My Toughest Critic

By: Christina Ferrari

I woke up late today. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted to at work. I don’t fit into that dress I bought for the summer and I didn’t do as well as I wanted to last semester in my classes.

It seems I’m always getting down on myself and no matter the situation, the negative wears neon signs and flashing lights while the positive feels like a shadow lost in a corner somewhere. For too long I’ve known the pain of never feeling good enough, and for years it’s been because of a damaging self-image. Where could I have been more productive? How could I have been better? Why didn’t I try harder? Amazingly, I quickly and consistently give everyone else the benefit of the doubt, second chances, and look on situations positively when no one else can. But for some strange reason, none of that translates when I look in the mirror or at my own life.

More than I’d like to admit, I find myself fishing for compliments or touting my accomplishments when I probably don’t need to. At times it seems I subconsciously feel the need to insert achievements or seek positive reinforcement from others just to feel like I’m doing things right or that I am in fact valued. I was gifted with a big mouth and a big heart so I talk too much and confide in strangers. I catastrophize and obsess over things that probably no one else even notices. Yet, I do it knowing full well that no one likes to be around a hot mess or someone with self-esteem the size of a blade of grass.

I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer or any other creative alliteration coined after female first names. I don’t want to ruin your Wednesday afternoon (or whenever you might be reading this). It’s just that, ever since I pulled myself away from my city, family, and friends, I’ve come to a realization— being on my own has taught me that no matter where I go or what I do, I have me and sometimes, only me.

Living thousands of miles from home this past month helped me recognize the importance of relying on myself for my own emotional needs. My friends, partner, and family can give support and love via phone lines and the Internet, but part of being an adult means providing for myself in ways beyond just the physical or financial realm. If I’m going to be my toughest critic, then I need to start being my biggest cheerleader. If we don’t believe we have what it takes to achieve our goals, then we never will.

I need to start looking inward not just for criticism, but also for encouragement. Back in high school, I had a piece of paper taped to my mirror that said “Hello, gorgeous.” I wrote it myself, and seeing it each morning always brought about a special kind of glow. There’s a fine line between confidence and conceit, and at times I’m sure I could use some more humility. But then there are days, days like today, where I need to remember that I’m a work in progress and that is progress I will make over time.

How do you balance criticism with confidence, honor your achievements, and strive for improvement?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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