Friday, April 17, 2015

Quieting the Inner Critic

We all deal with unrealistic expectations from others. These expectations can place an unnecessary weight, a burden of disappointing others. But expectations come from others, I find it easier to sort out which are reasonable and unreasonable.

"Oh, you've lived in China for a year now? You must be fluent in Chinese by now!" Okay, so you knew someone who was fluent after three weeks in China; they were either a genius or tooootally lying. I'll let you decide which one.

I have a much harder time disregarding the voices in my own head. It took me a while to realize that sometimes my "self talk" is not only unrealistic, it is lying and destructive. And where does deceit and destructiveness come from? Certainly not from a gracious Father.  But I convince myself since these are my voices, they must be telling the truth.

My crazy self-expectations come into play in every decision I make. Instead of seeing two choices of possible activities, I see two (sometimes diametrically opposed) mandates. I should be doing both of these things - or neither, so no matter what choice I make, it is the wrong one.

I should take the girls outside more often. The weather is getting warm, and everyone knows kids need more outside time to run around and explore. All those grannies spend hours outside with their little children, while we rush past them for a 10 minute playtime on the way to buy veggies.

But when I take the girls outside, that means I'm not getting anything done. Maybe we should stay inside so I can accomplish things. The wind is too strong anyway and will probably fill their lungs with dust. It would actually be irresponsible to take them out. And those grannies don't have anything else to do with their kids, so of course they spend all day outside.

If I don't take the girls out, I am depriving my children. If I do take them out, I am accomplishing nothing and possibly endangering their health.

If I am inside, I could cook more. Everyone knows that good mothers and healthy people cook every night, using lots of vegetables and whole grains -or no grains- and protein rich meat -or no meat, and certainly no msg laden products.

But cooking takes so much time and planning, and our whole family can eat a decent meal in the dining hall for a few dollars. It has lots of vegetables -and nutritionally empty white rice. I should cook less and then I'll have more time to spend on other things.

For example, I should blog more. I enjoy writing, and some people manage to blog all the time. But maybe blogging is selfish. It's not like thousands of people are waiting on my wise words. Plus, anything done on the computer is intrinsically selfish, and I should be playing with the girls instead. 

I don't spend enough time playing with the girls. They probably feel neglected. On the other hand, I probably focus on them too much, and they need to realize life isn't all about them. If I play with them too much, it will destroy their ability to self-entertain. And probably also destroy my sense of autonomy. And my marriage. And possibly the future of the world.

Every choice is a moral dilemma. Every decision is the wrong one. The expectations are ridiculous but somehow believable. Having unrealistic expectations of myself is not only frustrating, it sets me up for failure. I doubt every decision, even the smallest ones.

I am working to recognize these inner voices of expectation, especially the absurd or deceitful, and determine which of the "oughts" I ought to let go. 

I am trying to remember - what is really required of me? To love God and to love others. These are things I can do through cooking at home or eating in the cafeteria, accomplishing nothing outside or accomplishing things inside, playing with my kids or letting them play on their own. 

I can make a decision - maybe a different decision each day, and have peace that maybe there was no "right or wrong" in this matter. I can know that I will make wrong decisions, and that is the point of grace.

I can recognize that whatever others may think and whatever my inner voice says, God is not judging me for cooking or not cooking. It's possible he doesn't even care whether I take my kids out today or not. So maybe I can stop judging myself. I can step into grace.


[Linking up with Velvet Ashes on the topic of expectations.]

4 comments:

Michele Womble said...

Thank you, thank you for sharing your "voices"! I recognize myself completely! "Every choice is a moral dilemma"and then I'm paralyzed. "To love God and to love others. These are things I can do.." no matter which choice I made about eating or playing and etc...Wonderful. Just what I needed to hear today.

Danielle said...

Yes! I totally hear myself in your "voices". And clearly we're on the same wavelength with the shoulds/oughts. I hope you get a chance to slip away from the kids and the cooking for a bit this weekend to retreat!! Your words SO resonate with the message of the retreat. Grateful for you and your words, friend.

candace2010 said...

Great post, Ruth! I feel ya...

Amy Young said...

Ruth I CHEER this part:

I am trying to remember - what is really required of me? To love God and to love others. These are things I can do through cooking at home or eating in the cafeteria, accomplishing nothing outside or accomplishing things inside, playing with my kids or letting them play on their own.

****

YES, YES, YES