Falling Back in Love with Yourself : How to Silence your Own Worst Critic

I sat at a small table in a grocery store Starbucks—not the kind that’s secluded and fancy, the kind that’s in the center of things, lacking every element of the coffee shop experience minus the coffee itself.

I took my mocha from the barista, gave her a tired smile, and then sat back down at my table with my journal opened in front of me.

I had taken to stealing moments like this, in between classes, on the way from one obligation to another. I needed these quiet moments to myself because I could feel myself falling apart.

I didn’t know what else to do.

As I sat there, I began to scribble out a letter—it was barely legible, my heavy heart weighing down every part of my body including my writing hand.

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It started, “Dear Stephanie, I love you.”

Those were words I hadn’t said to myself in a long time, and not a single part of me meant them.

I was heartbroken, deeply and completely. A relationship had ended and everything I knew to be true about myself ended along with it.

He had been my social life, my identity, the person who held me each night as I slept.

He was my comfort, my safe place, the refuge I’d burrow into when I needed someone to remind me that I was worth loving, because I just couldn’t believe it on my own anymore. And losing him pulled out the last pin that was holding things together.

I was insecure, plain and simple.

I didn’t know who I was or what I was about.

I’d look in the mirror, my eyes narrowed at my stupid face. I was too pale and my body too squishy. I’d shame myself into going to the gym and sweating there for hours, but it never seemed to help. I was never as small as I wanted to be.

My thighs still touched.

I’d get ready with my friends for a weekend night out, and pour through my stupid closet. It was filled to the brim with clothes I hated, clothes that never ever made me look the way my friends effortlessly seemed to.

We’d go to the bars and I’d try to look comfortable, smiling and talking to the people around me, but feeling invisible to any of the men who’s attention I so desperately wanted.

Everyone else’s life looked so easy, so carefree, so happy.

Everyone else looked comfortable in their skin, like they liked to be there, like they liked themselves.

I didn’t. Not even a little bit.

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I wasn’t going to like someone who was too squishy, too pale, poorly dressed, and the consolation prize for the guys who liked my friends.

If I could quit your team… I would, I’d tell myself. I’d be on someone else’s team. I’d be somebody else. You’re gross and annoying and I don’t want to be around you either.

So there I sat, at Starbucks, my journal open, knowing that I had two options.

I could either make peace with myself and or I could continue being my own worst critic.

The second one seemed most likely from where I sat that day.

I thought about critics, cynical and harsh. I thought about the appraising way they have to look at everything, pointing out every flaw, every way that their subject has fallen short.

And in that moment, I realized something that changed everything.

We are stuck with ourselves. We have to sleep with ourselves, and brush our teeth with ourselves, and get married with ourselves. We have to have kids with ourselves, and think with ourselves, and go to the store with ourselves.

I wouldn’t want to have coffee with someone who was always critiquing me, let alone snuggle up to that person.

So why in the world would I want to be my own worst critic? That sounds horrible! But that’s what I had been doing for so long.

I thought if I had the lowest opinion of myself, it would motivate me to change.

I thought if I had the toughest standards that nobody’s expectations could exceed mine. I thought that if I was hard on myself, it would hurt less when other people were.

I was sleeping with my own harshest critic, hoping that the proximity would drown out the other voices.

But that’s not the way it works.

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Because when we’re terrible to ourselves, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. And when the world becomes harsh—as the world is known to do—there’s nobody to defend us, to love us anyway, if we don’t do it first.

So there, at that table, my mocha steaming next to me, I took a step in the right direction.

It was a long journey, and I’m still learning to treat myself with the love and kindness I deserve.

But the journey began that day, with four simple words.

“Stephanie, I love you.”

***

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When I was asked to be a part of the Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Katie Den Ouden is a girl after my own heart, and lives in Denver to boot (which makes us soul sisters). When reading about the blog tour, I felt like I was reading words out of my diary. Her heart for women is just the same as mine. I’m joining 24 other writers as we talk about what it means for us to live whole, brave, free lives. 

Make sure to check out Kathryn’s post from yesterday, and Lauren’s post tomorrow. And make sure you check out the Skinny Dip Society’s 21-Day Freedom Challenge. You’ll be glad you did.

Comments

  1. says

    Oh Stephanie. Every word and thought you wrote spoke to me – maybe because that was me. And the “thighs touch” oh how spot on we critique ourselves.

    Ya know it’s kinda scary to admit “i love you” to ourselves. I feel like when I do that, then I’m all in and there’s no turning back, there’s no blame game. But what a commitment we can make to ourselves and a commitment to not putting up from ourselves what we wouldn’t from another person.

    This is awesome. so true. and liberating.xo

  2. Tina Adams says

    Girl I have so been there. You are telling my story. The only difference is I am still with my husband and he has broke my heart. I know I will get through this I have been through worse. Right now I am trying to figure out who I want to be because I will never be the person I was before. It is scary and exciting at the same time. One thing I know is true is that if it were not for my girl friends and women like you I think I would have just disappeared. I don’t think its an accident that I seem to keep coming across blogs like yours. My wish for every women in the world is that we would know our worth and love ourselves. Thanks!

  3. Marissa says

    “I wouldn’t want to have coffee with someone who was always critiquing me…”

    Thanks for this post, Steph. Apt for these my current recent state. God is good. :) xoxo

  4. Felicia says

    I read this after breaking up with my boyfriend today. One of the things he told me was I need to fall in love with myself again. I loved this article and maybe I’m fresh out of a break up and not thinking clearly but what do I do next? Once I realize the lack of love I have toward myself and the need what’s the next step? I realize I am a woman who likes things in order, do this and then do that; however this process seems to not have exact step lined up for me. Do sound cray cray?!!! If anyone can offer suggestions or advice I would gladly appreciate it. I am tired of this feeling and want desperately to grow and become better. Thanks ya’ll!!

  5. Renee says

    You are absolutely inspiring. Thank you, for making not only my day, but possibly the rest of my year, I needed to read this.

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