Personally, my score can plummet when I hate what I’m wearing, if I don’t know something that I should have learned in high school, or if I’ve forgotten to call my Dad. On the other hand, my rate goes up when I see my daughter’s smiling face and know that I helped create a safe, loving world for her. And my score leaps when I see a client’s thinking expand as they take in a new perspective that I’ve shared. But I wish I wasn’t on this damn scale in the first place! And I wish you weren’t on it either; especially if your score is consistently low or too easily thrown to the bottom.
How you feel about yourself makes all the difference in your world
The ego is at the center of your happiness, especially if it’s vulnerable to attack. How can you be happy when you think that you’re a worthless human being or, less severely, you never think you’re good enough? It’s hard to feel good about yourself or your life if you always have a lingering feeling that you should be doing more. How can you enjoy your life if you can’t let yourself learn from your mistakes or challenges instead of berating and ridiculing yourself?
And when you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re often comparing yourself to others and feeling inferior. It’s a very painful experience to think that you’re inferior to others.
Your perspective is what you see
Your judgment of yourself can turn into tunnel vision where all you can see is one area of difficulty for you, ignoring all the things that are great about you. You could be off the charts in other aspects of your life but you’re only focusing on the one measurement where you fall short.
I often see clients that break my heart because they’re good people that don’t value themselves or think they’re good enough. They don’t love themselves as they should or see their true worth. And it’s because they’re using the wrong measuring stick.
It doesn’t matter if a person has money, beauty, power, or talent. If they don’t like themselves, no matter whom they are or what they’ve achieved, they will be just as miserable. Conversely, if you care for yourself and respect yourself, than you will value your life no matter what circumstances you face.
In the final summation of your existence, there won’t be a panel of judges holding up score cards. There will only be you. Well, maybe for some people, there are judges and there will always be judges: parents, spouses, children, passing judgment on everything you do. Are you seeing yourself from their eyes or from your own? Ultimately, your own feelings about yourself are the ones that really matter.
Identify your measuring stick
It’s time to notice the scale that you’re on, examining the measuring stick that you smack your knuckles with. Where did this measuring stick come from? Did it come from your soul and its desires for who you want to be and how you want to live?
Or is it a collection of expectations imposed on you by the world around you? What if this measuring stick doesn’t really fit you at all? What if earning a lot of money isn’t really the thing that drives you? Perhaps being the dutiful daughter that your mother wanted you to be, isn’t really how you want to live? Everyone’s got some false notches on their yardstick. How couldn’t we? There are messages everywhere saying, “You ought to be driving a BMW.” “You should have a spotless designer living room.” “You should be married.”
In order to identify whether you’re using a false measuring stick, you will need to tune into what truly matters to you. It’s much easier to fall for the expectations of others when you haven’t taken the time to really know yourself.
Here’s an exercise you can try: Close your eyes and imagine being very old and looking back at your life. What are your proudest moments? What is it that you admired about yourself at those times?
I’m proudest of the moments when I was courageously self-expressed. Like the time I told that guy that I liked him. Even though he turned me down, I was proud of myself for taking the risk. And I was proud of myself for not letting his rejection knock the wind out of my sails. Those were times when I risked the judgment and criticism of others by showing my true self. Those moments show me what really matters to me…self-actualization; becoming your best self.
Though I, like a turtle, would often retreat to my shell; at the end of my life, I won’t criticize myself for having fear that tried to keep me safe and hidden. Instead, I’ll have pride in the fact that from time to time I broke free of fear. Step by step I expanded the limits of safety to let more and more of my true self out.
Use your measuring stick wisely
A measuring stick that actually aligns with who you want to be could be helpful, keeping you on track with your inner truth and intentions, reminding you when you’ve gone astray. Of course, what also matters is how you react to the realization that you’re not measuring up to an intention that you’ve set for yourself. You don’t have to hate yourself or think less of yourself for going astray. You could just notice. Wake up. Re-commit.
Disappointment with yourself is not meant to end there. Disappointment is the voice within, guiding you to yourself, alerting you that you’re off-track, encouraging you to be courageous in the pursuit of what’s important to you.
Feeling badly about yourself because you’re not measuring up to your yard stick may also indicate that you have very high expectations for yourself. It may be important to consider whether your expectations are realistic. If I thought that I should never return to my shell once I’d stepped out of it, I would be bitterly disappointed with myself. Just because you’ve advanced and made progress doesn’t mean that you don’t sometimes fall back and retreat.
Again, if you continually fail to meet your expectations, it’s more important to consider the reason why instead of simply hating yourself for it.
Consider how you’re measuring other people
It can be easier to get perspective on your relationship with yourself by examining your relationships with other people. You could be a very kind person who would never say a harsh word to another person and yet inside your head you’re the cruelest jerk to yourself. Imagining yourself as a child or as a stranger can help you gain some perspective and consider treating yourself with the respect and generosity you would pay someone else.
On the other hand, the harshness with which some people judge others may be an indication of how harsh they can be with themselves. Some of the most self-loathing clients I’ve worked with have hated others with equal fervor. Their hatred of others was really just a slight relief from when they turned that hatred on themselves. But judging others always backfires. It keeps you forever on the sliding scale of human value.
Get off the grid
What if there’s a new way to view yourself and the people around you? Maybe you can find alternate perspectives, different priorities, and greater freedom to be a simple human. A human like all other humans, doing their best to live their best life; all of us sometimes clouded and confused about what “best life” means; struggling at times with the growing pains of our personal development.
You don’t need to “rate” yourself. Appreciate the person you are now and lovingly help yourself continue to grow.
Interested in Psychotherapy?
If you want to learn more about psychotherapy, contact Rena Pollak, LMFT for a free 15 minute phone consultation or call (818) 245-5298.
I welcome your questions.
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