Self-criticism can be poison.
My daughter showed me her grades this morning. They do not use A’s and B’s at her school, they use a range of numbers – four to one – with four as the highest and one as the lowest.
Her report card was stellar. I did a little happy dance, congratulated her and offered her a special treat of her choice. She grabbed the report card out of my hand and pointed out the three in P.E., algebraic reasoning, and Music.
I saw her get all stiff – which is the warning sign before she scrunches up her face and bawls.
I tried to do some fast talking to divert the tears, but she flooded. We stopped everything and I hugged her for a while. When she could talk – she told me she was trying to be perfect, but she always stops short. She can never make that leap to being the person she sees in her head. She tries not to say anything, but it’s painful to do everything well and still fall short. The self-loathing and pain I heard come out of the mouth of my beautiful, sensitive child makes me want to cry myself.
Holy shit, I’ve given her my internal landscape.
I’ve been enjoying the perfect child act for a while. I’ve seen it as a testament to my success as a parent and a human being…but I knew. I’ve seen her wilt at the slightest correction. I’ve seen her try to make everything perfect, wake up early, review her homework, put on a cheerful face, and ask for nothing. I’ve seen her go quiet and shrug off disappointment.
I’m not particularly critical of my daughter but I am highly critical of myself. This pressure is coming from me but it’s not directed at her. I talk too much, and she sees.
It’s not a good thing. That voice I hear in my head is toxic and I know it. My life hasn’t been easy and I blame it all on that voice-that-is-me. I don’t listen to it any more than I have to. I make fun of it. I try to blow it off.
Self-criticism sucks. It’s counter-productive. Life is for growing, experiencing, doing things that are worthwhile. You get better and find success when you show-up, finish your projects and put them out there. I am brave and adventurous.
Even so, I implode every once in a while. I forgot to take out the garbage bins this week. Fear, Disgust, Failure! I have piles of notes, a place to write and 3×5 cards that I need to go through but I hate all my ideas. I won’t show my art. There’s a difference between being self-aware and living with a bully in your head that edits all your moves. Sometimes I won’t talk for fear of saying the wrong thing.
My kid is more conscientious than I was as a kid. She told me we were going to be late…and we were. I had to stop everything for a while to give her hugs and time to pull herself together.
Meanwhile, I am going over everything I did to pass on that particular voice to my child care with health blogs.