I have a friend who thrives on wanting to be helpful (and who, incidentally, gave permission to write about him in this blog). He’s observant, experienced and insightful, discovering and applying to his life new things all the time. The only problem is, sometimes he’s convinced that whatever has worked for him should also work for you, and insists on you taking action now. If you don’t, there’s the subtle and not-so-subtle feeling that he’s judging you for your inability or unwillingness to do as he thinks is best for you.
We all know someone like that-a parent, a friend, a partner: people who have good advice but are often a little too pushy (and a little too judgmental) with their solutions. I can recognize this person because many years ago I used to be that way, before I understood that there was more happiness in releasing the people in my life to make their own choices rather than trying to control the outcome of their experiences and being vested in whether they do or don’t do what I think is best for them.
The external desire for others to change and not accept them as they are could be a mirror of what is going on inside of us. We all are in a state of growth, expansion and change, but if the imperative to change comes from a need to control or a sense that we’re imperfect, we are like the proverbial dog, always chasing our tail: we’re never going to love ourselves fully because there’s some other way we could’ve been “better.” On the other hand, if we love ourselves completely and unconditionally, we can listen to our whole being on how to make changes from a place of love and desire to expand.
So how do you change a critical nature-even if it’s well-intentioned? Or how do you change the feelings of inadequacy if you’re on the receiving end of a critical person’s attention?
We begin accepting others as they are by accepting ourselves, without conditions. Self love is neither earned nor a reflection of our accomplishments or lack thereof. At the core of releasing a critical nature (or letting others’ judgments slide off us) lies loving ourselves more fully, deeply and unconditionally-from the heart, not from a place within the mind or ego-and really connecting with all parts of ourselves. We can be discerning and yet love ourselves: we can choose to have a different experience and take action from a sense of self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-love.
With that gentler, more loving focus, we’ll be much less likely to want to impose our solutions on others or, conversely, take on shoulds or expectations that may be perfect for someone else but not for us.
Next time you run into your critical person (outside or inside you), think of it as the way in which we remind each other to breathe deeper, be more relaxed, and love ourselves more.
Photo credit: Tony the Misfit