My Own Worst Critic No More

During my Christmas holiday my best friend and I sat at the kitchen table deep in conversation, while her 2 year old daughter sat on the floor, immersed in her coloring book. Minutes later we realized that she was unusually quiet all of a sudden and soon discovered that she had moved on from coloring in her book to coloring the walls of the living room. To the question of what on earth she was doing she responded with confident “doodling”. Well, fair enough…

I was waiting for my friend to get angry or frustrated or mad. Instead she very calmly explained to her daughter that she wasn’t allowed to color on the walls, took the markers away, and burst out laughing as soon as her husband had ushered the toddler out of the room. This was forgiveness in its purest form: my friend felt there was nothing to forgive.

After our rather futile attempt to wipe the doodles off the wall I walked home in contemplation of what had just happened. How often do we forgive our loved ones but are much tougher on our own selves even for minor transgressions? Why has being “your own worst critic” become acceptable and even encouraged in our society?

Ahimsa, non-violence, is one of the five Yamas, the moral codes of conduct, of classical yoga. As a devoted yogi I try to be non-violent: I do not eat meat, often remind myself to let things go instead of dwelling in negativity and anger, and if all else fails, at least try not honking in traffic. I try to practice Ahimsa to the best of my abilities and find that my life is lighter without the burden of negative energy. But it isn’t rare for me to feel guilty for eating an extra cookie for desert, shame if I gain a pound here or there, or resentment towards myself if I feel I have fallen short of some goal I had set. Somehow the practice of Ahimsa toward my own self has not occurred to me.

So as I look out at the year ahead, one of my resolutions is to embrace the perfectly imperfect me the way my best friend embraced her daughter’s creative outburst, wall doodles and all. Yes, I will continue to set goals for myself and hopefully reach them. But I will not allow them to become my measure as a person. I will love myself unconditionally and will not berate myself for questionable dinner choices. I will give myself self-compassion and self-forgiveness. I might as well, seeing as I am stuck with who it is that I am. I might as well embrace it. Doodles and all.