On Self-Criticism, Compassion and Progress

Photo by Alice Popkorn
Photo by Alice Popkorn

Hands up if you wrote a list of your priorities at the start of the year and if you have failed to maintain them. A new year holds such promise. Why do we set ourselves up to fail each year and end up feeling miserable? We try to give our lives meaning but what if it has none? Or what if it’s not about the grand gestures, but an accumulation of the small ones?

A few weeks ago friends came to visit us and we stayed up until the early hours. The conversation was happily disjointed. Thoughts were flung around the room and some we examined and others were left discarded with the empty chocolate boxes on the floor. We talked about how it was usual in our generation and circles for girls, as a by product of feminism, to have a dream. In many ways this is a good thing. Still, we questioned whether we were more or less happy than our mothers. Were our mothers more nuanced in their approach to happiness, less single-minded perhaps?

Serenity. For me, it is the most beautiful word in the English language. To me it says contentment and peace; not striving, just being. Have we forgotten how to find contentment in the present? It is important to set goals and live our dreams but let’s not write off the everyday moments that make us happy, the ones that keep us connected to ourselves and to others.

For me it is:

  • The moment of quiet when I first sink in the bath
  • The look that passes between two people when they are on the same page
  • Singing when no one is listening
  • Being present with a story, so much so that I forget myself

This year my resolution is to remember that happiness is the whole picture. It is not the small things we are critical of. It is our intentions. It is our effort. It is growth and resilience, not just a tally of failures and successes. It is all the colours of the rainbow. Happiness is not perfectionism. It is compassion for ourselves and for others. Don’t let self-critical thoughts crush your potential. Let me know the small moments that buoy you in the comments. Whether your start to the year is smooth or bumpy, you’ll get there, as will I.

4 thoughts on “On Self-Criticism, Compassion and Progress

  1. The support of friends has been keeping me going. I don’t know how to thank them all; but my priorities now rest on giving back whatever I can, while trying to balance my own life and interests /concerns. Sounds clichéd, but I still have old bad health habits to break. Concentrating on other people/politics/writing helps. I feel like I’m giving back, and I’m more myself. The person I wanted to be when I was a kid.

    1. Yes I’d be lost without the support of loved ones too. I used to feel pressure to give more than take in relationships, but I am better now at accepting gifts of attention, love and support. I think you’re fabulous just as you are Rach, but if you get nearer to your childhood ideal, well then I’m pretty sure you’ll be formidable, n

  2. Lovely post, well put. It is so easy in a world of fast paced consumerism to truly savour life. Picking up on one of your threads, I became a stay at home mum over picking up my previously high flying job post baby and feel my chosen path in life is often demonised by other women for a variety of (invalid) reasons. In the early days I felt dreadful peer pressure about returning to work to regain my perceived loss of feminist status in life. For me serenity is in living the life I want to lead, without societal pressure to be a certain way. Im still working on this, but to me being able to rise above this would be the key to contentment this year.

    1. Thanks very much. Yes, consumerism, screen time, lack of eye contact, a lot of which takes us away from true human connection. I’m not sure we can be warrior women in all areas of our lives at the same time. Wishing you contentment and will be joining you in defining my own terms of success and not letting society dictate them to us.

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