I’m not sure I’ve said this lately. Or if ever actually. But I just want you to know right now how much I appreciate you, my blog readers. (Quite honestly the fact that people other than my mom actually read my blog is still an amazement to me!) I have been the recipient of some really lovely, encouraging comments recently and the honest truth is that it could not have come at a better time. You see for the past few weeks my inner critic has been working over-time.
Self-pity, party of one, your table is now available.
My pity party didn’t start out as self-pity. It started with a legitimate complaint – shin splints. For the past few months I’ve had shin splints off and on whenever I run. I bought some new shoes and thought that was the solution, but unfortunately they started coming back. My inner critic said, “You know, if you’d lose a little weight, running might not be so hard.”
Then my shoulder started hurting a little. Plus I noticed that whole new crop of gray hair was sprouting along the part in my hair. Even worse, every time I looked in the mirror all I could see were my crow’s feet and sun-damaged, splotchy skin. My inner critic was mocking in the background, “You’re not just getting old, but now you’re starting to look old too.”
The problem with my inner critic is that it’s like a weed that gets out of control. The next thing I knew, negativity was spreading like mint through my garden and it started taking over some of the things in my life that bring me the most joy.
Take photography for instance. I’d been having so much fun this spring taking pictures of the flowers in my yard and my veggie garden. I even mustered up the courage to submit a couple of my favorites (which I thought were pretty good photos) to some photography challenges/contests. Well they weren’t selected and my inner critic was quick to point out, “Your photos aren’t that good. What made you think you could compete with these talented photographers.”
Even my beloved blog wasn’t safe from the verbal abuse of my inner critic. Like most bloggers, I enjoy reading other blogs. Whether it is the raw honesty of Tara Whitney, the sharp wit of Heather B. Armstrong, the sweet voice and simple life of SouleMama, the creative scrapbook designs of Ali Edwards, or the uplifting artwork of Kelly Rae Roberts, my inner critic took these lovely sources of inspiration for me and turned them into sneering, hateful comparisons, “Too bad you’re not funnier/smarter/more creative/more genuine.”
I haven’t shared this until now because quite honestly, I just can’t stand myself when I get like this. As whiny and pathetic as it is written out here in this blog post, it was even uglier in person. Nothing but unconstructive criticism looping through my head as if I had a mental iTunes playlist called “Disapproval” set on REPEAT. And I’m not telling you this now because I’m fishing for compliments or want you to feel sorry for me! Seriously, I have a wonderful life and if these are the extent of my problems then I have NOTHING to complain about!!
My biggest problem was that my inner critic had given me a bad case of what I like to call Stinkin’ Thinkin’.
So a week or so ago, while power-washing my side porch, I had a serious Come to Jesus with myself. Literally. Standing there with the sprayer cleaning off a year’s worth of dust and cobwebs, I emptied my heart out to the Lord and explained that it wasn’t that I was unhappy with my life. But rather, I was just unhappy with me. I wanted to be better and do more. To which the Lord lovingly reminded me, “I think you’re pretty great just the way you are.”
Love and acceptance – God is so wonderful like that.
It became clear at that moment who my inner critic was and who the author of those hateful comparisons was. And the only way to fight hate and comparison is with LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. So I made a mental list of all the negative criticisms swirling around in my head and rephrased each one to be a statement of love and acceptance.
Here’s what I came up with:
- “I am proud of your commitment to exercise and healthy living. Keep up the good work.”
- “You are learning how to take photos that accurately capture the life that you love so much and will continue to get better with practice.”
- “You have your own style of creativity and have permission to explore without judgment.”
- “You can find a way to age gracefully and be comfortable in your own skin.”
- “Life is not perfect; don’t be afraid to share your vulnerability with others.”
- “You have a unique voice and the ability to find joy in the ordinary.”
It might sound crazy, but this really made a difference in my whole attitude last weekend (I alluded a little to it here) and all week I have felt as though I recovered the peace and happiness that had been stolen from me.
What I have learned from this is that the devil will use whatever means necessary to destroy your peace and happiness, and comparison (for me anyway) is one of his favorite weapons. So whether you might be comparing yourself to someone else, a more youthful version of who you once were, or an unrealistic (unattainable) idea of what you could/would/should be, please know that God loves you for exactly who you are right this very minute.
And he wants you to do the same.
Once again, I would like to thank you so very much for all the love and support that you have given me over the past couple of years. I am forever grateful.