Self-Critical Self, Contributions, and Honesty

Last night in class, we were doing an exercise where our professor asked us 25 rapid fire questions and we did a mind dump on the paper. Less than 30 seconds per question. Quick – what does your gut respond?

As we were going through the questions, there was one question that made me stop in my tracks. If you’d like, before I share it – grab a piece of paper, open a new word processing document, and let it rip for like, 15 seconds. Ready?

Spiral notebook with some accutraments such as wooden pencil, mechanical pencil and a sharpener

What would you consider to be your greatest contributions to those around you or the world?
(Question from Franklin Covey workshop)

My skin started to tingle and my heart tightened a little bit. I jotted down a few notes, but knew this was a question to come back to.

We finished the exercise, debriefed a little, then had break. During break, I went up to a few colleagues to talk, and made a comment about my Self-Critical Self, which in retrospect, is huge. I never talk about that stuff outside of my personal counselor’s office. But, the conversation? It was so helpful in acknowleding that I’m not alone, and that in some ways, Self-Critical Self works overtime and I need her to chill the f*** out. During conversation, I joked that meant locking her in a room with books, comedies, and a comfy chair.

Not too far off base from what I find relaxing. Perhaps we aren’t too different from one another and there is a darn good reason Ms. SCS sticks around. (She just needs to chill out a bit.)

Today, on my drive to my graduate assistantship, the question of contribution wandered into my head. I was sitting at a red light, and my skin started tingling again. And it’s not the answer to that question that has gotten me a bit anxious – it’s the fact that I’m honestly asking it… and honestly finding answers.

There are times in this world that it’s really freaking hard to acknowledge the ways in which we positively contribute to this world – we’re told (by others and ourself) to simmer down, because we don’t want to get a big head, or really, it’s (we’re) not that important. We’re worried about what others might think. We compare our contributions to others and think we fall short. We see context, not content. We think we’re only trying to make ourselves feel better. And then, Self-Critical Self, who hasn’t had the luxury of a real vacation, starts pouncing on these vulnerable spots.

My response has been to dismiss the whole line of questioning and just keep doing what I’m doing and (quietly, subconsciously, endlessly) question what I’m doing and if it is Enough. (No wonder Self-Critical Self is tired.)

For today, how can we recognize the gifts we have and that we offer this world – which so desperately needs people awake enough to know what they offer?

If nothing arose for you when looking at the question above – is there space to be made, some relaxation for your own Self-Critical Self?

 ***

(N.B.: And I don’t say all this to cut an entire piece of myself out of the equation… I learned from a counselor long ago, when we were working together, that I can’t simply cut something out of my mental life without leaving something in its place. It creates a vaccuum that will demand attention. Rather, right now, seeing Self-Critical Self as a named thought process is helping me to see those nagging self-critical thoughts in a different way, to allow some compassion and understanding for a part of myself I’ve always seen as destructive and Needing To Be Gone. This is fodder for another post, hopefully coming soon.)

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