Hard on Ourselves: An analysis

Feb 15, 2008Archive

Thanks for the terrific responses over the past few days. I thought it might be interesting to highlight a few of your insights here. The overwhelming reason we’re so hard on ourselves seems to stem from our upbringing. If our parents were hard on us, or if we felt we had to perform to earn their approval, this sets us into a crazy spiral of meanness to ourselves. Another is perfectionism and a dire need for control.

To break out? Learning our worth in Jesus Christ. Not relying on the world to define us. To stop comparing ourselves to others. But enough from me. Here’s what you said. Great insights!

Reasons why we’re hard on ourselves:

Dianne: Maybe it has to do with having a perfectionist nature, which is somehow a need for control.

Tanya: For me it’s a combination of pride and comparison. I see how perfect other people seem to be and berate myself for not being the same. The pride plays when I fear others will be embarrassed by me when I fail. I fear they’ll reject me if I’m less than the best or situations don’t turn out the way they should.

Deena: My father loved me, I was his supposed favorite, until I did something he didn’t like…such as cut my long hair short. From that point on I would feel coldness from him until he decided it was time to forgive me, and he had a knack for apologizing that always made you feel bad for HIM that he had to say he was sorry…for you.

Cathy: Sometimes it’s upbringing. Sometimes it’s just general low self-esteem. I’ve never really had a lot of faith in my ability to do anything, and unfortunately I think some people I surrounded myself with felt the same. Or maybe I was just expecting them to.

Chuck: I think my being hard on myself has (at least) two origins and uses. One, sometimes it is a seductive way of pulling people in to love me, care for me, and tell me I’m not that bad. And second, sometimes I am really angry at God about the way the world works–or doesn’t–and my anger makes it his fault. If only he’d made me different, better, things would go well and my world would work. It is a way of avoiding suffering.

Ashley: I think we are so hard on ourselves because this world places so many demands on us. We feel like we need to be perfect in every way. From physical bodies to keeping our floor clean. Men are told to be successful, provide for their families, be strong, independent, hard-working. Children deal with parents that place demands on them.

Kirsten: I think for me sometimes there’s a fear/control factor. I am afraid that the people around me will be hard on me–I have enough history with that to fall into that fear pretty easily. And sometimes I think I’m hard on myself to beat them to the punch. There’s a (warped) sense of control in being able to think–yeah, I already knew that about myself, you’re not telling me anything new. And there’s also probably a sense of control in thinking that if I’m hard on myself quickly enough, I might be able to make changes before anyone else notices and is hard on me.


Dianne: I have to make a conscious effort to say good things to myself. A wise friend says to me sometimes, how are you affirming yourself in truth? The truth is that God loves me and is not surprised by my failures and sins, and living in that truth makes all the difference.

Tanya: Part of it came from absorbing my husband’s line of thinking. He showers me with encouragement, but he’s also a critical thinker. He has helped me blame others (when appropriate) rather than myself. 🙂 This gives me a more objective view at times. But most of the change results from a better understanding of grace. Philip Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace” was key in changing my thinking. By fully understanding God’s side of salvation and the gift I’ve been given, I can more easily see myself the way He does. It’s quite liberating!

Deena: All of this to say, we must be so careful with our children when they are young, and when a negative influence comes in, we have to be quick to de-program their programming in the child’s life.

Heather: At our Ash Wednesday service, during penitence, one line in particular hit me: “Our anger at our own frustration…We confess to you, Lord.”Wow. It’s a sin when I don’t forgive myself just as it’s a sin when I don’t forgive another.

Cathy: If you recognize that in yourself, as I do, make a point of surrounding yourself with encouragers. A lot of times I think we get stuck in the pit because we don’t have people willing to help pull us out. And if no one around you is pointing you to Jesus, then you really need some new friends.

Ashley: But when we look to Him, and only when we look to Him, will we find out true value and worth. Contentment and comfort knowing that the only thing He expects of us is to be US, and to love, worship, adore, and revere all that He is.