Do you struggle with being your own worst critic and judge, like me? Is so, read on and I hope my story can help.
I have struggled with self-judgment for a long time. However, through the help of a personal friend, I recently learned how to visualize what “bat” I should be reaching for in my mind when I beat myself up. Doing this in advance has made it easier for me to reframe my thinking, change my perspective, and improve my own self-acceptance. It’s had such a significant and positive impact on me that I want to share my story with others who may struggle with self-judgment as I have.
If you’ve ever read the popular book The 5 Love Languages then you’ll understand when I say I’m an “acts of kindness” person. Meaning, I share and also derive my strongest feelings of love from doing things for other people, and vice versa. When my friend asked me what I would do for a friend in need, I didn’t hesitate to respond by saying, “anything!”. He then followed up by asking what I would specifically do and I began to ramble on about how I would listen, how I would provide them with compassion, how I would share my own similar experiences, and how I would ask them what they needed from me.
My friend then asked me what I do for myself when I have a need. His question was met with uncomfortable moments of silence, then a dim light bulb in my mind growing brighter and brighter until I said out loud, “F#%&!”. In that moment that it became apparent that I freely and easily provide to others without any judgment whatsoever, but do the complete opposite with myself.
My friend asked me to close my eyes and imagine a line of baseball bats in front of me. All the way at one end are those big, heavy professional bats. You know the ones — the Louisville Sluggers made out of the hardest ash and hickory. I was asked to scan my eyes down the line of bats and imagine their size and shape growing smaller and smaller. Midway down the line, I had imagined that yellow hollow plastic ball bat from my youth, the one you used to hit that crazy white whiffle ball with the holes punched into it. Now it’s certainly not as tough as the Louisville Slugger, but I’ve got to be honest, it’s still something I wouldn’t want to get hit in the face with because it would still hurt like hell.
My friend encouraged me to continue scanning down the line of bats until I got all the way to the other end. It was here that I was asked to imagine that small, wide, and soft red toy bat — the one you’re comfortable giving to a three-year-old because it’s not going to hurt them. My friend told me to remember which bat I should use when I want to beat myself up.
I wasn’t asked to not beat myself up. That would be impossible! I was just asked to be a little kinder to myself when I do. The soft red bat I imagined in my mind doesn’t hurt anything like the Louisville Slugger that I had been using. The soft red bat made it easier for me to remember that everyone has faults. I now try to think about how I would feel if I were looking at myself from another’s perspective.
As I look at my friends, or if I were looking at myself as I look at a friend. Would I be harsh and unforgiving in my judgment from this different perspective? No, is usually my answer. Is my thinking irrational? Yes, is usually my answer. I now have an easier time of laughing at myself and being self-deprecating in a healthy way, because the reality doesn’t match the perception, and it’s not as bad as I’ve made it out to be. The red bat reminds me…
Oftentimes when I see someone struggling with self-judgment, I share this story. When a friend, colleague, client, mentor or anyone else seems to be unable to stop, I find myself taking a trip to the store, and picking up another squishy, soft red bat for them. Delivering one of these to a professionally employed adult may seem silly, but sometimes having the right tool, in this case, a foam covered Nerf bat, makes the job easier, and having a visual reminder leaned up in the corner of your office reminds you to be kind to yourself too.
While it took me almost 50 years to begin to understand my struggle and the peace that I have found with a new perspective, I share my story in the hope that others may learn sooner to be kind to themselves. Sometimes we want to hit ourselves or others with a Louisville Slugger, and sometimes we need a crack upside the head to sort ourselves out, but the safer, easier and less damaging approach is to pick up the squishy, soft red bat.
What I’ve also learned:
- Better clarity and control of my thinking
- Stronger empathy for myself and others who judge
- Increased feelings of self-worth
- Greater self-acceptance
- More peace and happiness with myself