Dear Self,

First, an apology.

Yesterday I said some pretty mean things to you.

It was Monday and I don’t particularly like Mondays, and work was nuts, and I had so much to do, and then I had to go and jam my forefinger that’s still sore from smashing it with a hammer a couple of weeks ago.

None of that is an excuse for the things I said. You know the things I’m talking about –

How stupid!

What an idiot!

You’re useless!

It’s weird. I wouldn’t dream of saying things like that to anyone else. But there I was, bringing you down. You – my inner child, my constant companion, my advocate.

You would think that I, the ego mind, would know better given all I’ve learned over the years about the destructive power of negative self-talk on our peace and happiness.

But old habits die hard, and it seems no habit is harder to break than the impulse to talk badly about one’s self.

Is there any greater insanity than to go around berating the very soul and vessel that carries us every day of our journey on this earth?

So why do you do it, you might ask?

A child may ask the same of a parent. A man may ask the same of his boss. A supplicant may ask the same of the God he prays to.

Why are you so hard on me? Why do you judge me so harshly? Do you think it will make me a better child, a better employee, a better person?

It’s madness. People don’t work like that. Any good leader knows that the way to motivate, the way to set a goal and get people behind it, is to appeal to their gifts and talents, not flog them for their perceived shortcomings.

Yet we continue to do it. We beat ourselves up, mercilessly, day after day. And we do it mostly unconsciously, unaware that we’re speaking to ourselves that way.

There is, within the ego mind, a black-robed judge who sits on his high bench doing nothing more than rendering judgments. Call him the Great Critic.

The Great Critic wields a big book of rules by which he judges everything and everyone. And his harshest verdicts are reserved for the Self.

There is no due process in this inner court of law. You don’t get to question what’s in the book. You don’t get to make a defense or bring witnesses. You don’t get to make appeals to other courts and judges.

The Great Critic sits alone. His book is the unquestioned rule of law. His verdicts are made summarily, without checking facts, and called out in a harsh, unmerciful voice.

Everyone has that critical voice. It’s the voice that compares ourselves to other people. That judges everything we do against an imaginary ideal of perfection, and then throws lashes when we don’t live up to that standard.

But here’s the thing, Self. Here’s the secret that I’ve learned the hard way, and yet so often forget.

There is no book of rules. There is no perfect standard. We make it all up. It’s all in our head.

There is only life, and life needs no book of rules or comparisons to make it perfect. It is perfect as it is – perfect in its imperfection.

Is it any wonder that we were feeling down yesterday, the way that I was talking to you? Judging you for things you should have done better or differently or not at all?

What unhappiness the Great Critic brings with his judgments! What guilt and remorse and self-incrimination!

A Course in Miracles teaches that “to free the world from every kind of pain is but to change your mind about yourself.”

Our relationships on this earth, and with this earth, begin with our relationship with ourselves. Don’t get that one right, we for sure won’t get any of our other relationships right.

So today I promise to be gentler with you, Self. To speak kindly of you. To be less judgmental in the thoughts I think and the things I say.

It starts with awareness, doesn’t it?

And gratitude – let’s not forget gratitude.

Thank you, Self, for always being with me. For your courage. Your spirit. Your lust for life.

We’ve been through a lot together. You never lost hope, even when I did.

Thank you. You’re amazing, like everyone else out there.

See, already we’re feeling so much better, aren’t we?

Amazing, really, how simple it is.

Have a wonderful day.

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Image by Andre Cox