How I Overcame Self-Criticism

Illustration by Noa Snir

By Ilia Márquez

When I was 6, I was bullied by this Patrick Star look-alike. He would say to me: “You are ugly! You don’t deserve to be here.” When I was 12, my dad was picking me up from school but I wasn’t there at the time he told me to be. He yelled: “Why can’t you be more like your best friend, Zully? She’s obedient”.  When I was 19, a guy I dated found out I was dating another guy. Even though he was sleeping with other ladies he had the nerve to say: “You are a whore. No one will date you”. When I was 25, an ex-coworker clarified which Ilia their coworkers were referring to in a meeting full of people: “Ilia, the one with talent”. There were two Ilias, apparently one with talent and me. Then he laughed because it was only a joke. Funny right?! (insert middle finger emoji here).

As adulting got serious, “You are not ready for this” turned into “I’M not ready for this”. “You are too skinny” turned into “I’M too skinny”.  “You are too sensitive” turned into “I’M too sensitive”. I started to own those statements unconsciously. I realized, since I was a young girl I was unintentionally doctrinated to think I wasn't good enough for anyone nor I didn’t have talent or skills to be good enough at my job. A huge wave of insecurities was slowly forming into a huge tsunami. Needless to say, I almost drowned because of all those things said, mainly, by the people I admired or loved. 

I was scared of failing, rejection, not getting the job, not doing what society is expecting from me, not fulfilling 100% of the responsibilities required for a job, and the list of unnecessary fears goes on. I was scared of that little voice of my younger self in my head repeating those negative remarks from my past. Note to self: Is not Mercury Retrograde. It’s me. It's crazy the influence we think people, the universe, or whoever is to blame, can have over us and we don’t even notice. But is even more crazy the self-sabotage we put ourselves through. 

In the end, is not the people, the universe or Mercury Retrograde who have control of you. Only you have control of the messages that swirl around in your head. What to do with them is up to you.


Here are a few things that can help:

1. Analyze your past. Every reaction or behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. Try to go back to your childhood or past experiences. Dig deeper. This can help you understand a bit more where your current behaviours or mindsets come from. Maybe when you were little your parents had a favorite and it wasn’t you. Today you may feel the need to compete with anyone who tries to outstand you as a result of your childhood memories. Seeing things from a different perspective can give you the space and time you need to work on yourself and not damage your self esteem. 

2. Embrace the negative. After a negative experience instead of going straight down pessimist avenue, try choosing gratitude. It’s ok to feel sadness, frustration, melancholy, disappointment. You are human. Be thankful it happened. It makes you stronger, wiser and more confident on what you want in your life. Not everything is rainbows and fucking sunshine. (Damn you Disney!) 

3. Support your sisterhood. Never ever think other women(or men) are in your way. Those type of thoughts are a waste of energy and, most likely, are standing in your way. Even if you don’t have anything to celebrate encourage and support your peers on their achievements. When you care, support and encourage others, your mind is focused on that. Your time to shine will come. Until then, get inspired by those diamonds around you. Is a beautiful thing when those you supported are doing the same thing for you. 

4. Listen. Sometimes listening to the people around you can help you realized you are not alone. You would be surprised how many of them are facing the same situations as you and just by listening, you understand them. Empathy is a magical tool. 

5. Love yourself. Once you start appreciating your mind and body, I can assure you’ll start feeling like Xena: Warrior Princess. Even if you don’t feel like it at the moment, repeat to yourself over and over “I’m straight up magic!” until you believe it. Carbs are not your worst enemy, fear is. 

6. Do it! Nike did a good job coming up with the most simple, yet powerful slogan. You don’t need to be an athlete to be inspired by it. You want to move to another country? If you can,  DO IT! You want to ask for a promotion? DO IT! You want ask him or her out? DO IT! You want to treat yo’ self? DO IT! You want to take the job but you are too scared? DO IT! Don’t overthink or overanalyze if you should or shouldn't. You will figure things out on the way. And that my friend, is called life. 
 

In short:

You might be thinking it’s easier said than done. Trying to get yourself out of your own way takes courage, energy and practice. Life will throw you a few stones in the middle of your journey. But if you put these into practice, you’ll think totally different, you’ll feel empowered, and you’ll know what to do with does stone. Maybe rock balancing? Now, I’m going for the thirties -Aww yeah!- and in 10 years I might think totally different that I do today, just like I think totally different today than 10 years ago, but one thing is for sure: I will never ever again stand in my own way.