There are many situations in life where criticism, constructive and kindly given can enrich us and make our learning and living more effective. Unfortunately it is often thrown around harshly and without thought rendering us worried and anxious, doubting ourselves and wondering if we are doing the right things.
No one would want to spend time with someone who constantly pointed out our faults and failings and ignored our triumphs, big and small. You wouldn't look forward to a brew with that friend who failed to mention the 99 small successes you'd had in favour of going over and over the one error you had made, you'd side step that person at work and in the street, but often the person most critical of you is the person you spend most time with: you.
Self criticism is something most people do, unconsciously often, staggeringly anxiety provoking at times. It's odd really, when there are so many others happy to hit you with the stick of doubt, why us humans are so keen to hit ourselves hardest. Repeatedly. With the biggest stick you can find.
"Did I do OK?" "Why did I say that?" "What must they think of me?" "I should have done better, said less, said more, researched more, spoke out" The list is endless.
Supply teaching often means you don't have trusted colleagues to ask if you did OK, if you were fair, competent or effective. So the little whisper of doubt that accompanies self criticism can become gradually louder until that's what you hear most.
Criticising yourself can be extremely useful, looking at what you've done, what you've achieved, what you did well and what you'd change next time. It allows you to learn and make positive changes. Being your own bully, constantly jabbing yourself for mistakes, perhaps reiterating the voices of others who have not been kind, can have a devastating effect on your mental health, well-being and career. You might be dreading that phone call for work because you doubt yourself and your ability, and then if it doesn't ring you can assume it might be because the doubts are true.
Silence your inner bully
There are some fairly simple actions you can take to start being your own champion. To silence your inner bully:
As simple as it sounds, start being kind to yourself. Treat yourself as well as you would a great friend, listen to your criticism by all means, make some changes but Iist your achievements too. For every negative thought make yourself list two positive ones.
When you are being critical of yourself think about what you want to achieve. You can't change what you've done but will going over it mean it will progress your practice, improve your confidence? If not remember what you don't want to repeat, what you are not happy with and then let it go. Store it with lessons learned and allocate very limited time to it if it serves a productive purpose.
If your inner criticism relates to an event or situation that's causing you concern turn your inner critical bully into constructive criticism. Make it work for you. Looking at what you did and what you could do differently next time. Learn from it, be your own teacher, after all life is a variety of different lessons.
You can change what is within your control so stop wrestling with anything out of your control, that is a true rocking horse journey, it'll get you absolutely nowhere. Prickly TA? Rude Head? Uncommunicative staffroom? It's not you, you can't change it but you can change your reaction to it to make you far less critical of yourself. They might be overwhelmed, tired, busy or just really rubbish at understanding the nerves that come with supply. Give yourself a little twist on the old relationship talk and say to yourself ‘it's not me, it's you’, preferably not out loud, you want repeat bookings after all.
Most importantly in the fight against self criticism remember you are human. You make mistakes but so does everyone else, you just need to put the mistakes into perspective. And put the stick down.
By Resident Writer Helen Bradford