They say that one of the worst places to be in the world is alone with your own thoughts. A study performed by the University of California, San Francisco, actually placed participants in a room by themselves for 15 minutes and gave them the ability to shock themselves if they desired. Surprising, 67% of men and 25% of women actually shocked themselves rather than just sit quietly and think. This study shows a terrify reality that, when left alone, our minds can become so twisted that they could find the thought of an electric shock entertaining.
One of the biggest issues that we have when we are alone with ourselves is self-criticism. Self-criticism is an unending cycle of judgement we place on our lives that often appears in the form of frustration or anxiety. It’s that feeling that says we haven’t done anything with our lives. That we’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, or not happy enough. We begin to question “is life even worth it” or “why do I even try”? It takes all of our accomplishments and throws them out the window, only to focus on what we’re not or what we haven’t become. And it’s here that we begin to make immediate, rash decisions in the hopes of regaining our self-esteem and rediscovering who we are.
No matter where we are in life, there is never room for self-criticism. It is a bottomless hole of self-pity and sadness that provides nothing constructive to our life. When we find ourselves at the bottom of this hole, remember:
You are far better than you realize!
You are stronger than you think you are!
You are smarter than you pretend to be!
You have done more than some people can even imagine!
These are not just affirmations meant to cheer us up, these are facts. Consider these points:
- You have things that other people want
There are plenty of things in our lives that we take for granted on a daily basis. Things like a family, a college degree, a job, friends, money in our pocket, skills, or relationships. Maybe we don’t have all of these things, but for every time we think “Man, if I could just meet the One”, there is someone out there who has met the One who is thinking “Man, if I could just get a good job”. It’s important to focus on the things we do have and remind ourselves of how blessed we actually are.
- Your experiences are your own
All we can hope for when we get to the end of our life is to have thousands of great stories to tell our grandchildren, those next to us at the bar, or the other hooligans stuck with us in a nursing home. People love to listen to stories and each of ours is completely unique. Whether we went sailing in the Mediterranean or got left at the altar, good and bad stories are something that make us who we are and that no one can take away. Reflect on those experiences from time to time and remember how far we’ve come. Life is a journey, not a destination.
- You are important to other people
Are you a hermit that lives in a cave somewhere in Guam who has never seen the light of day or socialized with people? Than chances are you’ve met people and changed their lives in ways you don’t even realize. Just being born has had an effect on your mother and father. If you can say you have one good friend who you would do anything for, people would not only consider you lucky, but you would know that just being alive makes an impact on their life. We often forget or neglect how our lives directly impacts those around us in a positive way, so there is no need to ever feel like we’re worthless.
- …but not that important
Often times, we can find ourselves meticulously going through social situations in our head where we’ve made a mistake. Maybe we got caught in a lie, said something bad about someone, or farted in an elevator full of potential employers. It natural for us to beat ourselves up over mistakes we make that hurt other people (or the damage we’ve done to nostrils). Chances are, though, these situations won’t have a lasting affect like we think they will. I know we think we’re the center of the universe, but we’re not. People have a lot of other things to worry about other than us, so don’t sweat it.
- You’re in charge of your own happiness
The end of our spiral of self-criticism often ends with the idea that life just sucks and the world is out to get us. While there may be evil villains conspiring against you, our happiness in life is entirely up to us. We’re capable of becoming who we want to be, doing what we want to do, and taking charge of every aspect of our life. Most importantly, we’re capable of reacting however we’d like to every situation. We don’t have to cry when bad things happen or feel guilty when we make mistakes. Spend a minute with these feelings, pick your head up, and move on.
No matter what, our life is never going to be perfect. We’re going to make mistakes, have bad experiences, and have times where we get down on ourselves. But it’s important to remember that we are doing so much better than we give ourselves credit for. So pick that chin up and smile, you’re doing better than you think.