Last year my aunt told me something that stuck with me for a long time: “Lisa, I’m so proud of you and all your accomplishments, but you need to stop being so critical of yourself. Realize you are a very talented person.”
I thought about that comment for a long time. She may have said it passing, but to me it went deeper. I’ve always been hard on myself. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, but I set the bar very high, which can be a positive and negative trait.
It is a positive trait because I am always pushing myself to accomplish new goals and learn new things, but it is a negative trait because when things don’t go my way, I get upset.
I am secretly (well my secret is out) a very sensitive person. I hate not being good at something. Especially when I work hard and still don’t see results. And when I don’t see results, I beat myself up. I mull over the situation and literally drive myself into a bad mood, even to tears.
For the most part being my worst critic has worked for me because I push myself to success, but on the flip side it takes a toll. When I start being critical, I downplay my skills and talents, which is a defense mechanism. A defense mechanism because in case I don’t succeed, I have already set myself up for the bad news.
The last two weeks, I have been working extremely hard in one class and received 87,87,88. To many, that isn’t bad, but to me, that devastated me. If you have been following this blog, you know how hard I have worked to do well in school. Though I really don’t care too much about grades, I do care when I work hard at something and I don’t see the results. That feeling that I am not improving, kills me inside. Two of the grades were from a PowerPoint presentation and one from a paper. The paper, I didn’t mind too much, I’m in a PhD program, an 88 was more than I had expected, but the Powerpoint presentations, is what is bothering me.
As you guys know from previous posts, I suffer from extreme stage fright and in the beginning of the semester I was getting high 90s on the PowerPoint presentations, so I felt like I had overcome my public speaking fears. But lately, I been getting very nervous. I think it is because I do not feel confident in the material I am presenting and that is reflected in the grades I have been receiving. Unfortunately because I am my worst critic, I fear that I will keep going down in the scores because I am getting too nervous and being too critical.
It is hard to articulate my feelings, but I do know I need to work on not criticizing myself. Though in the past, being critical has pushed me to work harder and do better. I do feel that it is not a healthy motivational tool.
Giving up is not an option, but I do need to figure out how to overcome being my worst critic.
I know the obvious answer is to work on improving my attitude, but how? How do I undo 28 years of being highly critical of myself?
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Photo Credit: Jon Jordan