Friday, September 25, 2015

Why Am I So Hard on Myself? (Part 1 of 2)

My friends used to insist 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 molested in childhood, I grew up with unrealistic expectations of myself. (I didn't realize they were unrealistic.) 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 ethical code, 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.

As I look back, I'm aware that because of my wife and my best friend, slowly—very slowly—I was able to believe that I was worthwhile and didn't have to be perfect. My friend Jeff Adams wrote a maxim that helped me: "Demand perfection; accept excellence."

I'm not perfect,
but I like who I am, and that's enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to respond today - I know the feeling of not being quite good enough. Even as a man in my mid-50's, I often berate myself for forgetting simple things or for everyday mistakes I make. I grew up believing on some level that I didn't deserve love unless and until I was perfect. An absent Dad, an emotionally cruel Step-Dad and sexual abuse at ages 5, 14 and 16, left me with a huge hole in my heart where I learned to seek and stuff approval, achievement and external success to try and make me feel loved. While I did a good job of being a good boy, it was never enough - I remember as a 30-something young man receiving an annual award from my company and wondering if I could be the first person to receive it two years in a row! I have been an approval addict my entire life, and along the way, found myself being compulsive and addicted to less desirable things too. Thank God, I have been on a healing journey for the past 10 years, starting first with a confession to God of my brokenness, seeing a counselor, getting involved in mens' groups at church and finally with male victims of sexual abuse and a 12-step group, and I'm finally able to love myself and see the goodness in me, even when I'm not perfect. And the compulsions have lessened! I've been reading your blog for months, after a friend gave me your book, "Not Quite Healed". I was re-reading the chapter on embracing your inner child this morning. When I put that with today's blog, I knew I had to write and say thank you, Cec and Gary, for writing the most authentic, helpful and encouraging material I have encountered on emerging from the fog of sexual abuse as a Christian man. I am not quite healed, but farther along that path because of you and your bravery and wisdom.