From Criticism to Courage

it’s no secret that perfectionism is the killer of dreams and the silencer of creative expression, yet so many of us struggle with remembering this in the throes of an endless cycle of self-criticism, overwhelm, escapism, and ultimately guilt.  wash. rinse. repeat.  

how about not?

over the years i’ve tried everything under the sun to recover from perfectionism.  i have a tendency to notice, EVERYTHING, for better and worse.  this noticing can be such a curse when we’re only trained to notice how we don’t measure up to others or to standards of the dominate overculture.  

what if we turned our magnifying glass to notice something else? 

taking this keen awareness, which is just a skill by the way, and directing it towards all the ways that we show up.  this is not a gratitude practice only.  though i’m a huge advocate for gratitude work and have seen very profound changes in my life from that practice.  no, this is about self-acknowledge to the nth degree. 

here’s an example, you wake up and you’re about to pick up your phone to check your email or social media.  but then you remember that new rule that you’ve instated, the ‘no-phone-before-breakfast’ rule.  so you put the phone back down and take a few deep breaths.  

seems pretty small right? NO. instead of dismissing this action, notice it.  acknowledge this moment where you showed up for yourself. 

self-acknowledgement has been a complete game changer for me.  i have several ways of practicing and i recommend you try different things to find the way that really sticks in your mind.  so that you’re really able to absorb your acknowledgement.  

here are some ways that i’ve deepened my self-acknowledgement:

  • journal – where i write down a few things i appreciate about what i did (am or pm)
  • jar of stars – each time i did something where i shined my light, i wrote it down and filled the jar
  • nightly tarot spread – this is my current favorite method, to sit down with the cards and pull card for each of these questions
    1. what’s something i can be proud of today?
    2. why is this action/decision/way of being helpful for me?
    3. what’s a hidden way that i showed up authentically today?
    4. where is my relationship with self-acknowledgement currently at?
    5. how can i cultivate more appreciate for myself?

in all of these examples, we’re shifting our keen awareness from criticism to acknowledgment.  using that power of observation for positive reinforcement and by doing this we begin to balance our self-perception.  to see ourselves through the lens of appreciation and improvement/development.  after all, the analytic energy that underlies criticism is not inherently bad.  it’s only problematic when it paralyzes us. so we need the necessary fuel of positive reinforcement, self-acknowledgement, and self-appreciation to help us to move forward. 

      The Larger Cycle of Healing

      let’s take a look at the cycle above.  self-acknowledgement helps us to trust ourselves.  think about it, if you regularly acknowledge your power and positive impact, you begin to develop a self-perception that is founded in trust.  

      from self-trust we might experience a challenge, or an invitation for growth as i like to frame it. examples of challenges could be a conflict at work or situation where you feel out of your depth. however hard the challenge may seem, because you’ve regularly acknowledged yourself and built a foundation of self-trust, you feel safe and secure in the knowledge that you can meet challenges head on, instead of with the fear and paralysis comes with perfectionism. 

      after you’ve met this challenge and acknowledged that (super meta, i know), you move into a place of courage. you recognize that you don’t need to be the answer and the end all be all to every situation.  instead, you can be a real person with real feelings and can move from a place of alignment, rather than fear. 

      that courage is solar/heart energy that fuels you to expand your horizons. you begin to imagine other goals that you’d like to tackle, other situations that you may have feared but no longer feel the same sense of dread around.  essentially you’re shifting from the narrow energy of perfectionism, where every detail is the difference between stellar success or abysmal failure, and moving toward a more balanced perspective that allows you to dream and grow and evolve.  

      Some Tips on Self-Acknowledgement Practice:

      • be authentic.  don’t fabricate things that you appreciate about yourself.  the point is to begin to build a relationship with yourself that is centered in trust and any relationship worth it’s salt is going to be centered in honesty. so don’t worry about finding things to notice, your awareness will develop in time. 
      • develop your awareness and observation skills.  if you struggle to find things to acknowledge, start with something simple, such as the phone example.  even the smallest actions has impact, so be sure to take notice. 
      • release comparison culture.  probably one of the hardest feats and you may have to do some spellwork or ritual to cut the cord.  but comparison is the fuel for much of our perfectionist tendencies, so the sooner you can keep your eyes on your own work and on yourself, the easier this process will flow. 
      • release the need to judge others. this is monumental, but you need to ask yourself what you get out of judging others. if you travel far enough down the path of healing from perfectionism, you’ll notice that the internal voice that judges others is the same voice you use to judge yourself.  each and every time i have judged others, my internal critic became stronger and with enough juice, begins to over power my voice of self-acknowledgement.  so we have to ask ourselves, is this moment of feeling big by judging someone else, worth thinking i’m small later?