The Antidote to Self-Criticism

via Flickr Creative Commons_Janneke HikspoorsI’m a compulsive journaler.  (Hmmm, is that really a word??)

Since I was very young, I’ve been writing. It’s the place I go to pour out my heartache and wrestle with my problems. It has never failed to provide a sort of alchemy for my wounds.

When I look at the patterns that show up in the writing, I find it filled with questions. 

Sometimes the questions are mournful – why is this happening?? Sometime they’re celebratory – how could I be so blessed?? They often reflect just how lost or confused I feel in the moment. But always, if I keep my hand moving across the page and maintain the curiosity to learn more, they provide a single light to guide me out of darkness.

I’ve needed those questions and that light. My chronic tendency toward self-criticism and condemnation are a deeply ingrained legacy.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. It can be likened to the lizard brain. It’s sometimes associated with social conditioning. Whatever description or label is placed on it, it’s part of the human condition.

That tendency toward self-criticism lurks in the shadows. Given an opportunity – a few nights without enough sleep, an argument with a friend, an injury or illness – it seizes the day and works it’s own special torment.

Here’s where a lifetime routine of asking questions comes to the rescue. Curiosity always brings me out of pain and into the mystery and possibility of life.

Curiosity takes me from – I’ll never feel better.

To – Why is this happening?

To – What is the lesson?

To – What would feel better?

To – What is the next right step?

To a whole list of possible options that feel brighter and more encouraging than where I began.

Questions are just an innate part of how my daily journaling unravels. But they’re also a habit that can be developed.

Try it for yourself. Next time you notice the nagging voice of self-criticism, put away the verbal torture devices and put on your explorer’s hat. Ask a question or two. Resist the urge to allow the questions to be one more way to hurt yourself. (How could I be so stupid!) Instead let them lead you to new discoveries. (Hmmm, I wonder why this type of situation keeps happening.)

Follow the leads that spark an interest. Notice the patterns. Look at your life with fresh, unbiased eyes.

All the information you need is right there. 

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started . . . and know the place for the first time.”     –T.S. Eliot



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  1. Linda Gotsch October 22, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Thanks Kelly for the inspiration .

    • Kelly October 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      I hope journaling and curiosity are starting to work their magic for you too!

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