Thinking, Judging, Feeling

Recently I’ve been re-reading a few interesting blog posts that I rediscovered when looking through my inbox. They’re about self-criticism/self-care, judgement and emotions.

Milliemonday’s post about self-criticism got me thinking about how, while (as she says) it’s natural to be somewhat self-critical, if one isn’t careful it can become harmful. We do need to have some sort of self-check – with no self-monitoring we’d end up burning a lot of bridges very quickly and might also forget to take proper physical care of ourselves. However, there’s a line that can be crossed, after which our self-criticisms are no longer healthy but actually harm our mental and emotional health. Like Millie, I know I’m a “big” talker – “could talk underwater” and all that. Sometimes external criticism of my verbosity results, even if meant in a gentle/helpful way. So I start trying to monitor my own output more. Sometimes that works – but as soon as I become excited/ passionate about something, then I talk more again. Afterwards I can be self-critical and worry that I’ve talked too much or been too opinionated. Lately I’ve noticed this occurs now after seemingly mundane conversations. But that’s not really healthy, is it?

I’ve been given strategies to help monitor my rate of talking to the other person or persons in the conversation – like, “only reveal as much about yourself as the other person does about themselves” as part of a give-and-take conversational process. These are given because I tend to be a bit more self-expressive than some others around me – and so I’m told to monitor it, lest I wear out my welcome too much. Or at least, that’s what it seems to me. It does create another worry though – “have I said too much about myself?” … but “too much” is different for different people, really.

I think I need to break free of some of these “conversation scripts”. Though I should say, I understand that those scripts were given to try and help me – they weren’t meant in a nasty way or anything. The other day, my boyfriend gave me a new perspective on that, by reminding me that we all see life through our own experiences/personalities. When I do something that’s a bit “out there” (i.e. obviously extraverted), the people around me who are less inclined to be comfortable “cringe on my behalf” at how I’m exposing myself. This leads some of them to try and make me aware of how that seems so that I can “protect myself” from potential embarrassment. Often in the past I haven’t quite got that, because I’m comfortable being a little bit “out there” – so the message, while appreciated, can end up making me feel like I’m being asked to box myself up. I don’t really know how not to be extraverted – though as I’ve grown up I’ve become more aware of the appropriate times, shall we say.

I realised something when thinking about this the other day. No friends have ever told me I need to shut up and let others speak or anything. And since entering uni I haven’t really experienced the old “I’m going to pretend to listen but really just think you’re weird” reaction that used to occur at times in high school among peers. Even then, though, I still had a group of friends who didn’t seem to care if I occasionally got a bit long-winded.

We all want to be liked – that’s where a lot of the self-criticism can stem from, our fears of being liked causing us to feel awkward when we express ourselves. I saw this summarised in a really beautiful way when rereading another blog post (from the wishingwell): sometimes, we have to let other people judge us, or rather let the possibly of judgement not stop us from being true to ourselves. To quote directly:

“accepting that what other people think of you is none of your business. … Ultimately, if I’m living according to my values and the values of my chosen community, it shouldn’t matter if I’m “weird.” Whatever that means.”

This also means accepting our own emotions, which I’ve touched on in previous blog posts. Here’s a great blogpost from Brianna about the power of tears. Emotional tears can actually help reduce stress, due to the way they facilitate the release of certain hormones, did you know? Those effects are increased, too, if the crying person is given emotional/ social support rather than condemnation…

I think it’s just a matter of finding the right balance between talking and listening, being “out there” and stepping back. Like I talked about last week, I’m aware of that. We’re all works-in-progress…we just need to cut ourselves and each other some slack.