On Being Bold, Confident, and Kind to Myself

 Why might we be so mean to ourselves?



I like to think that I am accepting and forgiving of others, and that I make an effort to understand the challenges others face, yet my own inner critic is quite harsh. It seems to be a common experience, but why do we engage in such self-sabotage? My hypothesis is that my inner critic is driven by how I feel about how society judges me. 


I see people be mean to each other on social media. I recall my parents’ harsh reprimandings in their attempts to make me a better person. I hear gossip. I falsely believed that the unkind statements, perhaps made by the person while they were in a bad mood, were how society was judging me. I was afraid of being “a bad person,” “lazy,” or the countless negative things others said. I believed that what others said about me was the scale that I would be weighed on. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted by society. Having been socially awkward and lonely for a large chunk of my life, the inner critic perhaps arose as a means to get myself to better conform to the demand of society.


What being too mean looked like for me

Ultimately, it backfired. It’s not fun to hang out with someone who is fearful of their every move and professes that everyone probably secretly disliked them. The latter probably became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I still remember the dark days when I sat alone for lunch, longing for the joy of friendship. When I Googled how to make friends because loneliness was too painful. 



Moving Forward

Life is better now though, even with the pandemic. I somehow landed at MIT. I realized that seemingly perfect and genius MIT students procrastinate and sometimes or maybe even a lot of times do dumb things. I met more people who said good things about me and were less critical of my shortcomings and other quirks. I realized it is ok to be “a mess” sometimes or a lot of the time (sorry to disappoint but just because I’m at MIT doesn’t mean I’m on top of my life at all). I started believing the good things that people said about me more. 


Striking a balance

Fundamentally though, it is rational to have some level of social awareness and a bit of critical self-talk because loneliness shuts one away from all the fruits of social interaction—the love and kindness given by others, the support necessary when one is down, and the joy of laughing and being content together. For me, I feared being an overconfident person everyone secretly disliked.


Yet how do we strike a balance? I could remain ever so afraid of being the overconfident, disliked person and stay at where I am at, letting my inner critic echo the meanest of words I’ve taken in throughout my life in fear of being labeled those things. I could also theorize all I want. Maybe being more confident would help me make others happier. Maybe I’ll be a horribly arrogant person. Or I could be bold and experiment a little bit. 


What would happen if I let go of the fear of being judged as an atrocious person? Too aggressive? Someone who doesn’t work hard enough? Someone who doesn’t know how to have fun? 


I will have to try and see for myself. And hopefully update you all! Thanks for being a part of my life journey! :-)


PS: Say hi

Some of my most interesting and life-changing conversations and insights come from talking to other people. Even if you don’t feel like you have anything to say, you probably have something interesting to share. All of us come from different backgrounds, so something that is obvious to you may have been overlooked by me. 


What does this mean?

Comments

  1. Easier said than done. Still struggling with letting go of my judgements.

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  2. It was kind of surprising to hear that you were socially awkward and lonely for a lot of your life, bc you're really cool, no matter what Daddy Zuckerberg says.

    I wouldn't worry about becoming overconfident bc I don't think that's actually possible to stay that way unless you're delusional. Which, yes, some people are, but I feel like everyone I've met who is very overconfident just straight up lies about themself to others and themself, a lot, so a commitment to truth should be enough to prevent that. More benign forms of overconfidence are self-correcting; try things and the world will beat you down enough if you're wrong. But underconfidence doesn't have that same self-correcting property, so you actually have to err on the side of overconfidence a bit to end up correctly calibrated.

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    Replies
    1. This is such an interesting idea. Thanks. I hadn't thought of this :)

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