We have lofty and unrealistic expectations, setting ourselves up to fail. Again and again. And then we criticize ourselves.
A strange paradox afflicting most of us is one I call TOO. We are either too little, or too much. We are too busy to take better care of ourselves. We are too emotional to be a successful supervisor. We are too fat to enjoy ourselves, all dolled up, at the charity gala. We are too inexperienced to ask for a promotion. Either way we see ourselves - as lacking or in excess - the result is the same: we are not good enough.
I attended WomanKind Richmond today, and sat in on a workshop hosted by Katherine Wintsch of The Mom Complex. She talked about that nagging, criticizing voice we have in our heads and told us to imagine that the voice is coming from a separate person - someone standing next to us, voicing those criticisms out loud. Take a minute to think about the negative stuff that makes up your inner narrative. I know mine can be preettty mean. If such a person really existed, following me around, nagging and rude, I would have a hard time not actually punching them in the face. Imagine the fodder for Miss Manners! Judith Martin would have a heyday.
My notion of "good" echoes Emily Post: at the root of manners lies empathy. Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions experienced by another sentient being. And empathy is a necessary precursor to compassion. If we fail to acknowledge our own emotions as valid, we damage our soul. If we can't be compassionate to ourselves, it's that much harder to be compassionate toward others. If you're wallowing in the depths of self-contempt, just try mustering up the effort to bring a hostess gift to a cocktail party. It's not going to happen - you'll be lucky if you even bother to show up.
What to do? The theme of WomanKind Richmond today was "Discovering the freedom of authenticity and the beauty of imperfection." The take-away message was to be kind to ourselves. To give ourselves a break. To acknowledge our enoughness. To affirm that we all sometimes dwell in the dark, and that it can mean the world for someone to help us find the light.
In short, be radically good and gracious to ourselves.