Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Am I So Hard on Myself?

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."

1 comment:

Roger Mann said...

This seems to be a common issue among the survivors I has spoken with. Many are very hard on themselves while as you say, seem to have a lot of grace for others who make mistakes.

I know many who consider themselves perfectionist but still make all the same mistakes we all seem to make in our choices and lives. It is an odd set of glasses we wear that are so myopically critical of ourselves. How do you finally get to put those away and join the rest of humanity and accept our faults with humor and grace?

Old habits formed while very young are deeply set. I am glad no matter how slowly you are finding balance in your life.