A startling number of us struggle with a deep conviction that we aren’t good people. Clients in my office–not all there for self esteem issues–insist that they’ve done (or are doing) very bad things. Things that make them bad people.
Let me be clear–we aren’t talking about clients who kill other people or animals. Or child molesters or rapists. No one would argue that those are bad, destructive behaviors…to self and to others.
No, my clients confess to a number of other “crimes”. Some feel badly about actions they haven’t even taken, but think of taking. A recent client told me that one of her failures as a person was that she’d struggled with anger as a child.
Really? How does this make her a bad person?
Many of us seem to suffer from a self-critical belief system that has little to do with objective reality. For instance, if your child or best friend did or thought some of the things you give yourself such grief for, you would never tell them the horrible things you tell yourself. An important life rule is that “if you wouldn’t say these things to your best friend, you can’t say them to yourself.”
Most all struggle to be objective in our self assessment. This is particularly true of those who are “braggy” and obnoxious. We tend to remember our struggles and failures with much more clarity than our successes. This is true of even the most apparently successful amongst us. Accurate self assessment requires us to see both our good and bad sides (thus the word “objective”). We need to recognize that even though we occasionally do stupid things, we’ve done some pretty good things, too.
If we hope to become better, happier, more effective people, we need to see the areas in which we can improve. If your whole self-image is settled on a foundation of seeing only your weaknesses, you won’t be able to see which weakness is more harmful to you. Everything will look black and you’ll feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
Self-contempt is a bad thing. Doesn’t help anyone. It certainly doesn’t help you make improvements and life is all about learning to grow stronger. Take care of yourself. If you love youself, you have a way better chance of loving those around you.