Who affirms himself escapes criticism

-Jennifer Delgado

For many people criticize is like breathing, they can not imagine a life without criticism. But be criticized, becoming the target, is different because it causes a lot of suffering.

Inadequate criticism, made at an inappropriate time, can leave deep emotional wounds. In fact, if we look in our memory, it won’t be probably hard to remember the criticism that has hurt us so deeply in the past and that still has not healed.

Unfortunately, we can not stop others from criticize us, but we can choose how to respond to their criticism. We have the power to avoid criticism, but we can decide whether to let these words make us sick. And the key to doing so lies in an ancient text.

The self-affirmation: An empowering path

“Anyone who self-affirm himself escapes criticism”, says the Tao Te Ching, a Chinese classic text whose authorship is attributed to Lao Tze and is one of the foundations of Taoism. It is a very old but still valid advice.

The self-affirmation is almost a super power, but unfortunately is not taught to children. In fact, it is often stifled immediately, because when children are taught to seek the approval of others, when are taught to evaluate themselves according to judgments that others give of their qualities, it is like killing the self-affirmation.

The self-affirmation is the ability to express our opinions and assert ourselves in relation to others. At its base there is a profound self-confidence. Only when we are sure of who and what we are and we value objectively our capabilities, we are able to express our needs and ideas assertively, without harming others, and avoid at the same time that our rights are trampled or that we’re despise.

For self-affirm yourself it is necessary that you have clear answers for these three questions:

1. Who are you? It may seem trivial, but many people do not know themselves, they do not know who they really are. However, to assert yourself you need to know yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, know what are your values, tastes and needs. Only a self-conscious person is able to assert himself.

2. Who you want to be? It is not enough to know yourself, you need to know what kind of person you want to become. What would you like to improve, what skills you are proud of and what is the path that could help you develop these skills? The answer to these questions will allow you to take control of your life.

3. What do you want? The objectives we set ourselves end up changing us, so it is important to know what we want to achieve and how. Setting realistic goals will help us to strengthen the confidence in ourselves, we will become more responsible and we will be immune to unhealthy criticism.

Why self-affirmation is the best antidote against criticism?

When you know exactly what your weak points and strong ones are, when you are sure of what you want and how to achieve it, the criticism of others won’t even touch you because they do not manage to make you feel inferior, incompetent or doubtful.

In fact, we must not forget that criticism hurts so much because it makes us doubt in ourselves, it activates the feeling that we are not up to it, that we are inadequate or incompetent. Criticism that makes us suffer is just like the nail on the head, the criticism that we hear to is that, in a sense, which confirms our worst fears about ourselves.

We can think of the criticism as a tuning fork. Can harm us only that which resonate at the same frequency of our inner “self”, the one that plays on our fears and insecurities. Therefore, the self-affirmation is the best antidote to unhealthy criticism, the confidence in ourselves allows us to take an emotional distance from harmful words. So we can evaluate objectively whether the criticism is constructive and brings us something that allows us to grow or, on the contrary, are only words that are intended to hurt us. In both cases, the decision is in our hands.

7 Phrases That Will Help You Get Over a Breakup

-Jen Kim

How to want to get over a breakup, part II: Say these things out loud. Repeat. Heal.

Part of me can hardly remember the pain and agony that I suffered during my worst breakup. It’s only now that my best friend and I can finally giggle about our outrageous grieving mechanisms and the torture we put ourselves through for boys that didn’t deserve it.

The other part of me remembers every excruciating detail of feeling lonely and crying myself to sleep. And of course that awful fatalistic feeling that it was always going to be like this…forever.

I wrote a guide on “how to want to get over a breakup” about a year ago, and I was overwhelmed by the emails and comments I got from many of my readers who empathized with me. So many of you have personally written to me and shared with me your own stories of heartache and pain. I have been absolutely touched and thankful to you all.

As I read through your letters, I recognize that there is still so much pain and regret that overcomes us during a breakup – and we mistakenly try to rush the healing process. But keep in mind that there is no time limit. And the amount of time it takes to get back to feeling normal varies from person to person – yes, you are a special little butterfly.

And while, I do hope that my breakup survival tips are helping, I also want to share with you a few more insights that may help keep you sane throughout your recovery.

If you are ever going through a breakup, a rough time, or just need a pick me up, these are 7 phrases you must tell yourself on repeat:

1. “I love myself” – Cheeseball. I know. But it works, especially if you believe it. And by now, you probably know, I am pretty much a giant cheeseball. According to Mastin Kipp of The Daily Love, self-love is important, “because ultimately we are the ones responsible for our actions, choices, and the outcome of those actions and choices. We cannot give to someone else what we don’t have, and likewise we cannot get from someone else what he or she doesn’t have.” I couldn’t agree more. If you love yourself, you will be the master of your feelings, not some idiot that broke your heart through a text message.

2. “I want to be happy” – Seriously, do you? This seems like a dumb question – of course, I want to be happy, who doesn’t? The problem is, a lot of the time, I actually don’t. I let small things frustrate me. I have an extremely short temper, and I get mad at the most trivial matters. Why? It’s because I forget (or maybe don’t want) to be happy in that moment. Maybe I want to be angry or upset, so I have to remind myself that I want to be happy, and then I will force a fake smile, until it turns into a real one. It even turns out that a fake smile is better than no smile. Researchers at the University of Kansas recently discovered that holding your mouth in a smiling position could help lower a person’s heart rate after stressful situations.

3. “F*ck him/her” – I’m not a big fan of cussing, especially since I joined the No Cussing Club back in 2008, but bad language can actually be good for you, according to a study published in NeuroReport, which “found that swearing may serve an important function in relieving pain.” Say it, whisper it, scream it – let it all out. Not only do you end up soothing the pain, you are also telling yourself that you are not going to be a victim.

4. “I always hated his dumb hair cut” – Remember that annoying thing about him that always bothered you, but you never admitted it to yourself, because you were madly in love? Well, it’s time to spill all the dirt. Take off your love goggles and tell yourself what you really saw in him. Even if it’s something as tiny as – I hated his toe nails – embrace it. Doing so will help you realize that your ex wasn’t as fabulous or perfect as they seemed and it will help you heal faster. In fact, a study in Cognition and Emotions found that those who “indicated strong negative feelings about their ex in the immediate aftermath of the breakup were less likely to be depressed.”

5. “I am better off without him or her, because…” – Quick! Finish the sentence. For me, it was: I am better off without him because now I can finally eat blueberries! At the time, my ex had a terrible allergy to the fruit (which just happened to be one of my favorites). He wouldn’t kiss me or come near me if I had eaten anything blueberry flavored, so eventually, I stopped eating them too. The first thing I did after our breakup was devour a pint of blueberries. Obviously, my heart still hurt, but I let myself enjoy something that I hadn’t been able to do when we were together. And while that was something little, it kind of felt pretty good. And during a breakup, that’s the one feeling you should be constantly striving for.

6. “It has been x days since we broke up, and I feel…” Here’s another fill in the blank for you. You can say whatever you like – just be truthful. If you’d rather write it down in a journal, that’s okay too. The reason I like this phrase is that it keeps you present in the current moment and lets you feel whatever it is you need to feel. Eventually, one day will turn into 30 days, and you will notice a difference. You may still be sad and heartbroken, but the degree to which you feel it will change and you will be able to recognize your progress. Life Coach Patrick Schriel writes: “I use my feelings, my intuition, as a guiding system. If something doesn’t feel right to me I won’t do it. If the feeling is right, I will.” He says feelings are often truer than thoughts or beliefs and can often lead to “real moments of insight and can be the beginning of change.”

7. “I will find someone better” – These words may be the most difficult to utter, especially if you believed that your ex was “the one” or your soul mate. Trust me, we’ve all been there. And because this phrase is so hard to say, it is, in fact, the most crucial. Let me tell you something that you may not want to hear: You will meet someone better – it is inevitable. You will meet someone else who will treat you well, be kind to you, love you, and most important of all, not break your heart.

How to Start Loving Yourself (Even When You Think There’s Nothing to Love)

-Sharon Martin, LCSW

We talk to ourselves all day long. We comment, critique, and chastise our every move. From the big to the small – every decision and action gets scrutinized by our inner critic. For most of us, it’s harsh. Much harsher than what we say to anyone else.

Where does this negative self talk come from? Sometimes people tell me it’s very clearly their mother’s or father’s voice internalized. Other times it’s less clear. It might be a compilation of negative messages that you’ve heard — a dance teacher who called you fat, a boss who made fun of you when he thought you were out of earshot, a teacher who returned every essay completely covered in red corrections, your father who never gave a damn about you, or your grandma who blamed you for her anxiety.

We hear these messages as: There’s something wrong with me. People don’t like me. I don’t fit in. I suck. I’m stupid. I’m fat. I’m simply not good enough. Everyone else is succeeding and happy and I’m not. Obviously, I’m the problem. I’m the one that can’t keep up or live up to expectations.

There are plenty of ways to show yourself some love. In fact, I wrote a popular list of 22 ways to love yourself more. Often, the challenge is getting started. When you don’t feel lovable or good enough, how are you going to write yourself a love letter or forgive your mistakes? Before you can do any of those things, you have to find just one tiny little piece of you that’s worthwhile.

This means you have to muck through all the garbage people (including yourself) have been telling you, sort through it, come to your own conclusions about who you are, and throw out the false beliefs, inaccurate conclusions, and other toxic waste.

Start by noticing when this beast, that we like to call the inner critic, is rising up. Tell it to shut up. Go ahead and say it out loud, say it to yourself, tell a friend, write it down. This belittling beastly voice isn’t your pet cat. Stop letting it out and feeding it. It will eventually grow weak, shrink, and die. Don’t lose hope. It takes time to starve a giant beast.

You need to be firm and direct.  You need to vigilantly watch for attempted escapes. This alone takes practice. Notice when the belittling beastly voice is out. Tell it you’re done with its lying, conniving ways. Lock it back up. Repeat. And repeat again and again.

At the same time that you’re starving out the belittling beastly voice, I want you to do four things for yourself every day.

  1. Ask yourself: “What do I really think?”

It’s time to start thinking for yourself instead of believing what others have told you. Absorbing and believing negative messages about yourself started when you were young, which is why you don’t question them or realize many are simply false. These beliefs also have a tendency to become self-fulfilling. When you’re told you’re stupid, you unconsciously act in ways to make this your reality. It doesn’t have to be this way. Positive beliefs about yourself can be self-fulfilling in exactly the same way.

It helps to slow down, so you can turn inward and explore what you’re really thinking and feeling. If you’re not used to doing this, it can feel quite strange. You may find “negative” feelings that are hard to deal with or you may initially find no feelings at all. Keep looking. A good therapist can help you differentiate your feelings/thoughts from those of your parents (or others).

The point is that you get to decide how you feel about yourself. You no longer have to take the labels that have been thrown at you. Be selective. Really challenge those old stories that continue to tell you that you’re stupid, weak, troubled, or the cause of other people’s problems.

  1. Write down one thing that you did right today, that you’re proud of, that you like about yourself. One thing every single day. If this is hard, start small – I took a shower so I didn’t offend my coworkers with my b.o., or I put in a solid 20 minutes of work before I started surfing the web. Just start somewhere. If you’re stuck, think of something nice that a friend has said. If you do this consistently every day, you’ll start to notice things that really matter. Focus on the things that you like about yourself. Work on improving the parts of yourself that you don’t like.
  1. Keep negative people at a distance. This is challenging for sure. But it’s actually easier than tackling your own negative self-talk. If others refuse to treat you with respect, you can choose to separate yourself. But you have to learn to respect and love yourself. Of course, the challenge is that it’s hard to leave unhealthy relationships when your self-esteem is in the toilet and you think you just may deserve this lousy treatment from others. This is why you have to work on both the inner and outer critics at the same time.
  1. Forgive yourself. Yes, do it every day for the big things and the little things. Make it a practice because self-forgiveness is the opposite of self-criticism. It can be as simple as saying, “I forgive myself for ___________. I’m doing the best I can. I don’t have to be perfect to be lovable.” You can be happily imperfect.

There isn’t a quick fix for building self-esteem, self-worth, or self-love. It’s a daily practice. The more you work at, the better you’ll feel about yourself.

Self-esteem v. Self-compassion

High self-esteem does not predict better performance or greater success. And though people with high self-esteem do think they’re more successful, objectively, they are not. High self-esteem does not make you a more effective leader, a more appealing lover, more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle, or more attractive and compelling in an interview.

A growing body of research, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding – it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego. It’s not surprising that self-compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness, and to less anxiety and depression.



Living Authentically

“The lies most devastating to our self-esteem are no so much the lies we tell as the lies we live.

I am living a lie when:

  • I pretend a love I do not feel
  • I pretend an indifference I do not feel
  • I laugh when I need to cry
  • I spend unnecessary stretches of time with people I dislike
  • I am kind to everyone except the people I love
  • I fake beliefs to win acceptance
  • I allow my silence to imply agreement with convictions I do not share

When I reject myself, I do not grasp that the worst of what I fear from others I have already done to myself – that is, reject me!

When I pretend to be something other than what I am, I cannot win.

For if the false me is accepted, the real me is not; and if the false me is rejected, the real me never even got a shot at being accepted.

If we attach more importance to what other people believe than to what we know to be true, we will not attain authenticity.

Living unathentically is to value a delusion in someone else’s mind above my own knowledge of the truth.

People with low self-esteem have a very low opinion of their own opinion; except their opinion that they’re not “OK!” This opinion is held firmly even in the face of opposing opinions.

-St. Vincent Stress Center

A Sure-Fire Way to Silence Your Inner Critic

You can learn to dis-identify from the inner critic voice in your head.

Most of us have been conditioned from childhood to be our own harshest critics. That inner judge can shadow us, scrutinizing our every move and making us quite miserable. For years, I’ve been working on turning the inner critic into an inner ally who will refuse to disparage me in ways I would never disparage those I care about. I’ve made a lot of progress, but that critic can still surprises me with an unexpected visit.

This happened recently on my daughter’s last wedding anniversary. I started reminiscing about that special day. My daughter and son-in-law lived across the country but the wedding was in our hometown, so I was responsible for making all the arrangements. I worked hard at it, lining up everything from decorations to flowers to food to a limousine to pick them and take them to the airport.

I always tell people that her wedding was one of the happiest days of my life, and so I was surprised that when I thought about it on her anniversary, the first thing that popped into my mind was that the post-ceremony luncheon was delayed for 45 minutes because the bread hadn’t arrive from the local bakery. The second thing that popped into my mind was how the limousine driver I’d hired to arrive at 3:00 p.m. to whisk the bride and groom away still wasn’t there by 3:20. I remembered how I stood by myself in the parking lot, fretting and worrying, instead of mingling inside with the guests.

The biggest surprise to me as I recalled that day, though, was that I was still blaming myself for these two minor glitches. I call them minor because no one else was bothered by them. As for the bread, the guests were mingling and chatting, happily drinking champagne and eating appetizers until the luncheon started. And my daughter and son-in-law weren’t anxiously waiting for the limousine: they were inside having a great time!

Yet, here I was, many years after the wedding, still hosting the inner critic with its familiar “shoulds”: “You should have called the bakery on the morning of the wedding and confirmed the time for the luncheon to begin. You should have called the limo company and made sure they had the time right for arriving.”

Dis-Indentifying from the Inner Critic

Realizing how ridiculous it was for me to still be blaming myself after all these years, I asked myself if there was a way to silence that inner critic for good regarding this special day in my life. I decided to try a technique called dis-identifying—that is, not treating the inner critic voice as an authentic, fixed feature of myself. Dis-identifying in this way can take many forms. Some people find it helpful to give the critic a name: “Oh, it’s Ms. Nag again.” Doing this keeps you from identifying with the voice as an immutable part of your personality.

A metaphor my husband likes to use is to imagine that the inner critic is a voice on a stage, and you’re in the balcony listening to it. I decided to try this. I imagined myself in the balcony. There was the critic, onstage, going on and on about bread and a limousine that I, in the audience, couldn’t care less about. In fact, it was boring to listen to.

Then I considered what (as an audience member) would have made for better onstage viewing and listening. The answer was easy: a focus on all the positives from the wedding. After all, they far outweighed the negatives in both number and intensity:

  1. The beauty and emotional impact of the ceremony itself, which the bride and groom had planned with the officiate who was none other than my husband—the bride’s own father.
  2. How my daughter had asked our town’s beloved high school music teacher to play the piano for the ceremony, which made the occasion special for so many people in the room.
  3. The tears that came to my eyes as my daughter danced her first dance with her father to a song she’d chosen: Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
  4. My son’s carefully prepared—and hilarious—toast to the bride and groom.
  5. The gathering together of so many people who were dear to me.

Recalling all of this worked to silence the inner critic. Does any wedding take place without a single glitch? I don’t think so, and yet this was the impossible standard I’d been holding myself to all these years. I’d been clinging to an idea of how I thought things should be, and in doing so, had continue to feed the inner critic and pollute my treasured memories of that day.

By dis-identifying from the inner critic, I was able to look at the wedding from a different perspective. I felt good about how hard I’d worked to make it a special day for my daughter and son-in-law. And I also felt compassion for the mother-of-the-bride who, all dressed up, had stood alone in the parking lot for a half hour, while everyone else was inside, having fun.

Dis-identifying in this way immunized me from anything the inner critic might try to say that could interfere with the joy I felt as I remembered that day. In fact, a warm sense of emotional well-being led to a big smile coming over my face.

I hope you’ll try one of these dis-identifying techniques the next time your inner critic shows up. You’ll recognize that the critic is present because you’ll start to direct self-criticism and blame at yourself. When this happens, begin by reminding yourself that, although you can sometimes learn from past mistakes, beating yourself up over them serves no useful purpose and will only make you feel bad about yourself.

Then, dis-identify with that negative inner voice, either by giving it a name that’s not associated with you or by imagining it’s on a stage and you’re a neutral third-party in the balcony being forced to listen to its negative and boring chatter.

– © 2016 Toni Bernhard.

Never Good Enough

If you’re so displeased with yourself, both mentally and physically, it’s not so mysterious that you’re falling into two common cognitive traps: perfectionism and self-downing.

Feeling better about who you are as a person means talking to yourself respectfully and rationally. You wouldn’t speak so harshly to your worst enemy. Calling yourself names doesn’t help, and only makes things worse. Fortunately, there are some issues you can address to counteract this tendency.

Perfectionism has many aspects, including the valuable desire to “do better,” “look better,” and generally keep to high standards. So far, so good. However, since even Olympic gold medalists fall short of perfection most of the time, we’d better accept that perfection simply doesn’t exist. Striving toward betterment is great. The quest motivates us, and keeps us on a good path for the long run. But the idea that you can and should attain perfection will crimp your style, stunt your growth, and make you miserable. The solution, fortunately, is within your power: Talk gently and rationally to yourself about your goal and give up the need for perfection.

Secondly, the self-downing habit is a facet of perfectionism that also makes you do less well and contributes to your feeling badly about yourself. Why include a rating of your entire self (your very being) for having trouble in one of your classes? You’re making your performance at this task, at this time, a measure of your worth as a person—and you don’t have to.

It’s much better to keep your high standards, and give up the idea that you have to be perfect. Scratch the idea that if you’re not a sparkly Brangelina, you are therefore totally undesirable and incapable. You’ll start to do much better in many ways when you get off your own back and focus on what you can control.


20 Rules to Live By

14. Be kind, not nice.

1. Bring your sense of humor with you at all times. Bring your friends with a sense of humor. If their friends have a sense of humor, invite them, too. Remember this when going to hospitals, weight-loss centers, and funerals, as well as when going to work, coming home, waking up, and going to sleep.

2. If it’s worth crying over, it’s probably worth laughing at. Cultivate a sense of perspective that permits you to see the wider and longer view of the situation; this will help you realize that although your situation is upsetting, it might also one day become a terrific story.

3. Other people don’t care what you’re wearing.

4. Don’t be a sissy. This is especially important if you are a woman. Girls can be sissies, but behaving like a simpering, whining, fretful coward as an adult is unacceptable no matter what your gender happens to be. If you are anxious, scared, and feeling powerless, you don’t need to change your behavior; you need to change your life.

5. Don’t lie. Cheat the devil and tell the truth.

6. There is one exception to the rule above: Never say a baby looks like a sausage wearing a hat. The parents will not forgive you. This is a situation in which telling the truth is not wholly necessary. If it’s not possible to tell the whole truth for fear of causing undue pain, just say the baby looks “happy.”

7. Never use the passive voice. Do not say, “It will get done.” Say, “I’ll do it” and then offer a solid, unwavering deadline. Always make your deadline.

8. The pinnacle is always slippery; no peak is safe. Only plateaus offer a place to rest. Are you ready to stay on a plateau or are you climbing? Decide and pack your bags accordingly.

9. As we age, love changes. As a youth, you fall for an unattainable ideal. When you’re more mature, you fall in love with a person: “Sure, he has only one eye in the middle of his forehead,” you’ll rationalize, “but he never forgets my birthday.”

10. Power is the ability to persuade stupid people to do intelligent things and intelligent people to do stupid things. This is why power is dangerous.

11. Sherlock Holmes said, “Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson.” Listen to Mr. Holmes.

12. Everybody wants a shortcut to love, prosperity, and weight loss, although not necessarily in that order. Apart from being born into an adoring family, getting good genes, and inheriting the mineral rights, however, there are no short cuts. The rest of us have to work at it.

13. Help the dramatically self-pitying to understand that they are not, by definition, sympathetic or interesting. Encourage them to address topics other than themselves.

14. Be kind, not nice. Kindness is both intentional and meaningful. Acts of kindness requires generosity, emotional and otherwise. Perfunctory and superficial niceness is, too often, mere window dressing.

15. Only poor workers blame their tools. It’s not the fault of the computer, the school, the train, the government, or poor cell phone reception. Take responsibility.

16. You know how sometimes you don’t think you’re asleep—you’re half listening to a conversation or the television—only to discover you were unconscious? One part of your head would swear it’s awake, but when you actually snap out of it, you realize you were wholly elsewhere? Sometimes that happens in life. Sometimes the only way you know you’re truly in love, in the entirely wrong profession, being a moron at parties, or a great poet is when you snap out of it.

17. You can always stop what you’re doing.

18. You should either be doing something useful or you should be playing. You should not be thinking about playing while at work or thinking about work when you’re out having fun. Compartmentalizing your life is not inevitably a bad thing. It’s easy to waste pleasure by feeling guilty and waste potentially effective time by feeling resentful.

19. Be aware that a safety net, if pulled too tight, easily turns into a noose. Don’t trade independence for security without being aware of the consequences.

20. Someday you will die. Until then, you should do everything possible to enjoy life.

-Gina Barreca, PhD
Excerpted from IF YOU LEAN IN, WILL MEN JUST LOOK DOWN YOUR BLOUSE? published by St. Martin’s Press (March, 2016)

Self-Esteem versus Narcissism

The distinction between self-esteem and narcissism is of great significance on a personal and societal level. Self-esteem differs from narcissism in that it represents an attitude built on accomplishments we’ve mastered, values we’ve adhered to, and care we’ve shown toward others. Narcissism, conversely, is often based on a fear of failure or weakness, a focus on one’s self, an unhealthy drive to be seen as the best, and a deep-seated insecurity and underlying feeling of inadequacy.