First, I want to say “thank you” to everyone who sent me comment on my last post. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. I’m happy to see it made a positive impact.
Today’s topic is less positive but equally important.
I grew up with a lot of criticism. It was my family’s love language. And while they may have meant well, I didn’t feel the love at all. It beat me down.
An ironic part of life is that we seek out what’s familiar. So, as an adult I felt most comfortable with critical people and the cycle continued.
The critical voice in my head grew louder so that I criticized myself and others to fill in the space when people weren’t being critical of me.
Looking back on it – it was awful.
We can’t live free of criticism. It’s impossible unless we live as hermits but even then I imagine a critical salamander judging me in my hut.
We can, however, limit the criticism to which we expose ourselves. We can set boundaries. Most of all, we can limit our time spent with people who criticize our every move and decision.
In my experience, frequent criticism meant that I knew where I stood and what I was doing right or wrong. The problem was that what I was doing wasn’t always right for me – it was only right for the critical person.
The hidden problem was that constant critical narrative in the back of my mind that crushed my happiness even when I was alone.
Becoming aware of this was hard. Breaking free even harder.
To start, I cut off relationships that didn’t feel good. I couldn’t even explain why and could provide no good reason to any of these people if they would have approached me. They were just being who they have always been. A person I had welcomed into my life at some point. It just didn’t feel good to me to be around them anymore.
COVID helped in this regard. I got plenty of time to myself. In the past two years I learned what I liked – what made me happy. I also learned what I needed to limit in my life to maintain that happiness.
I’m certainly less tolerant of certain behaviors. I simply don’t need certain things in my life. Criticism being one of them.
I also made a big effort to identify when I was being critical. I’d have to ask myself, “does this matter?” or “If our roles were reversed…”
I’ve had to train myself to give grace – to others and myself.
I found myself having deeper conversations with much less anxiety about complex issues with new people. I’ve developed a deeper bond with my children where we have fun, talk about right and wrong, personal values, and all of the skills I discuss in these emails.
Most of all, I’m happier with myself because, absent the constant drumbeat of someone else’s dissatisfactions, we find room to grow in a direction of our choosing.
I highly recommend it.
The Define My Day Impact
Define My Day helped me in this area but helping me find my personal values and purpose.
It took a long time – years really. But that constant practice of writing my goals and daily priorities, reflecting through journaling, and building my ability to “feel” negative influences in my life – all of this slowly helped me grow my ability to define for myself who I am and who I want to be.