I learned to be critical of myself at a very early age.  I never did anything right; everyone else was better than me; and even worse, I was never good enough, period. It didn't help that during my impressionable formative years, society taught that the more you denigrated a child the harder they would try to improve. Long after my childhood was behind me the inner critic continued its sinister assignment of keeping me trapped in a pattern of callous judgment and self-loathing.

I'm a grandmother of thirteen. When I look at my grandchildren I see how they try and fall short; they act out and use poor judgment; they hurt themselves and one another, sometimes accidentally and other times purposefully.  Their behavior, whether compliant with my standards or not, does not define them, nor  is it a gauge upon which I measure my love and acceptance of them. Eventually they will grow and learn but that will occur in their own individual times and manner and not necessarily in accordance with my dictates. A loving grandparent (or parent) embraces them with patience, understanding, guidance, support, and love.

Why do I extend grace to others but omit the person I am closest to? Society, parents, teachers, and church leaders have instilled in us certain parameters by which we measure our value. By a predetermined age we are expected to have mastered certain physical capabilities, acquired the necessary social skills needed to sustain personal relationships, chosen a career path, discovered our place and purpose in the world, and worked through any residual agendas carried with us from childhood.

"I should know better!" "I'm too old to be making these mistakes." "Look how much others have accomplished compared to me. I'm such a loser." Although considered the highest form of life on the planet, we are the only genus that measures our development against that of our own species. We compare ourselves to others and that, my friend, is one of our greatest infractions against humanity. (Keep in mind that unmet expectations are a source of discontent and anger.)

The ancient wisdom of Native Americans declares, "Do not judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes." An impossible feat by nature (no pun intended), this precludes judgment from ever transpiring. Yet once a criticism or comparison is implanted in our brains it can haunt us for a lifetime. It is our internal dialogue, that wretched voice in our head, that indoctrinates us with these insidious falsehoods, repeating them incessantly until they become our truths. Our inner critic devalues us, damages our self-esteem, makes us feel sad, depressed, hopeless, and apathetic and fill us with despair.

Is there a way one can silence the antagonist within? Absolutely!

1. When your inner critic appears, politely yet firmly instruct them to leave, reminding them that your mind is only receiving affirmative guests from this day forward.

2. At the onset of a negative recording, interrupt and replace it with positive testimonies, repeating words of encouragement and love. Recall favorable comments others have made about you in the past.

3. Understand that you were given human form in order to learn necessary lessons for your spiritual development. You were not intended to be perfect. Mistakes are normal  vital steps towards Divine discovery. But keep in mind: they do not define you. Appreciate them for what they contribute to your life.

4. Remind yourself daily that you are a sacred child of the Almighty and All-loving God who created you in His image.  Separate your intrinsic value from your human imperfections. Nothing can diminish your true worth as it has been pre ordained by the One who created you.

And lastly, always remember that our God is a God of tenderness and mercy. He alone defines our worth. He does not seek perfection but asks only for sincere effort. Be kind with yourself for Father God is kind with you. Be patient and understanding and compassionate for these are the graces He bestows on you. As a loving parent fully and tenderly embraces their child without conditions or restrictions, so too must we be willing to extend that same benevolence to this child of God, the one who bears our unique soul print.

Mark 12:31 "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

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