311 Days ’til 40: Silencing Self-Criticism

16 Apr

Yet how proud we are, In daring to look down upon ourselves! ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others. ~ William Hazlitt

In the scope of my position I have facilitated workshops for educational professionals many times.  Often, as an ice breaker or warm-up exercise, I would ask the participants to break into small groups and share information with partners.  When I asked the participants to share a professional achievement or accomplishment they were proud of, they often stumbled.  They were shy, embarrassed, felt they were not being modest enough if they admitted they were pleased with a personal accomplishment, and often the group finished before the allotted time was up.  Yet, when I subsequently asked the same crowd to take a moment and share an educational or professional mistake they wish they had not made, suddenly the room would erupt  into a furry of discussion.  Why is it that these professionals, the ones who we entrust with educating and molding our children, struggled to admit their successes to each other, but had no problem identifying their failures?

I want my children to be proud of their achievements and successes, and I want them to know I am as well.  I want them to be able to step back and reflect on how their dedication and effort can produce results that allow them to feel happy.  I want them to have that sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction.  And I REALLY want these feelings to be something that is not a remnant of their childhood, but lasts into their adult lives.  The ability to feel this sense of accomplishment and take pride in our own accomplishments, I believe, is directly related to how content we are with our adult lives.

Ironically, yesterday I wrote about our need to re-define success.  I do believe that success may not be what society labels success.  Nonetheless, when we achieve success (by whomever’s definition) it is okay to celebrate and be proud.  Success can even be a celebration of effort, no matter what the final outcome is.

Too often we look at all of our faults, and remember all of those criticisms we receive.  Have you noticed in your own life that you remember criticisms much longer than you remember a word of praise or compliment?  I often wonder if this plays into our stellar ability to self-criticize and our struggle to self-praise.

I have come to realize that if I want my children to grow up able to appreciate their own successes, then I will need to model that in my own life.  I will need for them to see less of my own self-criticism and more of my self-praise.  I will need them to witness me when I am happy, content, and pleased with the work I have done (be it organizing the house, getting a raise at work, or finishing a knitting project).

If you are incredibly gifted at self-criticism, you are in good company.  The following is a quote from one of the greatest artists of all time:

I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Today, 311 days ’til 40, I will strive to accept and convey that which I am proud of.  I know that it is okay to be proud of myself and I do not need to hide my joy in my personal achievements.  I will model this for my children in order that they too will learn it is acceptable to celebrate their good work and dedicated effort.

My hope for myself and my readers is that one day our list of what we are proud of will far outweigh the list of our failures.  While our failures are good, as they motivate us towards growth, they need to take their proper place in line with our successes.



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57 responses to “311 Days ’til 40: Silencing Self-Criticism

  1. photographybycalliec

    April 16, 2012 at 00:30

    You write some very interesting articles and soooo true, it seem very easy to critise ourselves and others but hard to praise even small achievements. When i start to think negatively I read Louise Hayes book and that put life back into perspective and your articles are the same. Thanks
    Cheers Callie

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:41

      Thank you, Callie! And what a huge compliment from you, I really appreciate it. I do think it is good to have something to bring us perspective when we find ourselves in the midst of the pit of negative thinking.

  2. VeronicaThePajamaThief

    April 16, 2012 at 01:01

    Thank you for stopping by my blog… I appreciate it. 🙂

    I love that you quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She was a huge influence on my adolescence, or I should say, her writing was. I have that particular quote on my Facebook page.

    I love what you say about success and self-criticism. Often we focus too much on what went wrong and not enough on what went right. Success is when… at the end of the day… we can look back at what we have done with a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction. Success is an effort well-placed. Success is also when we make a mistake and learn from it, taking criticism… from others or ourselves… and keeping it in perspective, learning from it and being stronger for it. That is success.

    It’s okay to pat ourselves on the back.

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:39

      And thank you for stopping by my page! Yes, I also love that quote and her writing. I agree with you, success is being able to learn and move on and grow – that is the key.

  3. buckwheatsrisk

    April 16, 2012 at 01:16

    i am learning to be proud of my accomplishments…if i am not, there is nothing to make me want to accomplish anything 😉

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:34

      I agree – we need some sort of internal motivation without a doubt!

  4. dragonflyquiltworks

    April 16, 2012 at 01:56

    Your posts are always great! Very insightful and thought provoking. It has become my daily devotional. What am I going to do when you turn 40?

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:32

      Thank you so much for your kind words! What will you do 311 days from now when I turn 40? Maybe you will write a daily devotion for us all to read???? 🙂 Don’t worry, I won’t stop writing… just not sure what new form it may take at that point. 🙂

  5. walkwiththerabbi

    April 16, 2012 at 04:32

    Excellent as always. Don’t EVER allow anyone or anything to brand you. You’re a very fine writer. Ever considered writing a book?

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:30

      Thank you so much for your compliment! A few have asked me if I have considered writing a book – right now I just want to get through the next 311 days of writing… after that, you never know! 🙂

  6. writerwannabe763

    April 16, 2012 at 04:33

    It IS true unfortunately that I ‘used to’ remember criticisms more than praise…but I am learning finally I am worthwhile…

    You are most certainly correct that we must instill in our children the importance of their accomplishments and teach them it’s okay to feel good about what you do and who you are

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:29

      Yes, definitely – and such a good reminder that we remember criticism more – I once read that it takes 3-4 instances of praise to erase from our minds one incident of criticism….. I wonder if that is indeed true…

  7. Louise Behiel

    April 16, 2012 at 04:39

    such a wonderful post and such a needed reminder. This fear of acknowledging success can cripple us. In my case, I’m not sure how to share it without appearing to be bragging, which I don’t like either. oh well, I have many days to figure it out.

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:24

      Thanks so much, Louise. Yes, you are so right, there is a very fine line between being proud of ourselves in a healthy way and bragging…. which often then causes us to suppress the pride in our accomplishments in fear of sounding like we are bragging…. not easy!

  8. bradpierce

    April 16, 2012 at 05:12

    “People will argue for their weaknesses and guard them like a highly prized possession.” Graham Bunting


    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:23

      Thank you for pointing me towards a new (to me) thought-provoking blog! 🙂

  9. wearingcostumes

    April 16, 2012 at 05:12

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:19

      Thank you, and thank you for stopping by 400 Days ’til 40!

  10. Petar Sardelich LMFT/PT/MAC

    April 16, 2012 at 06:19

    Was talking to a client about this the other day. Still hard to do in my life, though soon to be *gulp* 45. Learning to be graceful and honor these things are indeed as difficult as being gentle with my own foibles. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:19

      Yes, this is why I wrote about this….as I think it is a concept so many of us struggle with – continuously!

  11. Kathy

    April 16, 2012 at 06:29

    “I have come to realize that if I want my children to grow up able to appreciate their own successes, then I will need to model that in my own life. I will need for them to see less of my own self-criticism and more of my self-praise.”

    Absolutely. Thank you.

  12. Lady T

    April 16, 2012 at 07:53

    I’m very hard on myself. Some of the stuff I tell myself, I’d be in the fetal position if someone else said them to me. Good reading and good luck on your journey 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 11:11

      So, the question for you is, “How will you start to be easier on yourself?” We are indeed our own worst enemies and we all deserve better than our own self-criticism. You deserve to be treated nicely by you! 😉

  13. Intermittante

    April 16, 2012 at 12:23

    Easier said than done, but hey, what the heck. I’ll have fair attempt to follow that example, I suppose. Not the first time I try, but it’s bound to work out sooner or later. It’s never too late, or too early, to start again. Right?

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 15:40

      Yes, you are absolutely right, it is never too late!!!!! 🙂

  14. jensine

    April 16, 2012 at 14:28

    This is one i struggle with. I always believe I am afailure, no matter what I do. It takes quite a lot of work and pushing myself to believe that I did something weel and believe the praise. But critic I take straight to teh herat

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 15:39

      Yes, so sad that that is often the case. How much happier we would all be if we were able to have just the opposite occur – take the praise to heart and wonder about the criticism…….

  15. helenprev

    April 16, 2012 at 14:49

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself recently, and actually have started making lists of my achievements through the day – it is good to look back at the end and feel proud of what I’ve done! I love your blog – so much food for thought. (I’m a little nearer 40 than you – I will hit that landmark birthday in July!)

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 15:38

      Thanks so much for your compliment – I am starting to do the same. It really helps me to keep calm, keep perspective, and look back on all that I have accomplished (instead of just focusing on all the “undone” things still left to do!)

  16. Graham Bunting

    April 16, 2012 at 16:06

    I’m glad you dropped by my blog as it served as a catalyst to look at yours. I really enjoyed reading this post and like the whole blog and the thought behind it. It sounds from the “Purpose” page a little like Viktor Frankl’s book – “Man’s search for meaning” (which I have on my Kindle, but have two others to read before I read it).
    I have learnt so much by realising that there is so much to learn and that other points of view are so valuable – especially when they appear to “disagree” with my own life view. Learning to welcome other perspectives and to value disagreement has been a game changer for me.
    Having children is a blessing too – I have 5 – 3 grown up children (not children really – currently aged 24, 20 and 18) and 2 young ones – one currently almost 6 and the other 7 and a half. They have taught me so much too, because I have learnt to be patient to listen and understand them and to invest in them and show them unconditional love.
    Much of the catalyst for my mindset is based on influences from Dr Stephen Covey (7 Habits) and Brian Tracey to name but two. More recently and at a local level (I live just north of London here in the UK), I got the opportunity to meet two great guys – Darren Coles and Dave Sellars who run their own small business – DELTA Training, Coaching and Consulting ( – at time of writing unavailable as swapping servers) . I met them through some complementary training they offered through Linkedin. The training was “coaching” using NLP as the language to support. Two free days which I then chose to add two paid days to and was awarded an INLPTA Diploma. That’s by the by, as my point was that I have learnt to open myself to be influenced and that I have so much choice – I don’t HAVE to do anything – life changing stuff.
    I still flap around and occasionally wallow in self pity when things haven’t gone how I wanted them to, but I am learning all the time to be a better person, to give more, want less and make better choices.
    I’m not really sure why I told you all of this – I was probably inspired by your own mission and how resonant it was for me. I am aiming to live and give – driven by the fact that life “is not a destination, but a journey to be enjoyed”.
    Great blog – I’m looking forward to checking in with your updates – good luck

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 16:28

      Thank you so much, Graham, for your wonderful comments! You are not the first person to reference “Man’s Search for Meaning” – maybe I need to read it (then again, maybe I should wait until I am 40, as if it is anything like my blog than perhaps I should wait and hit it after so as to make sure there is no overlap! 🙂

      You bring up so many very good points, particularly about welcoming other perspectives and valuing disagreement – a lesson that many world leaders could stand to learn as well!

      I look forward to watching your blog as well!

  17. dcwisdom

    April 16, 2012 at 16:22

    Excellent post! I’m passing this on to my daughter who suffers in good self-esteem following a horrible marriage. On to 40 in a most excellent way!

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 16:25

      Thanks so much, and I hope that this helps your daughter. I was in a bad marriage once that did a number to my self-esteem…. it took a while to recover and find my way again, when I did I was so very thankful. I wish her all the best.

  18. pamela68

    April 16, 2012 at 18:14

    I was floored by the quote from da Vince. I spoke almost word for word what he said to my pastor yesterday. I have spent three years on a YA fantasy that I have written to help teens overcome great hardships. I have sent it to agents who have given advice and after so many rewrites i have felt just like I have failed God and mankind. Nice to know what amazing company I am with.

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 23:29

      Wow, what amazing timing for you. I am glad that you were able to find that quote today when you needed it. Hang in there~

  19. Divorce Recovery Solutions

    April 16, 2012 at 18:53

    I lived most of my life as a ‘perfectionist.’ After all, to my Mother, I was her ‘perfect little girl.’ Little did she know how that would affect me as I grew older. Whatever I did, how I looked, what I said, was never good enough. That’s such a hard thing for anyone to live with and it’s amazing how many people do live with the constant disappointment of not quite making it. Yes! you’re very right when you say that we each have our own successes. After many years of self flagellation over what appeared to me to be failures I feel now, that if I’m making progress and not expecting perfection, that for me is a success. Your quite right, we are Mothers and role models for our children and it is so important to pass the message of “give yourself a big pat on the back for doing your best”
    Excellent post: Tovah

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 23:30

      Thank you, Tovah. And thank you for sharing how you personally relate to this post – I think so many of the readers have had similar experiences to yours (myself included)…. so nice to know we can consciously choose to begin to break the cycles.

  20. viveka

    April 16, 2012 at 22:01

    You’re absolutely right in what your says – when you say that you want your children to be proud of their achievements and successes – there is where it went wrong with my generation. What ever we did it wasn’t good enough. Have for too many years … been one of them that if I did something good I have to do it ever better next time – nearly killed me, but I have been very aware when I done something good and I have never been shy about it. It’s also the society today (us really) that we are not allowed to talk about or feel good about something that we done well, then we boast and who “do we think we’re”

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 23:31

      Yes, you are so right, something did go wrong with a few generations and the strive for perfection has proven to be a very dangerous goal – I think it is better to strive for learning experiences and allow ourselves the opportunity to make mistakes and grow.
      Thanks again for a wonderful comment!

  21. Victoria Oldham

    April 16, 2012 at 23:37

    We had a teacher in high school who had a write a list of good things and a list of bad things about ourselves. We could write on both sides of the paper the bad stuff, but the good stuff was harder to come by. He taught us to switch the lists around…thanks for the timely reminder.

    • 400daystil40

      April 16, 2012 at 23:58

      Such a smart teacher you had – I think this is a lesson that we need to continually remind ourselves of!

  22. DeadEndMarriage

    April 16, 2012 at 23:58

    Perhaps we’re all just scared to death of Hubris (with a capital H)!

  23. thefrontwindow

    April 17, 2012 at 04:02

    Excellent thoughts on a prickly topic. Your readers might find my thoughts on what to do with criticism helpful.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • 400daystil40

      April 17, 2012 at 08:50

      Thank you and thank you for the link to your blog post! 🙂

  24. Spider42

    April 17, 2012 at 11:48

    I’ve had more self-loathing than criticism, I critique myself all the time but rarely ever listen – I think in some ways I’m inherantly thick-skinned although on the inside it does bug me. It’s an annoying contradiction.
    You are absolutely right though, people don’t celebrate the little successes and joys in life anywhere near as they should. Some would say it’s celebrating mediocrity and it’s not entirely wrong, but not everyone can be a star or a genius or a master of their craft. Why should only the exceptional be able to celebrate? Yes, their success EVERYONE shares in celebrating, but if I can (for example) finish certain writing goals, I’d like to sit back with some good friends or someone(s) who’s company I enjoy and know will appreciate the moment and simply have a glass of wine or a beer. Doesn’t need to be a party, but just a good moment.
    Life’s too short to be embarressed that your success moment is not that big a deal or is not important (which by the way is one reason why I think a lot people behave in the way you were wondering about) because if you did it and you were proud at having done it, be happy enough to share it when asked about it and if someone doesn’t appreciate it – thats not your problem and nor should it bother you except that you have an arse in your life that needs to go.

    • 400daystil40

      April 17, 2012 at 21:57

      The self-loathing is so very disabling…. and also hard to fight. I agree with so much of what you said… and you are correct, not everyone is going to be that shining star….. yet they have a right to celebrate their successes. I am not going to be a millionaire, but I can still take pride in my small work promotions! 🙂

  25. Hawkruh

    April 18, 2012 at 15:02

    Your entire post resonated with me. The first 2 quotes hit close to home in an uncomfortable way. I’m with Davincci right now. But I also, like you, want to model positive self perceptions and behaviors for my son, that will help him throughout his life. Thanks so much for your posts.

    • 400daystil40

      April 18, 2012 at 22:40

      Thank you for your great comment! Yes, I have found that sometimes I struggle to be positive about myself FOR myself, but when I realize that modeling positive self-perception is also for the sake of my children, somehow it makes it a bit easier….

  26. sunfishyoga

    April 18, 2012 at 15:44

    The criticism comes so naturally to us all but praising ourselves, taking stock and noticing our achievements is so important – and I love the idea of showing our children that its ok to fail without berating yourself and turning it into a huge drama – bringing them up to have a healthy image of themselves.

    • 400daystil40

      April 18, 2012 at 22:35

      Yes! I just hope it works – I think it is critical. 🙂

  27. kissingthecockroach

    April 18, 2012 at 22:17

    You can be a millionaireon the inside!!

  28. foodnthoughtpeddler

    April 19, 2012 at 23:12

    Great post and so true! And I also think that sometimes we don’t view certain things as an accomplishment. Success may come in surprising ways, we just need to learn to recognize it and “pat outselves on the back” 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      April 19, 2012 at 23:14

      Yes, I agree completely! In fact, sometimes what would look like a failure can still be an accomplishment if we have grown and learned from the experience. 🙂


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