Do we really have to be so hard on ourselves?

In her book, Brave, Margie Warrell says: The negative emotions we create by being overly hard on ourselves not only erode our happiness, but change our physiology. Beating up on yourself actually narrows your peripheral vision so that, both metaphorically and literally, you can see less opportunity to address your challenges, fix your mistakes, and create the opportunities you want. 

I'm overly hard on myself. I can't remember a time when the feeling of "it isn't enough" didn't loom in my thoughts. "It's not enough" or "I'm not enough" definitely makes me feel horrible. 

In the years I taught, I arrived in my classroom between 6:30 and 7:00 am and rarely left before 6:00 pm. SHOULD AND NOT ENOUGH TIME FLOATED THROUGH MY THOUGHTS ALL THE TIME. I continually felt like I wasn't doing enough and there wasn't enough time to do all I thought I should do. 

It didn't occur to me to appreciate what I was doing — to take pleasure in what I was accomplishing with the children in my classroom or the ways I was growing as a teacher. In retrospect, perhaps I might have used a little time each day to reflect on my strengths as a teacher; the things children were learning; the successes we were having as a community of learners. Maybe it would have been valuable to consider and appreciate the ways that there was space and time for spontaneity — for children to invent, discover and create. 

I came up with the idea of "the cup of energy" in 1995 to help other educators recognize that even when we wake up earlier and go to bed later we only get eight ounces of energy.  I continue to convey this message with confidence but whether or not I actually practice it, well that's another story. 

Too many of us (especially in early childhood) judge ourselves harshly. As I go into the New Year and in the spirit of a strengths-based perspective, I plan to be more gentle with myself and to spend more time thinking about my effectiveness and less time judging myself harshly. 

I believe that I can reflect on what I might do differently - how I can continue to learn both from things that go well and those that don't. Rather than using alot of time and energy beating up on myself, feeling guilty about things that are over or out of my control, I'll take some time to think about my own moments of effectiveness. Not only does "beating up on myself" use up time and energy, it leaves me feeling crappy and ineffective. I believe that it's vital to set high standards for myself and others, but sometimes they're unrealistically high. A few lessons I'm going to practice are:
•    When is it simply good enough?
•    When it is all I have in me now?
•    Rather than being my worst critic, perhaps I'll treat myself like a food friend would.

As this New Year unfolds, and I think about my personal growth and change I'm giving myself some gentle permission to be a little less hard on myself. I invite others to join me in acknowledging effectiveness. 

I've always loved the dragonfly. I took a picture of this  red one when I was in China in 2010. Today, I looked up the symbolism of the dragonfly and here's what I found out. The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change from the perspective of self-realization — the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life. The dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the deeper implications and aspects of life. The dragonfly’s agile flight and its ability to move in all six directions exude a sense of power and poise - something that comes only with age and maturity. The dragonfly can move at an amazing 45 miles an hour, hover like a helicopter, fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side. And, the dragonfly does it with elegance and grace. (http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html)