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Worst Critic

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Dear Sally
Weekly Advice Straight From The Horse’s Mouth.

Dear Sally,

Why are we harder on ourselves and those closest to us than we would ever be on any stranger? We are our own worst critics it sometimes feels.

Dear Worst Critic,

You’ve touched on a really good one here, sweet human. And, I sense that you have some heartache about this. After all, the harshness that you write about hurts to receive and perhaps even worse, it carries such shame when we have been a perpetrator of it. I think it might be best to tease this apart some. I have a hunch this is like a tightly packed hay bale that might be easier to eat if we open it up and throw it around. Let’s try and do that with some lightness. Let’s be careful not to be hard on ourselves about being hard on ourselves!

First off, humans take this whole feedback thing much too seriously. You guys don’t do nearly enough of it, which results in a few painful things: you don’t do it very well, you wait until exploding so your messages come with a big emotional “mess,” and you’re not used to receiving feedback so there’s a huge sensitivity to anything conflictual. In the horse herd, relationships are a high contact sport. We are relating and shaping our interactions all the time. I mean, ALL THE TIME. Careful. Don’t beat yourself up here. We’re just observing and making a point about what is. If feedback and conflict are normal and healthy parts of having relationship and we accept this, we can focus more on doing it well and less on shaming ourselves or others.

Let’s look at this from another angle. We spend so much more time with the people closest to us so we are much more likely to step on each other’s hooves. If we accept that part and acknowledged our need to practice this more intimate kind of relationship, perhaps we could also focus on the positive feedback and the repair work that is needed. Building relationships is a lot like getting in physical shape and building muscle. When you exercise, you actually tear muscles tissue and then in the healing it gets stronger. Without the tear and use, you wouldn’t build the muscle. Here’s the bad news, human friend. Relationships hurt. They just do. We hurt each other. We have to get better at the repair so that they can get stronger. It’s there where we learn and grow trust. In the herd, we need this process so that we can understand each other’s roles in order to know how we are each going to serve the greater good. It can be messy as this shifts around. And it is inherently conflictual. But in the conflict, we learn about each other, we adjust, and we actually feel safer.

Finally, let’s lay our ears back at this criticism nonsense once and for all. You may feel a tremendous sense of freedom and hope to hear that other mammals don’t beat themselves they way you guys do. Sure, we have conflict, hurt, pain, fear. But we don’t have thoughts that attack us or others. Consider for a moment, that you have a choice here. Your human mind may make thoughts, but you have a choice about listening to them, taking them to heart, or allowing your mind to create a pattern/habit of thought. This is one of our most important horse lessons for ya’ll. Don’t believe that human thinker all the time! It obviously does amazing things and doing analytical assessments of situations is a necessary part of survival, evolution, and innovation. But self-deprecation and shaming others is, with all do respect, a huge waste of valuable resources.

So my friend, relationships will flow like they need to when we let them. Find that peaceful part of your thinker that can ask a new question: What do I need to learn in this relationship right now? How can I ask for what I need? And most importantly, how can we accept that information and move on. Keep grazing. Conserve energy. Live in peace.

Love, Sally