First and foremost, we have GOT to stop glorifying self-flagellation and self-criticism. I am so, so, SO guilty of this (as my literary agent and film agent have told me a thousand freaking times). I tell myself I'm worthless, I'm lazy, I'm a Grade-A-POS, and much, much worse.
But let's be honest -- would I EVER
talk to someone else the way that I talk to myself? HELL NO. And if I ever heard someone speaking that way to another person, I would 10000% step in and defend.
It's like the Radiohead song "Just": You do it to yourself, you do. And that's what really hurts.
I'm not saying that you should tell yourself you're beautiful and perfect. In fact, if you do that, you might get end up arrogant and vain, which is just as bad as critical.
No, what I'm saying is to stop bullying yourself
. When you make a mistake, acknowledge the mistake...and then comfort yourself just like you would your best friend: "Aw, man. That sucks. I'm sorry. But you're only human! And I'm sure you'll get it right next time -- you just gotta work a bit harder."
Or, in the case of my starred review sadness, my inner BFF stepped in and said: "Yo! DUDE. You got a freaking star, which means the reviewer loved your book -- like really loved
. That's pretty f**kin' awesome, no matter what. And Your last book got no stars -- so clearly you're improving as a writer! You should CELEBRATE that triumph!"
Now, it might start off that these are just words you tell yourself. They take a long, long, LONG time to sink in. But the more you pay attention to the bullying in your head and the more you intervene on your victim-self's behalf, the less you'll the negative stuff will happen.
And of course, there's one more piece of this puzzle. It's the most important piece, and that is remembering we're all the same.
Okay, here's an example: you know that feeling you get when you meet someone who's in the same fandom as you? Like, every time I meet a fellow Dragon Age
fan, my first words are: "AAAAAAH!" followed by "WHO ARE YOU ROMANCING?!"
Then a fast-as-light conversation ensues with lots of smiling and laughing and happy-happy-happy connectedness. You love what I love! We have something awesome in common, and I automatically care about you!
Now imagine if you could feel that way about everyone you meet.
I'm going to let that sink in for a minute because, for me, that one thought was life-changing. What if I could find something that connects me to every single person I meet?
Maybe the guy next to me on the bus also does martial arts. Or the gal I buy dog food from is also in Ravenclaw. Or the quiet girl who lives down the street also binge dances to K-pop in her kitchen. Or hell, maybe that grumpy barista I see every Sunday also enjoys birding in his spare time.
Sometimes, though, we aren't connected by something happy and exciting. Sometimes we feel that deep sense of union through a shared understanding of something difficult.
Last weekend, I met a guy whose dog had just passed away. Having lost dogs before, I knew how deeply that wound could cut, and I instantly felt a raw, honest connection to this poor man.
Everyone out there (except for maybe psychopaths!) has something
to which you can relate. I don't care where that person lives, what that person's history is, or how vastly, wildly different he/she may seem.
I'm human. You're human. End of story.
And isn't that pretty freaking cool?
Now, consider how this might affect the comparison game. You stop seeing others as competition but instead as part of your tribe. You remember that for all a person's outward success, you don't know what's happening behind-the-scenes.
Not only does shared humanity soften the hurt when I'm not above average, but it also keeps me from slipping into the self-medication of superiority.
"Yo! DUDE. You got a freaking star, and that's awesome! But you shouldn't be upset with this author for what he said. He's got his own shit to deal with, and for all you know, that shit might be brutal
. And on top of that, he loves Fallout
as much as you do, so he can't be all bad!"
So here's my challenge for you all: First, I want you to cut yourself some slack.
When the Inner Bully leaves you with a black eye, let your Inner BFF come out to ice the wound and pep talk you for the future.
And the next time you meet someone -- a frenemy, an enemy, a total stranger -- find what connects you as humans
. Explore (and embrace) all that you have in common.
Not only will you find you compare yourself less, but you might just find you're a bit happier too.