Am I Too Hard on Myself?

by Bill Brenner on January 5, 2011

A friend asked that question yesterday. I’ve certainly been accused of being too hard on myself before. My step-mother reads this blog and told me I should give myself a break. Steve Lambert, former editor of The Eagle-Tribune, said I was too hard on myself when I wrote the “One of My Biggest Regrets” post.

Mood music:

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The short answer is that sometimes I am, most of the time I’m not.

When I was at my absolute worst, I knew my soul was in deep trouble and I hated myself for not having the will to do something about it. I call it my long road through self-hatred. Back then I would be hard on myself by wallowing in the corner or, more accurately, in my car, where I would go on many, many binges.

If I had the ability to cry it out back then, I would have probably binged less. But I’ve never been good at crying, so I’d let the rage fill me and I’d do my best to destroy myself. It’s not that I wanted to die. It’s that I hated and wanted to punish myself. Giving in to my addictions was a lot like taking a thick leather belt and lashing myself a few hundred times.

That’s what happens when mental illness and addiction burn wild with no management. You end up being hard on yourself, and nothing good comes of it. In fact, it just makes things worse.

Today I’m hard on myself in a different way. I come on here and write about what a shithead I was the day before, and in the process I fix my course and work on doing better. That’s much more healthy.

I was feeling stupid yesterday because I purchased a new pair of boots and a pair of pants on Amazon.com. I needed the boots, but not the pants. It was a splurge with money we don’t necessarily have. Call it no big deal, but I know better. Sometimes, when I’m not letting the food addiction or wine guzzling control me, I let the spending addiction control me. Or the Internet addiction.

That’s when I have to remind myself that I’m being a jerk. And then I try to do better.

When I put up my wall and fail to let family in, I need to come on here and remind myself that I’m doing something wrong so I can fix it. Same thing when I’m thinking about things in absolutes.

In the final analysis, I see nothing wrong with being hard on myself as long as it leads to self improvement.

It’s the brand that leads to self pity and self destruction that’s the problem.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie B. January 5, 2011 at 9:01 am

It’s funny, Bill, that just when I need help the most my first instinct is to “put up a wall” and keep others out. When I finally recognize this foolishness & let them in, life is always so much better. And, for the record, I always regarded you as one of the “nice” editors >)

Becky January 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

This is my first time reading your post, but I can completely relate. I too have gone through various addictions and am learning how to how to cope and how to quit being so hard on myself. I just recently read a great self-help book titled, “Soaring Above Co-Addiction” by Lisa Espich. I found comfort in the book because I realized that I was not alone… and taught me some great tips on how to stop living with guilt.

Nick January 5, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Bill,
This post is “spot-on” again! Keep it up brother. You’re helping me and many other addicts out in cyberspace.

God bless!

Baily September 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm

i’m way too hard on myself point blank. some days i realize that i will never live up to my own expectations and that punishing myself won’t make me better but i can’t help but do all these things to myself. I don’t think I’m good enough and I don’t think I will ever be good enough… for me. Just recently I did my first design in my graduate course and i messed up the alignment and typed in an o instead of a p at the end of someones name, it went to print and I’m so paranoid of what’s going to happen when my professor sees it and I’ve been been beating myself up all the way home. Thinking things like why am so stupid, why can’t i ever do anything right and how much of an idiot i am and how pathetic I must look to the rest of the class because they can afford the text book and I can’t. that’s just a brief description of what I feel. i start of by controlling what i eat and making sure that i don’t over eat but that makes me feel like i can do something right and then i hate myself for binge eating and only drink meal shakes for a week. it also doesn’t help that I’m bipolar border schizophrenic because one side of my brain bashes my entire self and then one part tries to calm everyone down. I realized on the subway that i was actually having three conversations at once… I’m scared to talk about this in therapy because i refuse to take vallium or whatever else he wants to add. when the medication is working i like to pretend that i’m normal but then when my body starts metabolizing it after a while and i just go right back to hating myself.

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