It is a well-known fact that human beings are imperfect. Rest assured, no matter how hard we try, we are always going to be hopelessly flawed. Some of us are directionally impaired and get lost in a cul-de-sac. Some of us are socially inept and say all the wrong things at all the wrong times. Some of us cannot spell correctly if our lives depended on it. While flaws tend to vary, a common flaw that many of us share is the way in which we treat ourselves.
Most parents teach their children to treat others the way that they would want to be treated, regardless of someone’s flaws. The fact of the matter is that we probably heed this advice and treat others as we would want to be treated, but then fail to treat ourselves with that same level of respect. Why? People are often very quick to judge and critique themselves.
“Should” becomes an important staple in our vocabulary. We “should” have skipped that last piece of pie for desert, “should” have called grandma to check on her, or “should” have studied a little longer for that exam. Nobody ever congratulates themselves for indulging in a well deserved piece of pie, or forgiving themselves for a moment of weakness if they are dieting. Nobody allows themselves a moment of forgetfulness during a busy day or stands proud at how much they did study. Very rarely do people pat themselves on the back for trying really hard, or for doing the very best they could with what they had at the time.
“Could” is often another word in the verbal arsenal. We really “could” have done without buying a new purse, “could” have left work earlier to make dinner, or “could” have remembered to grab an umbrella with rain in the forecast. Maybe we could have done these things, but are they really earth shattering, newsworthy events? Is it worth coming down on ourselves for it? Most of the time, the answer is probably not.
In addition to internally scolding ourselves for perceived mistakes, we tend to be incredibly hard on ourselves for the way we look. How many teenagers spend hours in front of the mirror, patrolling their faces for acne or straightening every single curl from their hair? Grown men and women step on the scale and either hide their eyes from the disastrous number, or groan in disgust while thinking “how did I let myself get this way?”
How many of us politely accept a compliment with “thank you” without arguing or retorting back to dispute it. If your husband says, “Honey, you look beautiful tonight”, do you say “thank you so much” or do you immediately say “yes, but doesn’t the color of this dress make me look fat?” The scary part is that we actually look for validation from others to confirm the worst suspicions that we have of ourselves.
Our parents would likely be horrified if they knew of the internal dialogue that plays on loop in our heads. It is safe to say that most of us would probably be recluse, or at the very least, have no friends if we treated others as we treat ourselves. Maybe we would have been better off if our parents advised us to treat ourselves the same way that we treat others. Either way, as a society, we need to do a better job at embracing our imperfections, at giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, at accepting ourselves for who we are, and perhaps most importantly, for being kind to ourselves.