Back in what feels like a previous lifetime, I was a graduate student struggling to get my PhD. I always felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails. Every step of the process seemed so hard. I’m still somewhat mortified to recall the number of times I burst into tears when meeting with professors. (I’ve never been very good at taking criticism. Sounds like the topic for another post….) The thing that kept me going was that I loved teaching.
But then something changed. I met someone. In the blink of an eye, my life changed. Suddenly the entire focus of my life was no longer graduate school. I was giddy in love! (I’m happy to say I’ve been married to that same man for over seven years now!)
What changed for me professionally, though, was that I no longer took everything so personally. Because I had another focus in my life (a very positive, joyful one at that!), I wasn’t so deeply vested in my work. I still worked hard, and I did finish my degree. But the entire process shifted. When I stopped taking the critique so personally, I was not only happier, but I was much more able to actually hear the critique and make positive changes in my work. Would you believe I actually had to throw out two entire chapters of my dissertation?! All 80 pages! Months and months of work! But when I met with my advisor, and he told me that I should scrap the chapters and restructure the dissertation, I actually laughed! For one thing, I knew he was right. And as much as I wish I hadn’t had to go through all that work only to chuck it, my work was an awful lot stronger because of it.
I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I take what I consider to be my failures so very personally. I am so hard on myself.
It’s time to start taking this journey lighter. Yes, there are some dark days. Yes, there is some serious – and wonderful – emotional healing that I have done and continue to do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be lighthearted. I can laugh! I can even laugh at myself. I can laugh at myself when I go a little off track. I can laugh at myself when I catch myself being judgmental. I can smile at myself when I see myself in the mirror. I can smile at the food I am about to enjoy. I can smile while I’m enjoying my workout.
In other words, I get to choose. How am I going to feel in this moment? Am I going to be overly critical? Am I going to give up?
Or am I going to laugh it off? Am I going to take a deep breath and begin again? Am I going to go easy on myself?
Yes. It’s time to go easy on myself. And stop taking it all so personally!