On my vacation, I woke up in the middle of the night; my mind was working double time. At 3 am, it was speaking words of disgust to me: Why didn’t I do this? I should have done that. Trying to turn it off and fall back to sleep, I was exhausted by its continual criticism.
As an Enneagram 1, I struggle with self-criticism.
A recovering perfectionist, I have always been hard on myself. As I have become more self-aware, I can usually identify these negative thoughts and stop them. However, in the middle of the night, I am easy prey to my old ways. I start “should-ing” all over myself; I should have done this or should have said that. Honestly, it is hard for me to extend grace to myself.
Do you also struggle with giving yourself grace? I wish I had all the answers, but I am still a work in progress. Here are three action steps that have helped me.
1. Replace the critical thoughts with God’s truth.
One of the solutions that helps me in the middle of the night is to turn on a light and read my Bible or Christian book. Filling my mind with truth helps distract the critical thoughts. I encourage you to find a Bible verse that you can memorize and speak to yourself during the dark hours. I like the verse Philippians 4: 8 in the Good News Translation.
2. Remember that life is not all bad or all good, but somewhere in the middle.
If you struggle with self-criticism, it is easy to go “all bad” and let your mind only focus on the negative parts of the day. It took me years to stop vacillating between all bad or all good and instead remember that life is full of both. I encourage you to reflect on the good parts of your day by writing them down or sharing them with a loved one.
3. Speak words of grace and encouragement over yourself.
Remember God deeply loves you. He does not want you tearing yourself down when you make a mistake. When the self-critical thoughts come rearing its ugly head, I encourage you to surrender those negative thoughts to God and ask Him to calm your over-active mind.
With your hands open wide, you can say these words, “God, I don’t want to live in the “should have” but instead I want to live free in Your truth. Please give me Your strength to extend grace to myself and others. Help me remember how much You love me and care for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”