I was seven or eight, standing in the long mirrored hall of closets in the dressing area of my parents’ bedroom. I remember staring angrily at the spectator-detailed cut-outs of my navy blue t-straps.
“I hate myself!” I cried out, my voice strident and demonstrative.
My mother placed her hands on my shoulders and crouched down so that she was at eye level with me.
“Don’t say that about my best friend,” she said, with a deliberate slowness that made my stomach drop.
I burst into tears. I was, frankly, more surprised than anything. I had not known prior how serious the words were, nor that my mother considered me “her best friend.” Was it true…? Even at seven, I found myself adept at separating the chaff from the wheat when it came to conversations with adults. It must be, though, I remember reasoning, my eyes as wide as saucers, peering up at my mother’s serious and drawn face.
I wept into my mother’s shirt, her comforting arms.
I have no recollection of what precipitated the outburst, nor any memory of what came after that exchange in her hallway. What I remember, with a kind of piercing clarity, was that it was a vile thing, to talk about myself badly.
So why do so many of us do it? We are so often our own worst critics, and if the wolves don’t come for us, we invent them all the same. I remember a couple of months ago, Nellie Diamond, founder of Hill House Home, talked about combatting criticism, and she commented that: “There’s nothing bad that anyone could say about me that I haven’t already told myself.” I was flabbergasted by her candor, by the sadness of the sentiment. And yet there was a pebble of truth in her words that chafed. I, too, have called myself names, have lambasted myself for mistakes, far more injuriously than anyone else I’ve met in this life.
My repeated intention for the past many years has been grace — giving others grace, giving myself grace. I have become more fluent in the practice, but still, I can be hard as nails on myself, especially when it comes to matters of parenting. A few weeks ago, after a parenting misstep, I sat in bed lamenting. Midway through, my mother’s words appeared to me, as though a peace offering.
Don’t say that about my best friend.
I hoisted myself out of the moment. I thought about what I might say to a girlfriend criticizing herself for the same meandering. Reassurance poured forth.
The next time you find yourself mid-self-critique, pause for a second. Imagine a loved one — a mother, a sister, a best friend, an aunt — and how she might react on your behalf if she could hear that inner monologue.
My guess is:
Don’t say that about my best friend.
+A life-changing podcast on apologizing. This really rocked my world. I think about it constantly, use its language all the time.
+How do you handle criticism?
+Benedictions. Oh my – re-reading this post just now left me in a weepy puddle. God is good. Introíbo ad altáre Dei (I will go in unto the altar of God) // Ad Deum, qui lætíficat iuventútem meam (To God who giveth joy to my youth.)
+Ordering this cardi in the heather acorn. Oh yes indeedy. Also might need in the other two colors.
+Elegant, timeless stationery. I feel like Jackie O. wrote condolence cards on these.
+These toddler dino jams are under $10 and sure to thrill your little one.
+These “fisherman sweatpants” are the definition of hygge.
+A really good eye palette that will take you from day to night.
+Clever personalized wall mount acrylic activity calendar to use with dry erase markers. I’m considering this as a gift for my sister, who is SO organized and would love this kind of thing.
+Understated chic for the holidays.
+Drooling over all puffers from Mackage.
+Love this solution for spice storage. Just label the tops using a labelmaker for easy reference. We buy all of our spices from The Spice House, which ships flat packs FREE, and you can then decant into these jars. Trust me, you will never use McCormick’s again — these are so freshly-ground; they will transform your cooking and baking. I especially love their cinnamons. Like no cinnamon you’ve ever smelled before! (These would make great stocking stuffers for a cooking/baking enthusiast, BTW.)
+Another clever pantry tool: this under-shelf drawer for stowing random loose things like clips, sharpies, etc that otherwise get lost but are handy to have right at your fingertips.
+I am taking my daughter to the Nutcracker for the first time this winter and I could not be more excited. I bought her this book (the entire series is SO incredible – my children love them and have learned a lot about orchestral music using them; they really love this one because the music matches the seasons so evocatively) and have had this knit Clara doll in my closet, waiting for the right year, since she was less than two years old.
+I don’t usually swap out the bedding based on seasons, but how incredible is this nutcracker-themed sheeting!?