With new life stages come unexpected weaknesses.
For me, the journey of motherhood has brought out a strong case of self-criticism. Of course, like many people, I’ve been self critical in the past–but never to the degree I’m currently experiencing.
Everything about motherhood causes me wonder, “Am I doing this right?” I think my self-criticism has grown exponentially because I’m no longer just caring for myself. With every decision, I feel the weight and responsibility of another life.
When you put it like that, it sounds pretty terrifying, right?
Questions like these run through my mind every moment of the day.
“Is my body adequately producing enough milk for Silas?”
“Should I be holding him less or am I not nurturing him enough?”
With every article I read and word of wisdom I receive, I become more and more critical of whether or not I’m doing it right.
The struggle is real.
Dale and I recently took Silas out to a local museum. As I was trying to get him out of the car, Dale was figuring out how to work the stroller. And of course, Silas was losing his mind because the sun was in his eyes. I was dying inside, thinking that we aren’t cut out for this. We can’t even take this kid on a simple outing without everything inside of me saying, “You are doing it all wrong.”
But then a family with two little ones were coming back to their car, which was parked next to ours, and they saw us. The couple congratulated us on our baby and said, “It’ll get easier. You’re doing it right. Congratulations. You’re doing great. It’ll all be worth it.”
But instead of taking that as encouragement and solidarity, I thought, “Oh great. It’s not only apparent to me. It’s apparent to the whole world that I’m not fit for this.”
The cycle of self-criticism is strong, stifling, and destructive. It’s not only parenthood that brings out the self-criticism in people. It’s just about everything in our lives.
One thing I know for certain is that this is not what God intended for us to endure. This is not a life of freedom. It’s a life of shackles that we strap to ourselves, which of course, makes absolutely no sense.
Yet, we do it anyways. So how do we get ourselves out of the cycle of self-criticism and trade it for a life of freedom? Here are 3 ways to do just that.
1. Replace your inner monologue with the truth of scripture.
Most of our self-criticism plays itself out as an ongoing conversation we have with ourselves. It stays trapped within our minds, growing larger and larger because there’s nothing to combat it.
Another voice has to enter in the midst of this conversation to dispel the lies. We can’t do that alone. If we could, then the self-criticism wouldn’t overtake us.
The most powerful weapon we have against this ongoing conversation is the truth of scripture. We have to renew our minds with what God says about us. The conversation has to change. And we can’t change it ourselves.
One of the best ways to stop the conversation of self-criticism is to replace it with what God says about you.
2. Replace your weakness with his strength.
What lies at the core of self-criticism is the understanding that we’re not good enough. And there’s some truth to that. But it isn’t where you should stay.
I’m very much aware of the fact that I’ve never been a mom before and I’m most certainly not going to get it right every time. My inexperience–and even just my humanity–leave me feeling very weak to this great calling to be a parent.
But it’s a calling God has placed before me. And he will give me the strength to carry it out.
In my weakest moments of parenthood, when I’ve been in tears (even more than Silas), I’ve prayed for God to help get me through even just that moment. And in those moments, I’m reminded that he has called me to this and he will equip me for it.
My weakness is only an issue for me, not for God. He knows my weakness and will replace it with his strength. Because he wants us to rely and depend on him with everything.
When self-criticism creeps in, remember that God is strengthening you in your weakness.
3. Replace the fear of man with the fear of God.
One of the driving factors behind self-criticism is the expectations others place on us, or that we think they place on us. We feel like we need to measure up to a standard that has been placed on us by others. And when it seems as if we don’t measure up to that standard, a fear of judgment or disappointment takes root.
I will be the first to admit that I want people to think I’m a good mother. It would be heart wrenching if I knew someone thought I was a bad mom. But this burden is too heavy to carry. And it’s just a waste of effort (especially for someone who needs all the rest she can get).
Instead of being consumed with whether or not Silas’ crying-to-happy ratio is a direct reflection of my parenting, I would rather be consumed with whether or not I’m an example of Jesus’ love and grace in his life.
I want my efforts in parenting to be centered on my fear of the Lord rather than my fear of man.
In the many areas we can become self-critical, we need to trade our fear of letting man down for the fear of God. That’s a better use of our time and self-analysis. Through that focus we will become far less self-critical and far more enthralled with doing the work of the Lord.
Self-criticism is not the life God intended for us. We are meant to live in the freedom of Christ and not the bondage of our own criticism. We can do far more for ourselves, our families, and the world if we would trade our self-criticism for the freedom of Jesus.