a wound that should never have been inflicted upon us.
But: we have to start with what we have.
And for awhile, we’re going to have to “act as if,” as they say in the Twelve Step tradition: act as if we CAN develop competence at life, and act as if we ARE worthy of happiness.
Slowly, our beliefs about ourselves and the world change as we behave as if they were true.
Slowly, we develop faith in our abilities to life life competently.
Slowly, we come to believe that we might well deserve happiness— or, at the very least, we don’t deserve to be miserable.
Beliefs don’t change overnight. They’re largely the result of conditioning, and conditioning happens over time.
It’s on us to put in the time, to be consistent and persistent, and to not give up on ourselves.
Yeah, it’ll feel like we’re faking it at first.
So fake it.
Just get the ball rolling.
Journeys don’t just start with a single step— they continue and conclude one step at a time.
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