It was a meltdown kind of day yesterday, with me coming home in a blur of tears, my feeling all hurt and my makeup all rubbed off. I hate those kinds of days.
All six people in our family were angry with each other and we were letting careless and hurtful words fly. It was one of those days I wish I could take back and have a do-over.
We went back to our former church to hear the youth choir sing. My oldest son is still an active member there, so we took the rest of the kids to the late service after attending our church. Although it’s better than it used to be, my anxiety meter still runs high whenever I’m near that building. All went well until the two youngest boys got into a fight right as we were preparing to leave. There was music playing and people moving around, so I’m not sure how many people noticed, but in my mind it didn’t matter.
I spoke angry words out of embarrassment, furrowed my brow and did my best to get out of there with my head hung down in shame.
The problem is, when those two traits combine, they can make a volatile cocktail of self-loathing and judgment.
When You’re Your Own Worst Critic
I am a harsh critic when it comes to me.
I don’t cut myself any slack whatsoever. I’m way more lenient with other people than I ever am with myself. When it comes to self-criticism, I am brutal.
It’s a tendency I’m not fond of. I try to make light of it, ignore it, pray about it, work on it. And I’ve made slow progress through the years.
But put me in a situation where I’m anxious already, leery of being judged and talked about, and then have my kids do something embarrassing, well, that’s when I get out the big stick and start hacking away at any semblance of self-confidence.
Can anybody relate? Ever wished you were different? Maybe that you were a complete opposite of the person you are? Ever wish your most embarrassing characteristics would stop making those inopportune appearances?
For years I worked to be the person I thought I had to be in order to be “good.” I had a picture in my mind, a measuring stick that I held myself up to, and I always fell short. So I learned to be a good actress. I could play the role, but my insides were in turmoil.
Now that I’m in my late 40s, I have a better grip on who I am and why God made me this way.
But in my weaker moments, I still dish up self-condemnation like nobody’s business, with a side order of resentment.
Maybe you do, too?
The Truth About Self-Condemnation
I’d be the first one to tell you: “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Ease up. You’re only human.”
And so on.
But they are empty words when I don’t repeat them in my own head, for my own benefit.
Let me tell you something I’ve learned along the way. Those self-loathing thoughts that float about in your head come from somewhere. They are lies and they come from the spirit of evil that dominates so many areas of this world. And the only way to combat them is with truth.
Here is the truth:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
I believe it, down to the bottom of my toes. But nonetheless, I still need frequent reminders. As in every few minutes or so.
You probably do as well. We are so relentless with ourselves, so unforgiving of our own mistakes. We would do better to extend even a portion of the grace we give to others toward ourselves.
So today, I am offering this reminder.
There is no condemnation for you, Jesus-follower. You are allowed to make mistakes. You are allowed to mess up, be imperfect, have a personality.
You are allowed to be you.
Your turn: anybody want to share some ways you cope with the voices of self-criticism in your head? What has helped you to be kinder and gentler with yourself? Give me your best ideas in the comments section!