As a queer lesbian therapist, I know that queer women can often struggle with self-criticism. I also know we can find ways to thrive anyway! How can we continue to understand and challenge our self-criticism so we continue to grow?
First, we need to understand where it comes from—knowledge and insight is empowerment. We often think of self-criticism as an individual or personal problem. It’s not. It’s a social justice issue. Negative and oppressive internal dialogues stem from an oppressive culture. Toxic messages about who we are and our abilities are constant. Messages that are queerphobic and sexist that convey we are problematic, shameful, weak, irrational, unwell, strange etc. are common. These messages are embedded in our media, our coursework, our wages, our families…eventually they become embedded in us as well. Overtime, even if logically we disagree, these ideas about our identities become internalized. When this happens, our internal dialogue shifts to an unhealthy and critical one where we police ourselves and think negatively about ourselves. And this is the basis of self-criticism.
How do we challenge this way of thinking?
In order to liberate ourselves from negative internal narratives, we must continue to educate ourselves on where it comes from and why it happens, as noted above. We then have to fight and love ourselves into a new way of narrating our lives. This means we need to try and speak to ourselves in loving, supportive, and compassionate ways…even if we don’t believe it at first. Even if we think, “I don’t deserve this,” or “This isn’t true,” we have to try. In addition, surrounding ourselves with affirming representations of queer women and with affirming queer community is important. Developing community with folks who have a shared identity means we will have people to talk with about these experiences. Sharing struggles and how we overcome them is essential; silence only feeds shame and self-criticism. If we accept our struggles, we can work to overcome them. Changing how we think and surrounding ourselves with affirming messages and people, even if we don’t believe it at first, will overtime lead to an internalization of a different voice - an empowered one.
Lastly, start celebrating the wins, no matter how small. When the world consistently tells us “You’re not good enough,” it’s important to consistently celebrate yourself and say “Yes I Am.”