Of Bears and Black Belts

September 14, 2018

I used to have a black belt in kicking my own ass.  (Tip: not the cardio workout you’d hope) I was an expert in beating myself up. A World Champion, […]

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I used to have a black belt in kicking my own ass. 

(Tip: not the cardio workout you’d hope)

I was an expert in beating myself up.

A World Champion, a full-on ninja. 

And I wore it loud.

The single consistent piece of feedback I received in my life was: 

“You’re too hard on yourself”. 

I heard it from my parents. 

I heard it from managers. 

I heard it from colleagues.

I heard it from friends.

I heard it from strangers. 

If the cat could talk, he’d have said it, too. And added a disdainful side-eye for good measure.

It was always well-intentioned, an attempt to illustrate for me that I didn’t see my own inherent value, and instead held myself to a ridiculous, exhausting, nay, super-human standard.

And that’s just what they saw on the outside. What went on inside my head was so much worse.

“You’re too hard on yourself”.

(For the record, this is the equivalent of telling someone being mauled by a bear, “Hey there, friend, don’t know if you knew…you’re being mauled by a bear. Jolly good, then. Carry on.”)

Never was my response:

“Oh, I’m too hard on myself? Why, that’s brand new information. Miraculously I know the way! Let me pop my Jeannie ponytail and clear that right on up.”

Instead, I took those well-intended comments on board as ANOTHER way I wasn’t good enough. Now not only was I not reaching my own standard, I was hiding my failure SO POORLY that it was a common topic of conversation. 

Every time, a part of me wanted to scream:

Stop pointing out the obvious and tell me HOW TO STOP being so hard on myself. Or maybe WHY I do it in the first place, and THEN how to stop? No? Crickets? You got nothin’? Cool. BEING MAULED BY A BEAR HERE, BUT CARRY ON

I knew I was hard on myself. I just had NO IDEA where to start, ummm, stopping. I didn’t think there was any other way to be. I felt hopeless under the weight of it. It was just me, just my wiring, and I’d have to live with it.

I also had an underlying fear that if I stopped being so hard on myself, I would COMPLETELY lose my drive to succeed, to achieve, to grow, basically lose all motivation. Clearly mentally flogging myself into oblivion was the only way to create healthy (cough) and sustainable (snort) motivation. 


My brothers and sisters of the self-flagellation black belt.

I get it. 

And it SUCKS.

Because up until the last few years, that was my life. Every day.

Trust me when I say this: if I can do it, ANYONE can do it. And now it’s part of my calling to coach others through the same journey. There IS a better way, my exhausted friends.

No, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes awareness and intention and a metric fuckton of compassion for yourself. But what’s the alternative?  What’s the pain of staying in that old pattern versus the pleasure of living a life where you aren’t criticizing yourself every day? How different would that feel in your body? How much lighter in your soul?

Accept this as your starting point. Time to put your black belt on the shelf. 

Sparkle on, friends…


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