There’s enough criticism in the world without targeting yourself. Jess Glynne’s 2015 song, “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” expresses this nicely.
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Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. Are you your own worst critic? Do you feel like if you're harsh enough with yourself, you'll beat others to the punch and protect yourself from their criticism? That was me, for a long time. In episode 9, "A Cure for Perfectionism," I gave credit to DeMoyne Bekker, a brilliant psychologist who would prescribe mistakes for perfectionists. Today, I'd like to credit him once more with a self-care concept that he taught me and apparently used on lots of his clients. His insights helped me realize that I was unique--just like everybody else. He didn't claim this as original, but he's the person with whom I associate it. And it influenced my subsequent work with students. So now, I'd like to share it with you. It's simply to be kind to yourself. Or you can think of it as practicing self-compassion, or self-forgiveness. A song I like that addresses this comes from the British singer and songwriter Jess Glynne, called quite descriptively, "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself." You might enjoy it, so I'll cite it in the show notes. I think that lots of our self-criticism unfortunately began with our parents and teachers and coaches. Well intended people, for the most part, but maybe unaware of the long-term impact that some harsh words might have on us. John-Paul Sartre wrote, "Words are loaded pistols," and I agree. If you routinely heard things like, "bad girl" or "bad boy" or "simply not good enough" during your early years, it'd be unusual if you did not internalize these messages that seem to connect your worth as a person to your behavior. And when it gets to the point that your parents or teachers or coaches aren't around, you carry them with you, for better and for worse. And you might still be hearing those criticisms in totally different situations. But the voice might weirdly sound like it's yours, because it is! Well, circumstances have changed, and you have changed. And just because you heard those messages then, doesn't mean they were true. And it certainly doesn't mean they're true now. In fact, they're only accurate now if you believe them. If you do nothing else, you might try thinking to yourself, "That was then; this is now." Or my favorite two word truth: "Things change." Either of those might help you acknowledge the past without defining yourself by it. But if you'd like to use a little imagery to address patterns of self criticism, I'll tell you what I've had success with. One of the easiest ways I do this is to imagine a close friend with whatever problem I've got, talking with me. And since I figure that most of us are doing the best we can with the information we have now, my imagined responses to my friend are usually accepting and understanding. Well, I've learned to just direct these responses inward. It reduces stress, and helps guide my next action. I then try to focus on what I can learn from the process. The alternative, and I was really good at this, was to hold myself to impossibly high standards, expecting to know things I couldn't possibly know and steer clear of any obstacles in my path. In other words, to be pain-free, to not have to struggle. Hmm. That's not how life works. So I'm not sure how I was supposed to pull that off. And it probably explains why I would fail. Can you relate? I think those of us who can seem to see ourselves in absolute terms, but we see others in context, allowing situational factors to have an influence. You know, we'd like to believe that we are immune from context, but research shows how heavily and often subconsciously we're influenced by it. And we touched on this a little bit before, so I won't repeat myself, but just know that genetic and environmental factors just beneath our level of consciousness play an enormous role in our behaviors. So we're up against a lot. Let me briefly distinguish this from absolving yourself from any responsibility. That's a totally different situation and I'm sure you know the difference. Maybe you know somebody like this where they're never to blame. Like, "I know I missed the deadline, but how was I supposed to know they were serious about it?" Or another example, this is from a cartoon of a couple in a car and the driver is angrily saying to the passenger something like, "My behavior isn't aberrant. Everybody else's behavior is aberrant!" Okay. If you'd like to experiment with being more gentle with yourself, choose something you're struggling with in which you find yourself thinking things like, "I should" or "I ought to" or "Why did I," and now picture your most trusted friend sharing the same struggle with you. If you'd likely reassure them with something like, "Sounds like you're doing the best you can," or "I'm not sure how you could have known that back then," or "What can you learn from this?" Then you can try directing these responses inward. And if you do this, the odds are you'll be able to lighten up, or breathe a little easier, or sleep a bit more soundly. In other words, be kind yourself. You're worth it. Well, dear listener, this concludes my final episode for the season, and probably for the podcast itself. I won't say "never again" because if new ideas arise, I might start another season, maybe with less frequent--perhaps monthly episodes. But here's why I plan to step back now. A year ago, I told my family and friends that my goal was to record an episode each week for about a year, thinking that would summarize what I taught in my stress management course. And during this time I published 50 episodes and 5 bonus exercises, and covered everything relevant from that class. Going forward, I don't know what else I have to say and I don't want to repeat myself. Let me reiterate. I don't want to repeat myself. (Sorry, I couldn't resist) I do plan to keep this site open so you can listen again on whatever platform you prefer to any titles that helped because you might hear something new that relates to your current circumstances. And if you'd like to contact me directly, you can write to "firstname.lastname@example.org." This project has been a blast. My favorite part has been having a platform to credit students with what I've learned from them, inside and outside the classroom. I am so grateful. I'd also like to share my heartfelt thanks to my friends who offered critiques and encouragement to me on early drafts. I could not have launched this endeavor without you. So rather than name you here, please know that if you listened to an early edition or two before we went live, I remember you and what you told me. In fact, I imagined you across from me as I was recording. And feeling like we were just having a conversation in a coffee shop helped me create the atmosphere that my daughter had first suggested. As if you and I are just talking, right now. So I mean this from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for listening. And whether online or in person, I hope we will talk again someday. [ music ]