I was reviewing responses to a survey I sent out to my email readers. (You can join the email list and get the weekly sanity savers here.) I scrolled down to the section where I asked my readers to tell me what I could do to better meet their needs. Apparently, I expected a lot of criticism. That isn’t what I got. The positive comments and encouragement brought tears to my eyes. It still makes me emotional. It was at that moment that I realized that I have been being too hard on myself. I am always thinking about what I should be doing differently or better. In that moment of reading feedback I realized that other people don’t view me the way that I view me. I know that if I struggle with the issue of being too hard on myself, it’s highly likely that many of my listeners do to.
I decided that I needed to take steps to stop being too hard on myself. Here’s how.
The first step is to recognize that you are being too hard on yourself.
How can you recognize that? By looking for signs. The first sign is surprise at other people’s positive comments. That was a telltale sign for me that I have been being way too hard on myself. When others compliment you, are you quick to disagree? Do you find reasons why their compliments aren’t accurate? If so, you are likely being too hard on yourself.
A second sign that you’re being too hard on yourself is discouragement. If we feel like nothing we ever do is good enough, we are likely to feel down. Lately, I have been feeling discouraged. Last week my website was hacked for the second time. I wondered if it was even worthwhile to continue my blog and podcast. I don’t think I would have had that response if I hadn’t been being too hard on myself prior to that. It’s so easy as homeschooling moms to think we need to be doing more, that we need to be doing better. In fact, one of the mothers who responded to my email survey said she wanted help to be a better mother and teacher. I understand that desire because I share it. But I wonder if that feeling of still not being up to par doesn’t lead to more discouragement. Surprise at others’ positive comments and discouragement are signs that you’re being too hard on yourself.
The third sign is feelings of guilt. You feel guilty because you aren’t spending enough time on subjects. You feel guilty because you aren’t cooking from scratch often enough. You feel guilty because you’re not spending enough time with your husband or just playing with the kids. You feel guilty that you’re not saving enough money. These feelings of guilt often come from being too hard on ourselves. There is a place for legitimate guilt that tells us we need to make a change. But guilt that just torments us is likely a result of us being too hard on ourselves.
A fourth sign that we are being too hard on ourselves is fatigue. When we try to do more and to do better all the time and it’s just never good enough, it’s exhausting. If we give ourselves time to rest and feel that we have completed a job well done, we would have the energy we need to do all that God has called us to do. Without that, we may be on the verge of sending the kids to school or dropping a blog or podcast that we love.
If you recognize any of these signs, there’s a high likelihood that you’re being too hard on yourself. Once we know were being too hard on ourselves what can we do?
The first thing we can do is to move away from negative people.
For those of you who are married to a negative person, I am not suggesting that you file for divorce or leave home. I don’t know you and I don’t know your situation, but I do advise you to speak to your pastor or a Christian counselor and get godly counsel that is just for you. Even if we’re not discussing a negative spouse and it’s an extended family member or a friend, I’m not necessarily telling you to cut off relationship. But I am suggesting that you find a way to spend less time around people who are negative toward you. If you are in a relationship with someone who is critical, who is always pointing out what’s wrong with your work or with your efforts, find a way to spend less time with that person. If you are in a relationship with someone who makes fun of you, if they laugh at you and not with you, find a way to spend less time with this person. If you are in a relationship with someone who brags and you end up feeling inferior in comparison, find a way to spend less time with this person. If you’re in a relationship with a negative person who tells you that it’s you and not them, find a way to spend less time with this person. I’ve done a variety of blog posts on the topic of negative people you may find helpful.
Avoid material that gives you unrealistic goals.
Material that gives you unrealistic goals can include books on how to be a better mother or how to be a better homeschooler. Choose books instead like how to be a good enough parent. Listen to homeschoolers who get real with you about their lives. Avoid looking at magazines even in the grocery stores that have Photoshopped pictures of women, who can give us the idea that we don’t look good enough. Remember that Facebook posts can give us an unrealistic picture of what’s attainable. An example is a great sanity saver that I shared on the Homeschool Sanity Facebook page. It was a video of using a mixer to shred chicken. What the video doesn’t show is that when you do this and your chicken is in any kind of broth or sauce, you will get splatters everywhere. This is a metaphor for social media. If we try to fashion our lives after the perfect images we see, we will end up with a mess. If platforms like Pinterest or Instagram make you feel like you aren’t good enough, give them a rest.
Stop worshiping at the church of productivity.
I love productivity and I love learning new ways to get things done more efficiently. But when I read a blogger’s sentence that read, “If you worship at the church of productivity like me,” I realized there was a problem. Our culture does worship accomplishment. But we need to take time to just be. When I was having severe shoulder pain, I spent quite a bit of time in the hot tub just sitting and thinking. The benefits of that time were amazing. I found myself getting perspective. I felt less overwhelmed. I came up with new ideas.
If you were to ask people who love you why they do, I can guarantee you that they aren’t going to talk about how productive you are. I know this is true because when I think about the people I love most, my affection and appreciation for them has nothing to do with how much work they get done. While I do think it’s important to make the most of our time, it’s also true that spending time enjoying the moment is a great way to use the time we’ve been blessed with.
Find a get-real, encouraging community.
The fact that I have been a member of HomeschoolScopes.tv, a community on Facebook that supports homeschooling moms who enjoy watching or making live broadcasts, has been life-changing. The other moms I have met there are constantly helping me to see myself realistically. Yes, I get some women who tell me how awesome and amazing I am. Those kinds of comments, while meant well, sometimes leave me feeling like a phony or like I need to do more to measure up to them. But just as often, I get true encouragement that comes from women really knowing me. Last week a newer member of HomeschoolScopes told me that it was apparent to her that I spend a lot of time with God. That compliment meant so much to me and helped me in another way. My goal and yours as well if you are a follower of Jesus Christ is not to meet others’ standards of success. Rather it is to be obedient to Christ. And here’s the thing about Jesus’ expectations of us: they are so much kinder and gentler than ours. I came away from hearing that compliment realizing that yes, I have been too hard on myself. My sole mission in life is to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Become a part of a community: a church, a support group, or an informal group of friends who will remind you that you are more than enough.
Look to Scripture.
The well-known story of Mary and Martha shows us the problem we can have when our standards are too high. Martha was worried about many things. I have been worried about many things. I worry then I’m not doing enough as a wife, a mother, a homeschooling mother, a teacher, a blogger, podcaster, friend, and the list goes on. In this account, we are reminded that we are to concern ourselves with just one thing: what God is calling us to do. David and Paul both had reason to be hard on themselves, yet their focus was not on themselves, but on God. Reading their stories and reflecting on the two greatest commandments will remind us that being too hard on ourselves is counterproductive to the Gospel. Our focus ought to be on the privilege we have of being part of God’s story. David and Paul understood that. They didn’t get hung up on all the ways they had failed, but rather focused on what God was going to do in them and through them going forward.
What step are you going to take today to stop being so hard on yourself? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.