I’m half-way through Ursula leGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and I got distracted by a shiny new self-improvement book called How to Stop Feeling Like Shit. No, it wasn’t the title – rather I heard the author interviewed on a Podcast that I listen to called The Bubble Hour and the stuff she was saying really resonated with me.

I mean, there it is in one phrase – the exact reason why I don’t drink alcohol anymore, why I’m trying not to over-indulge in junk food, why I run, why I get my arse out of my chair, away from mindless internet-poking and do occasional house-work; I don’t want to feel like shit. And I know that I’m still engaging in activities that make me feel crappy and I am interested in reading more about that.

I expect it involves work though. I’m going to have to scrape past my current surface (newly excavated as it seems) and pay attention again to what’s really going on in there. I keep saying it, don’t I? I mean, it’s not like I need a book to tell me.

I. Know.

But it probably won’t hurt to read it in someone else’s words. And maybe I’ll do some of the exercises (let’s be honest, it’s not going to be all of them) and each of these things I do moves me a minuscule amount further. A net gain every time  – I go forward and slip back, but I don’t tend to slip back quite as far.

God I hope that’s true. I badly need that to be true.

So I started here and grabbed her free ebook and what the hell. It asks me to do some introspection and some writing and what else am I doing right here at this keyboard only that.

Question 1: In what areas of your life are you hardest on yourself? (e.g. Relationships, body /appearance, work, parenting, the past, the future.)

Honestly I read that question and a snap response popped into my head: “I’m not hard on myself in any of those areas!”

Go ahead and laugh.

I’m insanely hard on myself in all those areas. But here’s the thing – I hate even saying that. That sounds like the front-runner to “excuse-making” and I’m too hard on myself to even allow the possibility of excuse-making. I tend to think I’m not super self-critical because part of me believes if I were “properly” self-critical I’d be better at shit.

Yeah. I’m too fucking self-critical to even think I’m doing self-criticism well enough.

Relationships – I think I’m way selfish. I’d go further: I know I’m selfish. Now I don’t always think that’s a bad thing, but I know there are times when I lean hard on my partner and I don’t think I’m always fair about it. Hey, life is hard and exhausting. I hope he leans back too.

Body /Appearance – I’ve talked about this one a fair bit here. I judge the weight I’ve gained, but it’s deeper than that. I judged the hell out of my body when I was a skinny teenager with a 6-pack. Nothing says fitting in in society like hating the hell out of your appearance.

Work – Self-criticism slips in here from time to time, but generally I accept doing “less than everything possible” in this arena. It may be the only one where I do.

Parenting – Oh God. I just feel like it’s all so unknown and yet ridiculously important. I pretty much feel like I’m failing in some aspect of this every single day. And yet? My children are happy and loved and growing into awesome little people. Maybe my parenting is best when there’s less of (controlling) “Me” in it.

The Past – Shut that fucking book. No way. I’ll open it occasionally to a select and bounded few pages that limn me in nostalgic light. But flip one or two pages in any direction and there are ghastly stories of shame. So much that I’m not proud of. I can’t even.

The Future – I usually feel pretty optimistic about the future. This serves as a yardstick by which I can measure exactly how much to beat myself up when I fail to achieve, when I don’t meet the many many expectations I pile on the future. Is that a form of self-criticism in the now? Well, I’m setting myself up for failure, so… probably?

Question 2 – What does your inner critic specifically say to you?

I think that’s pretty much listed above. My inner critic doesn’t tend to use words, just an image of where I should be an a disappointed comparison in mind to where I currently am and all the ways in which I fail to measure up.

Despite all that, I’m not feeling too shitty right now.