My friends used to say to me that I was too tough on myself. I smiled and said something innocuous like, "Maybe you're right." I didn't believe them, but that was my way to avoid any discussion.
Why couldn't they grasp that I knew my responsibilities and my standards? If I didn't live up to them, why shouldn't I castigate myself? I knew the right thing to do and I didn't do it.
Like many men who were assaulted in childhood, I grew up with unrealistic self-expectations. (I didn't realize they were unrealistic.) I suppose I needed to prove to myself that I was a moral and caring person. Too often, after I failed to live up to my exacting standards, I sank into a pitiful state, rebuking myself for failing. I had no idea how to show myself mercy—let alone think I deserved it. How could I show myself kindness when I had received so little of it as a child?
As I look back, I'm aware that I'm slowly—very slowly—able to believe that I am worthwhile and don't have to be perfect. My friend Jeff wrote a maxim that helped me: "Demand perfect; accept excellent."
The odd thing—at least to myself—was that I didn't hold others to the exacting standards. I often made excuses for them or reminded myself, "She did the best she could."