Jamie Mayes, AOE

Archive for August, 2014|Monthly archive page

My Biggest Critic

In News, Uncategorized on August 9, 2014 at 3:06 am


I have been accused of being a perfectionist. Perhaps I am a flawed perfectionist, but should not perfection be the goal of any objective? After overcoming teenage depression, I decided that living my best life meant setting goals to make my future different from my present was the key. I wrote a prescription for my success and convinced myself that sticking to this list was the way to live my best life. At the top of this list were three things: getting a quality education, finding a fulfilling career, and getting married before starting a family. In my opinion, these three goals would ensure that I lived a balanced and productive life. So, I started working in high school to obtain these things, working extra hard to gain a positive public image and learn as much as I could to be the difference in my community and for my family. I thought my high school struggles were a large part of my step ladder to success and that once I escaped my broken home, self-image issues and poverty, I would be in complete control of my life. Ironically, I find myself chuckling as I write these words and thinking back to how much empowerment I felt as a teen and how powerless I’ve felt as an adult.
I fast forward my life to 15 years later, when I find myself sitting on the side my bed staring at a growing closet of baby clothes and supplies asking myself “What the hell have I done?” My situation was so far removed from my plan and personal expectations, and my biggest realization was that there was nothing could do to change or fix this situation except for move through it. Hovering over my head was the cloud of disappointment in allowing me to miss the mark on one of my most important goals. Months of self-criticism trailed me as I continued to badger myself for becoming too relaxed with my morals, and honestly, looking for love with an open heart. For I had long ago convinced myself to true love and loyalty were rare and came with much sacrifice; therefore, submerging myself into work and service would keep me preoccupied into the wee hours of the night. And instead of deeming myself human, I deemed myself a fool for even moving away from the strategy I thought would keep me whole and balanced. My strategic plan to take my author movement all over the country this year had been sidelined by my emotions and derailed by my hormones. I was supposed to be above human nature- I was saved!
But as I talked in conversation with Mr. Esau today, I had an epiphany. We discussed my sudden exit from Ouachita at the beginning of last school year and he said he could not understand why I left. I told him about my dissatisfaction with my classroom performance and as an instructor, my frustration with feeling my students could do more, and my fear that I was not giving them enough attention because of my flowering writing and speaking career. While I saw only the negatives of my performance, he had a completely different outlook. He noted my outstanding test performance scores which were knocking socks off around the district, my structured and well-disciplined classes and how much students loved me whether I was fussing at them or bragging about them. Though others saw my value as an educator, the only things I could see were what I thought were my downfalls.
I had done the same thing following my college graduation. I received esteemed compliments from so many people about being a graduate of one of the country’s finest educational institutions (fact, not opinion-LOL) yet, I spent years volunteering that I was disappointed with my graduating GPA despite the fact that I held down a full-time job and was financially self-supported throughout my college career. It did not matter how many times my best friend told me to stop putting out an “I suck because I didn’t graduate with honors” PSA, I still spent years offering this self-critical information to anyone who applauded my efforts. Though others saw the good, once again I focused on my disappointment with self. I was and have been my biggest merciless critic.
What had been created as a guidance mechanism to accomplish my goals had turned into a measurement tool by which I tried to measure myself. Here I was, doing it to myself again. My family and friends were lamenting in joy over something many of us thought impossible for years, and I had assumed that my latest fault was so big and serious that it meant a life of guilt and constant struggle. But a swift feeling of guilt overcame me when God asked me why I am so unforgiving of myself. Constantly failing to see the blessing of even my struggles made me wonder if I was showing God how grateful I was for all of the things He has done for me. My actions were not reflective of one truly trusts God for things seen and unseen. The self-criticism that I thought would bring me closer to God by driving me to be a better person, was actually distancing me from Him as I failed to see the value of his grace and mercy and missed the blessings and lessons in all of my experiences. I claimed to be hardly concerned with the opinions of others, but the truth was that the smallest critical comments whether credible or not, valuable or not, often made me second guess what I knew was in my heart- love for God through constant actions of love for others.
I would like to say that this realization brought about a change so sudden and drastic that I am now at the top of life’s stairs cheering like Rocky. However, breaking attitude and behavior patterns take time. I am adjusting to the idea that imperfections do not make me flawed, they make me human…and we are all human. I must learn to be satisfied with my best, because that is all I have to give myself and others. I remind myself that satisfaction and complacency are not the same and do not work hand in hand. This is not the first time that I have been told to ease up on myself, it has been shouted from the mountaintop by friends, my grandmother, my mother, my dad, cousins…who have said “chill out.” Quite often what I assumed was His thoughts were only me being my own critic. Yet, I suppose that quiet moment on the side of the bed staring at a closet of baby clothes in a slight stupor was necessary for me remember that God has had His hands on me in every situation and being a self-critic only obstructs my view of His power in my life and the blessings that are to come.

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