Changing yourself is a contradiction
to change yourself is a paradox, a contradiction.
it that you want to change yourself? Most probably to be able to accept
yourself more then you do already. And by saying to yourself that you have to
or want to better yourself, you are confirming the idea that you are not good
enough, that you are not able to accept yourself just as you are now.
starting point should not be changing, but rather, accepting.
you are is a result of what you brought with you genetically, and from the
circumstances later on in your life.
didn't make yourself. You are the best you can be, based on your genetic
possibilities and character traits, and what you have learned in order to cope with the outside world.
the time, patterns that are bothering you now, are formed at an early stage in
life to deal with threatening and painful situations. It is like a raincoat,
that you really needed as a child, and which you dare not take off now, in case
there might be an unexpected rain shower.
unfortunate thing about this is that these kind of survival patterns often call
for the very thing you want to avoid. E.g., suppose as a child you felt you
received too little attention, and so you react by asking for, or demanding
more attention then usual, the chances are that people will respond to this
attention seeking behaviour by ignoring you.
bothers a lot of people is being self-critical. Being self-critical can in itself be useful, for example, when it
prompts you to look at your own mistakes, with the intention of correcting them
and/or doing better next time. It becomes harmful, however, if it takes the
form of blaming yourself, feeling guilty, worthless and so forth.
is a part of upbringing. But when parents are overly or continuously critical,
perhaps rejecting the child instead of only his/her behaviour, we become afraid
of criticism because it undermines our feeling of well-being.
same time we copy the behaviour of our parents, doing to ourselves what they
started to do, resulting in an internal voice that expresses strong
given that self critical behaviour, in itself doesn't make for a good or
positive feeling, do we persist with it? Surely there must be some advantage of
maintaining such behaviour. It could be that, firstly, we hope that by being
self-critical, other people will have less/no need to 'better' us, and
secondly, by adopting a very critical view about ourselves we hope
or aspire to become perfect, so that we will be less likely to
encounter future criticism
our self-blaming serves to keep other
feelings at a safe distance. By evaluating, by 'being in our head', we are less
likely to be able to acknowledge and appreciate how or what we really feel. If
we could stop our self-evaluations for a moment, we would most likely feel
the pain of being rejected and the anger. Anger, in fact towards our parents.
children are inclined to suppress their madness/anger toward their parents.
Since expressing it could lead to even more criticism. Even in cases of the
most serious abuse by parents, e.g., beating or incest, it is very difficult
for the child to be angry and/or communicate this to one or both parents.
just too bad that (too much) self blaming doesn't work. It evokes anxiety,
resulting in under-performing/achieving, and consequently giving us even more
reason for self-blame. Further, being critical towards ourselves, inclines us
to be critical towards others; which most of the time comes back to us like a
is every reason to get rid of those patterns that are doing us more harm then
good. However, it seldom helps to force yourself into another attitude, to
fight against yourself. New year’s resolutions seldom have long-lasting
results. By fighting against, or denying those 'unacceptable' parts of
yourself, for the most part only serves to exacerbate them.
you are saying to yourself: you are not o.k. And who wouldn't argue with such a
can we deal with those patterns?
way to change yourself is by accepting yourself. Don't fight the 'unacceptable'
parts, but allow them to be there, even appreciate them. Only then will you be
able to get to know them better. When you understand why unwelcome behaviour or
thoughts are there, in other words, what good they are doing you, they will
probably disappear without much effort. You may learn other ways to get the
same from the world around you without the harmful effect of your former
conduct or thought patterns.
written above the arch of the Oracle of Delphi: know thyself, that is the only
thing that is needed.
and focusing, as described by Eugene Gendlin, is very helpful in facilitating
the process of getting to know oneself.
there are some other specific exercises that might be of help:
self-criticism into needs:
instance: 'I don't have good looks', might be changed to: 'I want people to
find me attractive and I want them to say so'.
everything wrong' you may translate to: 'I want to feel good about myself', or,
'I want other people to appreciate me'.
expression 'I am so shy' you could change into, 'I want people to listen to
advantage of self-criticism:
exercise described by
way to discover the advantage of being critical towards yourself is by giving
your internal, critical voice a form. A fantasy figure or a speaking object.
You can ask this figure what he thinks he is doing, and what good he thinks he
is doing for you. Try not to come up with an answer yourself but take the time
to really listen.
about a week make a list every night containing 10 sentences each beginning
with, ‘I am proud of myself because…’ Don’t try to resist or stop any negative
thinking but rather experience how different it can feel when you concentrate
on what you did well. In contrast to this, you might appreciate how your
criticism is impacting on you.
way of experiencing a positive feeling is by letting the word ‘Yes’ stream
through your body. Do this as often as you thing about it.
Write down your
negative thoughts. You can do this the moment one comes to mind, or you can sit
down and make a list. This is not fun to do, and you might be afraid that by
doing this you’ll make matters worse. But the opposite is true. The more
concrete you make your self-criticism, the less threatening it will be. You may
want to heighten the effect by adding to every negative point, what it is that
is most negative about it. You will discover that most of the time making it
very clear will weaken your conviction. and give rise to other possible more
positive thoughts on the same matter.
You can also
try to figure out if there is any advantage in holding a specific negative
belief or thought.
Finally, you can achieve more self-insight regarding
negative thinking by setting yourself one or two days, for example, when you
will (try and) say only positive things… about yourself, others, the weather,
television programmes, etc.
© Bert Henning, 2004
The psychology of Self-esteem.