A few days ago, when I was already halfway to work, I realized that I had forgotten to pick up something my boss had asked me to bring that morning. She was waiting for me to arrive with it, and I knew that turning around would make me extremely late. Frustrated and angry with myself for letting it slip my mind, I gripped the steering wheel hard and let out a slew of words under my breath:

“I am such an idiot. I am such an idiot.”

BAM. I might as well have punched myself in the gut. Where did these ugly words come from?

It’s good to set high standards for ourselves. It’s good to strive hard and dream big and shoot for the moon. Yet, when our high expectations cause us to turn on ourselves with nasty, self-deprecating words we become our very own worst critic.

It can happen in so many areas of our lives – work performance, relationships, parenting, school, body image – all of these are potential venues for harsh self-critique. We can hold ourselves to a standard of perfection and, when that standard fails to be met, we begin to replay some choice words over and over again in our minds.

“I hate my body.”

“I’m so dumb.”

“I’ll never get it right.”

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s important to see that every time these words come up, they simultaneously pour poison into our hearts. This hateful self-talk slowly kills our confidence, self-esteem and joy. We are eventually blinded from seeing anything good in ourselves.

It’s time to break this habit.

First, we have to accept the situation. We will make mistakes. It happens. We will wake up some days and dislike at least sixteen parts of our bodies. We’ll fail and fall and totally drop the ball. That’s just the reality of life, and it is okay to give yourself some honest critiquing.

Though, we cannot allow this self-critiquing to be accompanied by hateful self-talk. These kind of words only tear us down and make us believe lies which, in turn, strip us of our confidence and ultimately hinder us from moving forward. Our only hope for breaking this habit is grace. We need to have grace for every moment. It’s easy to get worked up when we’ve done something wrong or don’t measure up. We can let emotions run wild that give rise to hurtful words. It’s actually harder to stay calm, remember that we are human, and give ourselves grace for the moment.

These kind of words only tear us down and make us believe lies…

Grace is saying to yourself, “It’s okay.” Grace is breathing deeply and refraining from verbally beating yourself up. Grace is replacing spiteful words with ones of encouragement: “Yes, I made a mistake, but I’m going to do my best to avoid making that same one again,” or “Yeah, I’m not feeling my best and I haven’t been taking good care of myself, but that’s going to change today.”

American best-selling author Anne Lamott once wrote, “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

Grace enables us to move on to better things. Critiquing ourselves in a positive way can lead to amazing personal growth. Accept the situation. Offer grace. Choose to move forward.

What are some of the ways you negatively critique yourself? How can you extend grace in those moments?

Image via Joelle Arner

1 comment

  1. The irony of this self-deprecating talk is the inevitable affect it has on others. When I wake up in the morning and dislike my body or the fit of my clothes, the most directly impacted person is my husband. While I am throwing an internal pity party, that little drop of poison I implanted is affecting others in my periphery. That grace with which we treat ourselves will create a ripple effect to beneficially touch the hearts/days of others.


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