I spend too much time criticizing myself and that keeps me from being my best self. I am sure I am not alone. Self-criticism is a plague that afflicts almost everyone. Quiet that voice of criticism. It is not your friend. Furthermore, it is a liar! You are not as bad as you tell yourself you are. You are exactly as you are supposed to be. You are the sum of all your genes and choices and experiences. There is no other version of you that could be in this moment. Think about that. You are exactly the person that you and your parents have created. That does not mean that who you will be in a week will be the same. You can make a lot of choices between now and then that will change who you are. You best decision is your next decision. Make it count.
People hold on to their self-criticism because they fear that without that voice telling them that they suck, they will not be motivated to improve themselves. They fear that they will lose their edge and drive to succeed. That in and of itself is a false belief. Self-criticism keeps us from challenging ourselves because it fills us with self doubt. That voice never lets us enjoy what we have already achieved. It never acknowledges that we are good and therefore we seek acknowledgement and approval from other people. That voice can push us down a road we no longer need to travel instead of pushing us down a new road that will lead to better things.
Self-criticism is about fighting the past. If you tell yourself that you suck now, it is because of something that happened before that has caused you to be this way. And the more you talk about it and think about it and worry about it, the more you get angry at the things that you can not change. Meanwhile, self-acceptance is about acknowledging that you are exactly what all the past actions and decisions have created and now you are left with this result. You can look at your past actions and how they lead to the current result and choose to make new decisions going forward that will get different results.
I, like many people especially crossfitters, am constantly trying to improve myself. I devour multiple forms of media (books, audiobooks, podcasts and videos) on self-improvement. Many of these sources will encourage the person seeking improvement to meditate. Meditation takes many forms but is almost universally regarded as a necessary practice for those wishing to live better lives. How does meditation work? Why does it work? What does it do? How will meditation help you? Like anything worthwhile you have to find out for yourself: it’s experiential.
I believe meditation is a gateway to self-acceptance and love which are pre-requisites to true growth and fulfillment. Without the ability to love and accept yourself as you are, any gains you achieve will never be enough to fulfill and satisfy you. I often fall out of practice with meditation and it is usually when I need it most, not when it’s most convenient. I invite you to start a meditation practice.
One of my go-to meditation practices is to simply count my breaths. I sit comfortably, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, close my eyes and begin counting my breaths. When I am inhaling I am focusing on the inhale and when I’m exhaling I focus on the exhale and when I lose count, I start over at one. Sometimes when I’m sitting on a train I simply start counting my breaths and decide at 10 breaths whether I’m done or wish to keep going. The goal is not to get more breaths or less breaths (although slower, more measure breathing is preferable). The goal is not to keep fastidious count and beat yourself up if you forget where you are (although you will almost definitely do that). The goal is just to be present to you and your body and learn to focus on one thing. You could count your heartbeats if you can sense them. You could count the ticks of your watch if it ticks loud enough. Just be present and attentive and let that be its own reward.