Monday, 17 September 2012

Learning to like yourself in the face of external criticism

Recently, my boyfriend had a group of his friends come to stay with us. I found out afterwards that during their stay, one of these friends took it upon himself to critique the 'state' of our flat.

I did not take this well.

Now I'm hardly my own biggest fan. Most of the time I do not like myself and think myself to be deficient in pretty much every way - unlikeable, incompetent, annoying, ugly, the whole thing. However, I know that this is a problem and I make significant efforts on an almost daily basis to like myself a bit more.

These days I often feel quite content with myself and my life. It's not perfect and it can be a little unusual, but that's actually part of what I like about it.
So how then, am I supposed to feel when I receive criticism about the very thing I am trying to feel better about, my life and how I live it, from an external source?
My first reaction was anger and indignation, however that quickly descended into a bout of self loathing that lasted for more than a day. I had been well and truly shaken.

So, how am I supposed to reconcile learning to like myself with this kind of unnecessary criticism?

I don't actually have an answer, unfortunately.

I'm either feeling lousy about myself or feeling angry about the criticism - neither of these are particularly great ways to feel for a prolonged period. My brain won't let go of the criticism but the (small) more self-assured part of me won't let me give in to it either.

I do have a lot of stuff, but I have reasons for the vast majority of it - things that I like and that make me happy, things that are useful, things that hold memories. Why should I have to change the way I live because someone else would rather live a more minimal lifestyle?
I'm clearly in one of my indignant and defiant moods. There's still something inside of me though, yelling, telling me that I'm no good and that people are judging me and finding me deficient. That voice gets louder and louder til it's all I can hear.

You can probably tell I'm pretty far from getting over this one.

The real problem is - as much as I think the criticism is wrong, - it's shot right to the heart of my insecurities and reinforced my belief that I am "bad" and my fears of being judged negatively. I have got more anxious and much less comfortable with people, just in the week since this all started. I hate it and I don't know what to do about it. I can't stay stuck in this cycle of anger and self hatred.

I feel so bad right now.