Hard on Yourself? Try Curiosity Instead of Criticism

I’m seated on a chair in the middle of the kitchen in my childhood home, a towel draped around my neck like a makeshift cape. My mom and grandmother read instructions from the back of a box. How hard can a home perm be? The curl-inducing chemicals smell like a lab experiment gone wrong. I go back to third grade looking like a poodle. Has anyone else had this experience?

I thought of my home perm when we took our granddaughter to get her first haircut. (God brought her Mama into her lives when she was twenty so, yes, we’re young grandparents.) Eula was two years old and brought her favorite stuffed animal, Fifi, with her to this momentous occasion.

The stylist hands Eula a small mirror and tells her to look into it. It’s an attempt to help her sit still, and it works. Eula leans toward the mirror until she’s so close her breath makes fog on it. She’s intrigued by her own face. Watching her, I’m struck by how differently she and I look into mirrors.

Sometimes we pause and take a closer look at our lives. We reflect on the past and look forward to the future. We often do so with a harsh eye; it’s so easy to be hard on ourselves. We remember our mistakes. The goals we didn’t meet. We tell ourselves, “This will be the time I get it right,” as if everything that’s come before has been wrong.

But what if we try Eula’s approach instead? What if instead of looking with criticism we look with curiosity? Criticism condemns, curiosity invites us to learn. Criticism shuts us down, curiosity opens us up. Criticism holds us back, curiosity inspires us to grow. Romans 8:34 says, “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us.” (NLT) When we choose curiosity rather than criticism we’re more aligned with the heart of God toward us.

When we choose curiosity rather than criticism we're more aligned with the heart of God toward us.

Curious questions sound like…

– What am I learning?
– How am I growing?
– In what ways am I getting stronger?

Then we can ask how we can continue learning, growing, and becoming stronger.

The Mayo clinic says the benefits of making our thinking more positive include:

– Lower rates of depression
– Lower levels of distress
– Greater resistance to illness and a longer life span
– Better psychological and physical well-being
– Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
– Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Disclaimer: Positive thinking does not mean being happy all the time, sugar-coating difficulties, or walking around with a fake smile plastered on your face. That’s not helpful either. I struggle with anxiety and depression. Pollyana positivity isn’t beneficial, or even possible, for me. Realistic positive thinking means approaching our lives, and ourselves, with curiosity rather than condemnation.

I love these wise words from Lisa-Jo Baker, “What if you were kind to yourself — because you are a child of God? Beautiful. Called. Named. Beloved. Worth more than the scale and the lists and the demands and the expectations?”

Yes, let’s hold a mirror up to our hearts and lives sometimes. Let’s find ways to keep learning, growing, and becoming stronger. As we do, let’s also remember that curiosity is more helpful than self-criticism. Let’s resolve not to use condemnation as motivation when the God we serve only uses grace.

And no home perms. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

Let’s Pray

God, thank You that because of Your grace we can look at our hearts and lives with curiosity, not condemnation. Show us what You want us to see. When we’re tempted to be harsh with ourselves, help us remember Your extravagant kindness toward us.

Question for Reflection

What are you learning? How are you growing? In what ways are you getting stronger?

More for You

If you’d like more encouragement from Holley, you’ll find it in her new devotional book, What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times: 60 Powerful Truths to Protect Your Peace.


About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


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