The idea of who we are – of how we see ourselves, has, of course been widely discussed. Self perception, self view, self image, self concept…I think if you self perception, there are about 36 million hits.

Whilst busy at work (ahem…) I stumbled across this:

Now sure, it’s a great advert for Dove products, and there’s perhaps a little bit of American cringe-worthiness about the whole thing. But, I thought it was very clever really.

And I think it raises many questions like, why is our self perception generally more critical than the view of those around us? What is the primary purpose of this phenomenon? I think that when we are doing something that logically doesn’t work for us (like being hypercritical of ourselves and our actions), then, maybe we haven’t considered how it DOES work for us.

Here are some possibilities:
• In order to grow and progress, there’s always a subtle aggression (“oh, don’t be so dumb”).
• By behaving in an overly critical way towards ourselves, we are mimicking prior experiences of how others have treated us, and in doing so (ironically) this brings us closer (unconsciously) to that person.
• It’s all we know, it’s the only way we’ve been taught.
• Maybe it’s better to get in first, to be in control (“I know this is a stupid idea, but…”), that way, the criticism that we predict is coming our way hurts less – we already know it. It’s like walking into a room, and instead of being conscious of looking ‘fat’; I yell out to the whole crowd (who at this point, suddenly become your audience) “I know I’m fat, now go about your business!”

Sometimes, what is helpful is to just have a heightened awareness of what we do to ourselves, of how we treat ourselves.

Next time you catch that harsh part of you talking, maybe just go “ahh, there’s that voice”. If you want, then perhaps ask yourself in a curious, open manner, “I wonder why the critical part of me is talking?” I think if we can find some potential reasons, then we’re in a much better place to know what to do about it.

I hope to post soon and follow up on some of these thoughts