My Denver client Susie is an attractive, smart woman who is a good mom and is actually doing very well in her life, but she comes to see me for counseling because she has difficulty thinking that she has to be perfect -- forgetting that she's only human. And I have to remind her. Like many people, especially women, she beats herself up because she can't get everything done or be the perfect person she wishes she could be.
Susie is a single mom of two little girls, whom she adores, but like all of us, she can't seem to accomplish all that she wishes she could. Sometimes she has guilt about not being a good enough mom. Sometimes her frustration is at work and getting behind. Sometimes it's those 15 pounds she wants to lose or her sugar binges or that she didn't fit exercise in today or the fact that she likes to have a few drinks at the end of the day when she puts the girls to bed. It doesn't help that her mother regularly reminds her that she could do a better job at parenting (even though her mom wasn't the best of moms of course) or that she shouldn't be drinking. And then of course Susie knows she isn't getting any younger. At 47 she feels pressure (mostly by others) to find a good man to share her life with. But she can't imagine fitting one more thing into her life right now, especially someone who will want something from her, or worse, try to judge or control her -- since she does a good job of that herself. After all, that's why she chose artificial insemination to have her twins, so she wouldn't have to deal with some man telling her how to raise them. And that's a decision she's still happy about.
Susie has difficulty realizing that most people feel the way she does -- like they're supposed to be perfect. Christina Perri's new song, Human, talks about how you can try to be what someone else wants you to be, but in the end, it catches up to you because you're "only human."
I can bite my tongue
....I can fake a smile
I can force a laugh
I can dance and play the part
If that's what you ask
Give you all I am
I can do it, I can do it, I can do it
But I'm only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I'm only human
And I crash and I break down
.....Cause I'm only human
Sure we all need to learn from our own mistakes and try to improve our lives, but not according to what others think we should or shouldn't do. We have to stay true to our own values and beliefs. Besides, people always love to tell other people what they should and shouldn't do. It gives them a sense of power. And it's easier to try to run someone else's life than run their own. Don't believe them when they say they are just giving you healthy criticism -- there's no such thing as unsolicited healthy criticism. People who judge others are rigid and insecure about their own lives. They are easily manipulated by rules and judgments of others and they get to feel self-righteous by telling you what to do.
Most of us feel pressure to be perfect since we've been criticized by others most of our lives. Often when we start to feel good about ourselves, someone (often a family member) will say or do something that pushes one of our buttons and reminds us that we're not perfect. That's what Susie's mom does.
We often forgive others much easier than we can forgive ourselves. We say, "I know he didn't mean to do it," or, "She has a lot on her mind these days." We understand and excuse others who aren't perfect, but not ourselves.
It's our job to protect ourselves from others' criticisms and demand that others accept us as we are. We can't let anyone lay his or her value judgments on us. We have to tell ourselves and let others know: "I'm only human, and so are you. I make mistakes, but so do you. I want you to stop pointing mine out -- or I might have to tell you what's wrong with you."
Susie said this to her mom. And, surprisingly, her mom has backed off. And without her mom's criticism, she's not being as hard on herself. She's starting to realize that she would never judge anyone else as badly as she judges herself and that it's time to not only accept and appreciate her humanness, but to treat herself the way she wants others to treat her. After all, she's only human -- just like the rest of us.