This is a cartoon by Gemma Correll. She is a very clever cartoonist who often draws birds, cats, and dogs. I saw this particular cartoon on Facebook and it reminded me of me. Positive things being said about me, all around me, and all I can say is “Eh”. For me, “eh” can mean “It was no big deal”, or “I could have done it better”, or “Anyone could have done it”. I might have done something wonderful in someone else’s eyes but the hypercritical me says it wasn’t good enough.
If I had the chance to make one change to this clever cartoon, it would be this. Rather than the one negative thought that triggers the “I’m a failure” thought coming from the outside world, it would come from inside. In my world, it would start as something someone says that may not be intended as negative or critical. It may not even be verbal. It may be a look or a facial expression. It may even be something said about someone else to give me something to compare myself to. Then, my mind takes that input and the synapses fire in a familiar pattern with equates to “I’m a failure”.
Being my own worst critic makes life difficult. I remember when I was training for a marathon and running long distances. Invariably, I would come across another runner who would pass me by and I would feel like I was a failure. But I developed ways to cope with that. I would tell myself that the other runner is a lot younger. I would not make assumptions about how far he or she had run or how far he or she planned to run. I would remember that I have had two knee operations and my knee hurts with practically every step. I would remind myself that I am not racing or competing with anyone. This is just about me achieving a goal.
These are the kinds of coping skills which I use every day. Sometimes they work well, sometimes not so well. But the lessons learned for me are don’t make assumptions, don’t make comparisons, and feel good about myself.