Moving Away from Self-Criticism

Being self-critical isn’t necessarily going to make your reality any better (though, of course, it can).

What Am I- Nuts?!

You may think that admitting to how stupid and insignificant you actually are may be what your world has been waiting for, and that all who hear it will welcome you with open arms. If you have long been in denial of the error of your actions and/or your perceptions, such a revelation can be grand indeed. Perhaps it would be helpful, then, to share it with those you love most—even in such negative terms. They may recoil at hearing words such as these and even disagree with you, but what counts is that you acknowledge that you would like to change.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Admit to yourself and perhaps a few others that you would like to go about life differently, and then do so.

But sometimes, when we reach such a crossroads, we end up not crossing the road at all. Instead, we perpetuate what may generally be called the self-loathing that has ruled our lives. Prior to the confession, the behavior was mostly unconscious. Perhaps we were highly critical of the world around us or accepted self-punishments and limitations as normal and/or necessary.

What happens at the failure to cross is likewise unconscious, though it disguises itself as self-awareness. It becomes increasingly clear to you that the momentum of life you’ve gotten caught up in is, simply put, not quite what you want. You go through daily motions that appear mostly meaningless, anhedonic, and futile to you now. You know the environment you’ve been trapped in is wrong for you.

But it seems that the best, and perhaps only, solution for getting your head on straight is to escape this environment. Perhaps you are able to get away for a day or two at a time, but ultimately you are always swept back into the vortex of dreadful monotony.

In your perception, what’s going on is that you would like to rise above your environment. You know there is a part of yourself that is capable and intelligent far beyond the challenges this dismal place can facilitate. So it seems to you, now, this part of you- your “higher self,” perhaps- is screaming to be set free and to let its brilliance shine.

Indeed, this event is an important step in Walking Away from Social Conditioning. Your observations are not inaccurate. If you feel that your daily routine is not right for you, then it probably isn’t.

But where you fail to turn at the crossroads is your idea that escaping the environment is the only solution. So the best you can do, then, is to criticize your environment and to criticize yourself- your “lower self,” perhaps- for getting stuck there. This place sucksI’m stupid. And so on and so forth.

When you do this you are not stepping into the brilliance you have proclaimed to have discovered in yourself—quite the opposite, in fact. As I spell this out to you, it must seem disgustingly obvious.

But how often do people lodge themselves into this turning of tables? They think it would be intelligent to go into a certain line of work. Somewhere down the line, they start to think that decision was stupid. Now they think it would be intelligent to go do something else, though their environment reinforces the original idea that “something else” would be stupid. Thus, the “stupid” and the “intelligent” parts of themselves have gone to war. And it drags onward.


The Cycle of Stupidity

Though the name is a bit crude, I would like to call this the Cycle of Stupidity. The root of the stupidity is the cession of your own power to the environment—that is, something outside of yourself. Even if you have become aware of the fact that you have been going about life wrongly, whatever that may mean to you, this relinquishing of power is merely a continuation of what you have been doing all along. The difference now is that you should be better able to use your power. But, instead, you use it to keep yourself right where you are.

However, it’s not keeping yourself in the same physical environment that’s quite as damnable as keeping yourself in the same mindset. The two can be hard to separate- trust me, I know. But, if you’ve read much else from me before, you probably know what I’m going to say. It is this: perhaps they don’t really need to be separated.

To be specific, the belief that the environment is more powerful than you, which is at the root of the Cycle, inherently comes from a belief that you and your environment are separate. I don’t mean to say that a belief in an objective reality is wrong, but I think to use it exclusively is suboptimal. What power does the stick figure that is you have against a mountain with a backdrop of lightning or a conglomeration of millions of other screaming, zombie-walking stick figures (well, or sausage-link figures), anyway?

You can try railing against your environment and Uncreating Your Reality all you want, but at most you’re likely to frustrate others and exhaust yourself. Getting mad at yourself for creating your life as it currently exists is a denial of your own power, and how do you expect to get anywhere without that? Your cries about your stupidity, as well as that about others around you, will only be met with more of the same.

What on Earth are you to do, then? It would be sensible to make a break with your past, since that’s what you meant to do in the first place.

How is that done? Well, you could obliterate every physical reminder of your dreaded life and then run free. But a far cleaner and less costly method would be to forgive yourself.

It would be basically sufficient to end there, though it might prove helpful to continue.



Forgiveness does not have to imply that the person you are forgiving did something bad, and by forgiving you are demonstrating your moral superiority. No, I prefer to think that forgiveness comes strictly out of your subjective experience—of course, most things (everything?) do. The point, then, is to let go of a disempowering attachment you have made to another person. You’re setting aside a painful story you have made up and followed about this person. You are disassociating some of the negativity in your life with this person, and in so doing you allow something nicer to take its place.

“Forgive yourself,” as I have stated it, can imply forgiving others (they are the ultimately the same, after all). Admittedly, I have not walked up to another person in recent years and said, “I forgive you.” I’d imagine it’s far more powerful, but I’ve also found doing this in my mind to be pretty darn effective.

Lately, I’ve found this process to be strangely simple. Perhaps there does not need to be so much logic and forethought involved since I’m not directly dealing with another person (though it may also be relative-beginner’s luck). I don’t even have to think about what this other person did: the thought of forgiveness is enough in itself.

I like to think that if you are willing to forgive someone, that is indeed enough in itself. Even if you consider forgiveness but are not quite ready for it yet, that is a step in the right direction. If you continue the process of becoming self-aware, you should soon be ready.

There may be a person who you don’t even want to associate with the possibility of forgiveness. The idea repulses you. This is probably the person you need to forgive most, whose attachment to you (that you created, remember) is probably holding you back most. Try to think of this person now: it might even be you.

Whether in thought or in words, do not try to force forgiveness. That isn’t likely to do much, except possibly delude you into thinking that Change is just around the corner! Remember that the point of forgiveness is to free yourself. Telling another person you forgive them when you don’t will just make them deluded too, and delusions don’t tend to yield the best actions. That, or they’ll sniff your lies like a dog, and become distrustful of you thereafter.

So, maintain Honesty. Lyin’ around ain’t cool, man.

I suspect that the hardest person to forgive will be yourself. Because you and other people are reflections of the same consciousness, if you can’t forgive another person you probably won’t be able to forgive yourself—at least, not entirely.

Still, even if you know there is someone you have maintained a grudge against you can at least have the conversation with yourself. If taken seriously it can be valuable—and no, it would not be an act of schizophrenia (you don’t actually have to talk! It’s just you!). J

It was through having this talk with myself that I became aware of the “turning of tables.” I realized that the supposedly intelligent part of myself who wants to get out of town is the one that’s doing nothing but complaining all the time, and the “stupid” part of me that goes to school and breaks her butt running and then returns home everyday is the one that wants to do better and genuinely seeks forgiveness. It was incredible to see that the “bad” part of me meant so well. There really are few things quite as astonishing as being wrong.

Particularly if you’re struggling, there is more to the pie of forgiveness than saying, “I have been hurt, but I can let go of this pain now. You are forgiven.” As long as you mean it you can find some reason to thank the other person, even if that’s just for facilitating the life-changing moment you are having now. Isn’t it beautiful, after all, that you have come to this point? If you can’t get behind that, just remember that the other person has made your life more interesting. That’s pretty cool too, eh?

At least in your mind, you can reinforce the idea that you and the other person are part of the same whole; or, if you prefer, that he is a reflection of you (as long as you don’t confuse the latter with solipsism, they mean the same). This recognition is the basis of love—and no, it need not be passionate or romantic love. The scope of love is far broader than that (though romance is a juicy sight to behold in that scope).

I stated earlier that forgiveness does not mean to stoop to another person’s moral low-ground and give them a patronizing pat on the back. In fact, you may even owe that person an apology for holding their actions over them for so long. Did they really deserve all those years of silent bitterness, even after they wanted to change their ways?

You don’t have to fling yourself to the moral low-ground, either, but it may be helpful to recognize that neither one of you is necessarily on a higher plane than the other. We all make mistakes of some sort, and there’s probably no need to brood over them for a lifetime.

Keep in mind that as I talk about “they” and “the other person,” that “other person” you’re ultimately seeking to forgive is you. There’s no need to beat yourself up if you can’t forgive yourself 100% all at once—that’ll only leave you with more apologizing and forgiving to be done.


As Within, So Without

Now, how does all of this fit back into that godforsaken environment of yours? Why, it’s easy peasy, Jeezy: to start, you will feel wayyyyyyy better, and your mind will probably be the clearest it has been in quite some time. With some deliberation, it will become easier to understand why you do what you do, and what you would really like to do.

From there, you will be able to decide how you ought to act. This isn’t just in choosing whether you should stay or you should go now, but in how you generally approach life. How do I want to be?, you may ask yourself. This, too, doesn’t need to be revealed 100% all at once.

Maybe you just want to continue exploring from the forgiveness train for a while. After all, forgiveness isn’t something to be done once which clears the waters permanently. People will continue dumping toxic sludge in the river and things will still happen that bother you, but you don’t have to let them bother you for as long. The sooner you forgive, the sooner you can keep moving.

It is possible you will find that at least some of what you’ve been doing is a-okay, and you just had to settle a few conflicts for those aspects of your life to seem that way. For myself I know it’s generally unwise to settle for this conclusion too quickly, as I fear slipping back into delusion and self-limitation.

But, that doesn’t mean such a finding is always and/or completely untrue. Again, if it feels right to you there probably is some truth in it- even if you will feel differently down the road. Feelings are bound to change with time for one reason or another, and when that happens you don’t have to regard your past self as “stupid” for feeling differently than you do. That’s just another way of perpetuating the cycle (don’t let it getcha!).

Remember that silliness about how you and your environment aren’t really separate? You won’t be just a glowing stick figure who continues to float among the half-conscious masses you’ve been subject to your whole life. Rather- provided you believe it will (which you may, even if you think you don’t)-, your environment will change to reflect the changes in you.

Your life will generally feel more endowed with meaning than “going through the motions.” The people you see everyday may start to seem happier and more filled with life. New people might come into your life who are emotionally healthy and joyful.

Or you may, in time, walk away from your old environment and daily motions altogether, and start anew both subjectively and objectively. It is, as always, up to you. Maybe now is the time. Or maybe you don’t foresee that the time will come, but it indeed may a few years or even a few decades down the line.

Of course, I cannot tell you—and it is that mystery which makes life so endlessly exciting. You can probably get some idea of where you’d like your life to eventually go, but once the time does come that reality may be completely different from anything you have ever imagined. In fact, I’d like to think it probably will be. :)

P.S. (i.e. I thought I’d place this at the end rather than in the middle of the article)

If you get nothing else out of this article, just remember: Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me (if you look back you may notice that the end of the “Forgive” section mentions these in this order). Perhaps this sounds far too touchy feely for you, or simplistic, or both.

I hope it at least sounds mildly Hawaiian somehow, because it is! In fact, it comes from the Hawaiian healing process known as Ho’oponopono, which is based on the idea that you are responsible for everything in your reality. Not just yourself- everything. This means that when you heal yourself part of the world around you heals as well.

A solid story about this process at work was written by Joe Vitale, and you can read it here: The World’s Most Unusual Therapist.

Read Related Articles: