Last Friday was another installation of Fill the Table Friday at our home. This event was a special Valentine’s party and was adult only. We did it up 60s style with food and beverages (and even candy) from that era! It was a blast. Because there were just enough of us to fit around our “extended” table, we all shared a meal together sitting and enjoying conversation. I have a jar with lots of questions that we used that evening. Each person got to pull a question out and answer it. There were lots of good belly laughs (even some tears), good conversation, and some thoughtful observations.
As the conversation jar came around to me, I dug in and picked out a question somewhere along the lines of: Describe yourself in three words.
This is possibly the most difficult question I could’ve pulled out of the jar. I’m SUPER hard on myself and cannot think of anything good about me. Then to top it off I had to come up with three. It took awhile but I came up with the following words: creative (this sort of describes my efforts), selfish (easier to tell you the negative), and honest (I clarified this word to make sure that no one took this as a good meaning, by explaining that sometimes I’m honest to a fault. That I tell people things that don’t make them happy). Other people proceeded to then share their three words to describe themselves. I was honestly (no pun intended) a bit jealous at their ability to just crank out three good, positive describing words about themselves. Why can’t I think of good words for myself?
I’m currently reading The Road Back to You An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. On Sunday evening I finally got up the courage to read about my number – which is a one – The Perfectionist. I was suddenly thrown into this river of self awareness. That it’s not just me. That this is a real thing. In his book this paragraph really hit home for me:
“All of us have a reproachful voice that gets triggered from time to time when we do something stupid and then goes away. As a rule Ones have a merciless inner critic; unlike ours, it never goes away. It’s punishing. It’s relentless. Why do you always put your foot in your mouth? What kind of parent forgets to pack his kid’s lunch in her school bag? How do you expect to make a sale when you can’t even tie a proper knot in your tie? Get down and give me fifty! Heck, sometimes a One’s inner critic will blame them for screwing up things they weren’t even involved with or responsible for. After years of programming it’s hard for Ones to shut off that cruel voice.”
That’s me. I call myself selfish but how much of it is just Self Punishing? I’m always in my head going over what I did wrong, what I could’ve done wrong, what I probably did wrong but that which probably isn’t even my fault. It’s so relentless. In fact when I actually do something wrong and someone gets angry about it – that almost puts me over the edge because I’ve already self punished myself enough for 10 people and now someone else is punishing me too. It’s a horrible cycle. There is not a moment of kindness inside my head, which even makes it difficult for me to hear compliments from anyone.
I also learned from the book The Road Back to You An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, that One’s aren’t just trying to be mean with their criticism.
“Though very sensitive to criticism themselves, Ones are shocked when you tell them you feel like they’re being harshly critical of you. Seriously? You’re only being given a thimble-sized sample of the bitter self-recrimination they drink from every day.”
This in no way makes it okay for me to be brutally honest and mean to people. It doesn’t make it okay for me NOT to be compassionate and kind. But it does let me know that I’m wired for this behavior and I need to be aware of it so I can turn it into something good and kind instead of harsh and critical.
I’m working hard on my kindness. I’m trying to stop my mouth from spouting comments that can be viewed as harsh or mean. I’m finding my own ways to act in compassionate ways. To DO good things instead of SAY negative things. I’m taking a stand to rise above my inner critic. To use God’s word in the Bible to lead me towards more kindness and compassion.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. – Proverbs 3:3.
To also show kindness to myself. To understand that I may be 43 years old but I am still a work in progress. God still has plans for me in this life. That I am still working on being that person that he wants me to be. That he will be there even when my inner critic wins out with negative thoughts. He will be there even when my mouth spouts harsh, negative words to those I love. That I will be given a chance to try again to make it better next time.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
The day after this party, I got a text from a friend who had shared in the evening with us. He was thanking us for inviting them to the party and complimenting us on the food, entertainment, etc. He then said this: “Three words – organized, passionate, Christian living God’s mission. Okay six words.” My first thought was WOW those words explain me in a good light. Why couldn’t I have thought about those on my own? Then I sent a text back telling him thank you for the kind words since I struggle with that.
But then the inner critic had to have it’s say in my head. It told me those were the three words he was describing about himself and that I was an idiot for misinterpreting his text!
I felt stupid and horrified but I didn’t text back to clarify. I let it go.
Today I’m going to assume those words were meant to describe me and that is a good thing. Today I’m going to choose not to listen to my inner critic. Today I will show myself kindness.