"You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens." — Louise L. Hay
During this time of year, parents are posting pictures on social media of their children graduating from school. It has made me reflect on my own school experience. I learned amazing things through school, outside of the expected textbook learning, such as how to work with others to accomplish a task, how to stay organized so I wouldn’t miss a deadline, and the importance of close friends. I, though, also learned some bad habits including the habit of judging myself.
From a young age, children are assigned grades which judge their performance at school. If they complete assignments and get correct answers on a test, they receive a high mark. Obviously, the reverse also occurs: incorrect answers lead to bad marks. The assigning of grades became challenging to my young perfectionist self.
I am a recovering perfectionist. I worked hard for straight A’s and thought I had beautiful cursive writing. I would complete every cursive practice page assigned for homework. I loved being able to have the letters flow neatly across the page. I took pride in my ability to write cursive until my sixth-grade teacher gave me my report card. I opened it and saw I had received all A’s and one B in handwriting. She hated my handwriting. I am still puzzled by assigning letter grades to the subjective subjects like art and handwriting, but this report card was the feedback I used to start judging myself. The handwriting that I once viewed as beautiful became ugly and imperfect in my own mind.
As life became more challenging, my self-judgment became more prominent. I was never a good student even though I was salutatorian of my high school class. I was weak even though I could easily carry a 50lb rucksack during a military march. I was a bad mom even though I never missed a school performance or doctor’s appointment.
We are taught at an early age that judging ourselves can be motivating to do better on the next semester’s report card. In reality, self-judgment can become detrimental to living the life of our dreams. The negative self-talk leaves us feeling shameful. These emotions result in giving up on your goals because why try when you believe you are never good enough?
Parents are heroes, but parents of chronically ill children are superheroes. We, though, often get judged for how we care for our children, our use of time, and how we manage our other responsibilities. Judgment is part of life, although this doesn’t mean that we need to believe any of it including the thoughts of self-judgment that our brain offers. Throughout my life I have chosen to print instead of write in cursive because I allowed the opinion of my sixth-grade teacher to impact me. I am wiser now and understand that judgment from others or from our own mind does not need to influence our actions. The development of strong self-confidence can silence the negative thoughts and allow us to choose if we want to believe words of judgement. Self-confidence can be our superpower as we navigate our chaotic world. It can give us the calmness and peace that we so desperately seek.
What judgments are you NOT going to believe today? Will you choose to continue to write cursive or stick to print?
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Maureen Michele, MD
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