best friends


For many years, I was friends with a woman who was funny, smart and interesting. She was also extremely critical.  I never quite knew when this critical part of her would come out. It might be after having a nice lunch, or talk on the phone, but several days later, I’d receive a letter or phone message saying that she was very upset about something that I said or had done (or didn’t say or do). Many times, I had no idea what she was talking about, so I’d be scrambling mentally to figure it out…feeling terrible.  Eventually I let the relationship go. It was just too tiring.

What I also came to see, is that the most relentlessly tiring and critical people were cupcakes compared to the one that lived inside my own head. …talk about never getting a break! If constant self-criticism worked, many of us would be perfect beyond measure, but it doesn’t. I cannot mentally beat myself into being “better” and neither can you. Incessantly looking for defects, just magnifies what is not right, and makes us feel perpetually inferior, afraid and insecure.

If we don’t like this quality in our friendships, why do we accept it in ourselves?

How about taking this weekend to refuse to think critically about yourself? Just for 2 days, treat yourself like you treat your best friend.

We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. Carl Jung

46 thoughts on “best friends”

  1. Mary, Thank-You! I’m going to do just that, I’m taking a long time friend, who I don’t get to see very often, to a “Tea”. Fancy tea sets and all. Enjoy YOUR weekend. Cathy Miller Athens PA

  2. She sure reminds me of control freaks who come from dysfunctional families. I speak from experience. There is no pleasing people like that. It is a drain being around people of that nature. It’s not healthy actually or conducive to recovering from chronic illness to have the “goblin of perfection” rattling around in the mind, or popping up to offer its pert opinions.

  3. I loved your posting this morning, Mary. I also appreciate the words above of CSMiller. It speaks volumes. I’ve said this before but the rumblings of problematic issues going on in my life at the moment sometimes echo your comments and eerily so…which I appreciate. 38 yrs. ago, following the death of my late husband, I remarried, taking on two more children to raise in addition to my two, who were younger. These two children had come from a very dysfunctional family breakup a few years before. The son was very angry; the daughter, three years older than my own at age 6, was highly critical and highly explosive. When, ten years later, I chose to remove myself and my family from this situation because of constant criticism which by then the father had joined in for a number of years…I was subjected to a huge amount of character assassination. I lost my own daughter in the process because she aligned herself with her older stepsister and while we’ve had a relationship of sorts since (not for the past two years,) the step-sister who fully admits that she considered me the wicked stepmother, takes no responsibility nor has any understanding of how her behaviour has affected my life and that of my daughter’s life. These past few months, I have been trying to make some inroads towards her understanding my issues and just you have indicated, it’s tiring, it’s useless, I’ve ended up all these years having this critical monkey on my back as a result of the backbiting and at 74, I’ve had enough. As much as I’ve tried to remain a supportive person in my step-daughter’s life, I am beginning to wonder if critical people ever stop being critical. You have hit the nail on the head for me this morning, Mary…I’ll be interested in reading other’s thoughts on your post

    SandyP, in Canada, where we had a foot of snow on the ground last Monday.

    1. Sandy P., You have certainly put up with a lot in all these decades and it looks like it has come to a tough conclusion. It has been my experience that critical people do NOT stop being critical (unless, of course, they have some kind of an ‘on-the-road-to-Damascus’ type of revelation). That possibility does leave room for some hope, but I think you are smart to call a halt in your own heart.

      I used to think that these family things were stuff that you read about in a novel or a magazine article, or saw on Oprah. It is that but so much more when you or someone close to you is living it. No play-acting here.

      I applaud you in taking your position and hopefully bringing some peace into your life. It’s up to each to make her own environment. I would be choosing to move out the irritants in my life, no matter how much it hurts (and it will still hurt). You have given it your best shot, and now it’s time for you and your life. I am not far behind you in age, and I want to live the rest out with a contented heart if I can. Wish I had realized the importance of this sooner.

      1. Suzanne, In this new (to me) world of electronic communication with strangers I find your words, those of Mary and of others, revealing insofar as I’ve allowed myself to be open here. I was raised during a time when doors were closed on family troubles, carpets pulled over unpleasant issues so to speak. Thus, opening up in an electronic world is new to me and yet, the affirmation, information and enlightenment is nothing but a plus. I have tried and stayed the course with this step-daughter, now 48 yrs. old. Yet, when I drove to the city to see her personally last week, something that was not easy for me, I had already shared with her that my blood pressure had gone up over her latest drama. Her response: “I don’t care about your blood pressure” and right there, lay my answer. I’m not sure how to deal with the fallout and not find myself once again, set up & blamed. I’m still waiting for the answer to that. The Road to Damascus, is right, Suzanne.

  4. Good Morning Mary, you’ve hit the nail on the head again. The constant struggle with negative self talk is something i thought i had the market cornered on….it is reassuring to read that it is more common than i thought. and the toxic people (unfortunately family in my case) that feed this is just as bad. Like Sandy, at 63 I have said ENOUGH already. I refuse to get sucked into and beat myself up over the drama that others seeem to thrive on. Not sure if this makes sense but i will try your exercise this weekend and be my own best friend! c

    1. I also thought I had the market cornered and I never thought of it in terms of what I shy away from in other people. I, too, try to say ENOUGH but not always with a firmness that has an impact. Yes, this weekend exercise is definitely worth trying.

  5. My inner critic can really get going sometimes, I’ve always had this thing about about thinking others were better than me, something I am working on, and you Mary have helped me so much with this. I like the thought of being my own best friend. Live happy! Love the picture of Fred!

  6. Two days to be nice to myself! Hope I can do it! I will try!
    Have a wonderfull weekend Mary.
    Fred is a very pretty cat.

  7. Mary,

    I am grieving for a friend, who also was super critical and had to let that relationship go. We have been friends since childhood (I am 50) and yet this year I couldn’t stand it anymore. She was attacking and critical and I always felt that I was walking on eggshells. Life is too short. But, a big part of me really misses her. The funny her, the silly her, the happy her. Not the critical, ultra sensitive, and bitter her.

    Thanks for the reminder that although I miss her, I like myself just as I am. And I don’t need to tiptoe around anyone.

  8. I so identify with this post, Mary. It has taken me awhile to recognize that those critical, ungracious people are the ones with issues. Why would we expect an ungracious person to be gracious? And I have tired of having that kind of negative energy in my life. When I have been able to distance myself from ‘them’ I feel exponentially better…lighter…free. No looking back…and I didn’t realize how heavy that load was on me until I let it go! Now…to turn inward. You are so right! I think you suggested once before to find the good in ourselves and magnify it…feel it… Now that you have said it, why would we ever want to be our own energy drain, our own balloon deflator, with our self-critical thinking! Wow! So I will think ‘energy pump’ instead of ‘energy drain’…thank you! Love to all…have a terrific weekend! I’ll miss you all til Monday!

  9. What wonderful imagery – balloons, drains, – why would we choose to enter a toxic room if fresh air was available outside? We try so hard with our families especially, and Sandy, I think most of us over the age of 45 still grew up in a time when the family’s dirty linen was NOT aired, – so we learned to put up or stuff it deep inside, or worse yet, blame ourselves – when in the end, we find that ‘buried feelings never die’. I’m with Suzanne Tate, you have already gone the extra mile and then some! and deserve to dedicate yourself now to the relationships that make you most feel like you, calm and centered. C.S. Miller, loved your “goblin of perfection” picture, rattling around in our heads – I say it’s time to do a thorough spring house (head) cleaning and knock out the cobwebs of whatever guilt, insecurity, blame we have allowed to linger too long. Remember that old song, “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair? And send him on his way”? Well, let’s wash that inner critic right out of our heads this weekend and send her on her way! NO VACANCY. Only loving thoughts allowed. Have a great weekend everyone! Thanks Mary, once again, for such an uplifting assignment!

  10. Hmm, not sure why I (Susan Alcantara) am cellosusie again. Am using Safari instead of Firefox as I had some computer problems yesterday – but yep, that’s me, cellosusie.

  11. Mary, this is a worthy assignment. I’ve already caught myself with negative mind-chatter several times this morning!

    There is such a rich collection of wisdom gathered around WFF: every day, I read as many comments as possible and all of you give me inspiration. Know that you’re appreciated!

    Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Big hugs to all.

  12. Isn’t it amazing how we internalize so much, far before we’re old enough to have discernment. They (parents from earlier eras) certainly didn’t enlighten us to believe we were divine spirits & so the blame and the warring and the secret hope that we really ARE adequate and then some spills onto the playground…it doesn’t take long to learn your ‘place’–I was the cute but chubby one with glasses. Bright and funny, I still wasn’t cool, beautiful or OK. I’ve always liked that ironic line, “I survived recess.” (Or my aunt, my distant father, etc.)

    But somehow, when enough awful stuff happens, we hopefully fight back and awaken an inner kernel of real worth. Too often, we latch onto someone or folks who we think fulfill that inner need for validation & who woefully disappoint us.

    Later, much later, we learn those attachments are merely extending the concept we have of ourselves. Finally, whether it’s karma or our guardian angels, some new ways of seeing and being come before us…for me, it was true and loyal girlfriends, some marvelous teachers, and sought-for spiritual insights that greatly helped me see I AM perfectly all right. I think it probably takes a lifetime to work this out, but everytime we can remember to breathe in and out: “I AM peace”; I AM love”; I AM the perfection of Spirit in this situation” it helps expand us. Happy weekend all!

    1. I AM going to use/borrow your I AM statements for myself this week-end. They will certainly help with homework (and life’s purpose) of getting back to and remembering who I AM.

      “remember to breathe in and out: “I AM peace”; I AM love”; I AM the perfection of Spirit in this situation”

      Thanks so much for your words. In fact, everyone’s comments and situations have been most touching and helpful prior to our week-end assignment.

  13. A little over 2 years ago, I finally told my beyond narcisstic younger sister exactly what my feelings were in regard to her and her behavior for the past 30 years. It took her being viciously cruel to our mother in the last few days of her life and her consequential unbelieveably manipulative and narcissistic behavior in the days following our mother’s death to finally put her in her place. She has brought little but misery and nastiness to our entire family. I knew it would mean being cut off to my niece, who I had a very close relationship with since I was the only one she could express her frustration with her mother’s controlling and manipulation to. As expected, I have not been allowed to see my niece for over 2 years. My sister immediately went into character assassination mode after I confronted her, also as expected.

    It’s been pretty tough trying to keep my head high under those attacks but I knew it needed to be done and I can’t tell you the burden it has lifted form me. I never again have to walk into her home wondering which version of my sister would be home and if I needed to be prepared to be attacked for her pereived transgressions upon her perfection.

    In the last few months, several of her “best” firends and key people in her life have approached me and told me that “you know, you’re right in all this”. I must admit it does feel nice having other people recognize it but the fact that I imemdiately felt at peace with what I had done and the way that I confronted her has always been all I’ve needed. I kept my cool, said what needed to be said wile repeatedly telling her I loved her but could not accept the abuse any longer, all the while she viciously attacked me. I’m free!

    1. How wonderfully expressed, Deb, thank you for your words and for Lisa, too, I am aware of the loss and grieving for a step-child with whom I related in humour and many shared experiences. There are losses and gains in life, aren’t there. I will be keeping this whole thread of conscious thought.

    2. Deb F., this is one of those great ‘coming of age’ stories that you read of in books! Makes you admire the guts of the character in finally standing his/her ground and saying what must be said.

      My hat’s off to you, Deb. Nice job, and thanks for laying out a ‘how to’ scenario. As you said, you are free and can go forth without that burden. Good karma, and a lesson well told for the rest of us.

  14. When the dust has all settled
    And the ‘GLOP’ comes unstuck
    Rise up, shake off
    Rid yourself of the muck.

    We are told we are ‘ONE’
    So how can it be??
    The critical cesspools
    Will just NOT be me!

    Ahhh, a lifetime it takes
    An open heart, then more
    To lift up our spirits
    And finally shut the door.

    Say no to berating
    Such meanness and spite
    When your head breaks the clouds
    All you’ll see is the light.

    [From a former child of dysfunction who made a conscious decision to spend my life breaking the mind- numbing patterns and molds that my parental, familial, and friendships never bothered to examine.]

    This weekend’s work is the best job you’ll ever have!! Love to all.

      1. So very kind; thank you.
        I laugh to myself sometimes because I never used to see only a rhyme or a reason! The older I get, the more I adore Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

    1. “never bothered to examine.” That’s it right there. I certainly wonder why their brains/personalities/spirits are lacking the desire for peace and improvement. I don’t get it and probably never will. I am very fortunate in that I found enough enlightenment along the way to feel OK about myself, in spite of a secretive and belittling “we’re not good enough” childhood environment. NOW my struggle is with letting others just be who they are. I am full of advice that I would SO love to share. 🙂 Learning to stifle, and let others play out their own roles. Like Joyce Meyers has said…I am not Holy Spirit Junior. Thanks for the poem.

  15. Thank you Mary, Great assignment…I’m still a work in progress….
    I usually count 1 – 2 – 3 and say- I release the need for this in my life…

    I keep hearing the Beatles song- It’s getting better all the time –
    Getting so much better all the time…

    sending a happy spring weekend with a little playful fun to all….

  16. Amen to that one. Thank you so much for bringing it into light. I am taking the 2-day critiicism free challenge!

  17. Hard work but I can do it. Cheryl b. by-the-sea is nominated the resident poet of the WFF flock! I would absolutely buy your book of poems if you would publish one.

    1. Thank you, Myrna. I would GIVE you one if I ever do! The only thing I ever published was a letter to the editor. 🙂

  18. I love all you girls! everyone of you leave a bit of wisdom with each post and Mary you are truly a fearless leader! I am smiling because i no longer feel alone or wrong after today’s comments.

  19. Cheryl B, by the beautiful sea, I nominate you not only poet in residence but Poet Laureate! I just had a wee bit of fun exploring what poet ‘laureate’ means, (you’re gonna be wearing a crown of laurel leaves, baby! Bay leaves, oh how fragrant!!)

    The word “laureate” is derived from Latin, meaning “crowned with laurel.”Also known as the sweet bay, or just bay, the laurel tree was a symbol for the Greek and Roman god Apollo. (Apollo fell in love with a nymph named Daphne. Daphne spurned Apollo. Apollo had her turned into a laurel. It’s just how these things went back in those olden times.)

    Cheryl, if you have or have ever had an “Apollo” in your life, we, the WFF, hearby bequeath you the power of Daphne! to turn your Apollo back into a toad! (or a humble bay leaf, you know, what goes around. . . .)

    1. And now, not only did I nominate Cheryl b. by the beautiful sea to be our resident poet, I hereby nominate Susan Alcantara (aka ‘cellosusie’) as our official WFF researcher!

      All in favor, raise your hands and say “Aye!”

      1. Aye!!! What a group. The WFFW…that last W for “women”. We need to set up some kind of get together! Maybe next year after Mary moves. Yeah to technology. Now I’m going to a “tea” to celebrate life and friends. Enjoy the weekend to all WFFW. Love Ya, Cathy ps i only live 4 hours away!

    2. How appropriate that I’m surrounded by California bay laurel trees everywhere here on the central coast!! HA–and I’ve known more than a few ‘toads’ in my life…..but now they’re relegated to only keeping the garden free of insects. Ribbit..

  20. catiedid54…’re in PA? I like your idea of a WFFW get-together next year. I mean, we’re all practically good ‘buds’ by now!

  21. Well it’s Sunday, and I’m late too, but I’m in on all accounts. Susan A- Research Scholar, Cheryl b. – poet laureate and wffw get together -yes please!

  22. Oh Mary, I think I had this same woman as a best friend for more than twenty-five years. I had to let the relationship go also. Psyched for your trip?, Cindy

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