I got an email this morning that all but broke my heart. It was about a lot of things, like our conversations usually are, but there was one line that stuck out to me. She said, “I don't hate myself, but I don't love myself or really like myself either.”
Tears sprung to my eyes the second I read that sentence because I’ve been there too. I’ve said those exact words.
When I was a sophomore in college, my life was full of rocky relationships, but none was as rocky as my relationship with myself. I was the very definition of my own worst critic. Every word that came out of my mouth was followed by a barrage of criticism inside my head, “why did you say that? You’re so dumb/lame/ignorant/embarrassing/insert insult here.”
It was miserable.
I knew this wasn't how I wanted to be. I didn’t want to live with my own worst critic anymore. But I didn’t know how to get rid of her. Worse, I was afraid that if I silenced that critic, I’d be living in denial. I’d have quieted the only voice willing to tell me the truth.
It’s taken a lot of time, prayer, experiences, and positive voices in my life to turn the critic ship around. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been immediate.
But I can safely say that becoming my own best friend instead of my own worst critic has changed my life completely.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to perform? Maybe you were in a school play, or on a soccer team, or giving a speech. Now picture trying to do that with critics yelling at you from start to finish. “You’re stupid, you can’t do this, that wasn’t the right move, what are you doing??” I don’t know about you, but nothing would make me choke faster.
Now picture doing those things in front of a crowd of encouraging fans—people chanting your name and clapping for you no matter what. We rise to the occasion under praise like that. We stand taller, take risks we wouldn’t have otherwise. We puff out our chests and feel like maybe we can do this after all.
That’s what’s going on in our own heads. When we are our own worst critics, it holds us back. It squashes our confidence, and makes us too self-conscious, timid, and afraid to do anything, let alone do it well. Whereas being your own best friend changes everything. It has for me.
So how do we do this? How do we stop being our own worst critic, and become our own best friends?
These are the four things that have helped me most:
1. Surround yourself with people who love you
All too often, the negative tapes in our heads are reinforced by the people around us. Start to pay attention to the voices speaking into your life. Decrease the negative ones, increase the ones who love you and remind you of who you are and were meant to be (here's a resource that might help).
2. Dive into scripture
Scripture has been instrumental to helping me become my own best friend instead of worst critic, because it’s helped me understand how much God loves me. Pour over scripture and look for the places where God talks about who you are, and who He created you to be. Write those down and keep them close to you. It’s easy to argue with yourself, but when God is saying that there’s no flaw in you, and that you’re perfectly and wonderfully made, you pretty much have to believe Him.
And if you don't know where to begin, check out this podcast episode.
3. Pay attention to the thoughts you’re thinking at yourself
What thoughts are you thinking about yourself? When does your critic speak up the most, and what is she saying to you? We usually allow our thoughts about ourselves to be like background music—we rarely pay attention to what they sound like, or how they make us feel. But it’s time to start paying attention. Like 2nd Corinthians 10:5 says, we have to capture every thought and make those suckers obedient! Pay attention to the thoughts swirling around in your head, and start capturing and replacing the ones that just don’t belong there (here's a resource that might help).
And just because it's one of my favorites, I want to wrap it up with a quote from Diane von Furstenberg, because she hits the nail right on the head: “When a woman becomes her own best friend life is easier.”
Yes Diane, you're absolutely right.
In what ways are you your own worst critic? What can you do to start moving in the direction of becoming your own best friend?
P.S. Want more advice on this topic? Check out these resources:
Girls Night #111: Negative Thought Patterns: How God's Word can Help you Break Free from Fear and Take Back Your Joy
Girls Night #105: How to Find Your Calling and Live With Confidence
Girls Night #2: I'm not in the Shape I Want to be in, I Don't Feel Confident in my Skin — How do I Change That?