One of my favorite poets on the planet is Andrea Gibson, although they are far from the only writer I follow on social media. However, an Instagram post by them on December 22 caught my eye.
The prompt challenged their followers to write a resignation letter for a job or position they no longer want to hold in their life. Gibson’s example was resigning from being their Own Worst Enemy. And this inspired me as a way to reflect on what kinds of positions I do want to hold as I carry myself into 2021. Because as I write this, I want to reflect on how the job’s demanding nature wore me down… and it didn’t even pay me well!
Without further ado, I bring you a resignation letter for the role of My Own Harshest Critic.
To Whom It Indubitably Concerns,
It is with great bittersweetness that I step away from my dedicated role as My Own Harshest Critic. I’ve had this job since before I needed a worker’s permit; in fact, I usually also worked overtime. And I was compensated with a head full of negative self-talk and nowhere to turn. Don’t get me wrong; this job is very competitive as it’s said that each individual is their own harshest critic. But this is not about my peers— this is about me.
Preliminary obligations to this role included a never-ending barrage of intrusive thoughts. From a young age, I knew this was the job for me. I reared my potential as I went from girl to young woman—albeit at a much faster pace than others. This led to poking and prodding in any reflective surface I could find, never daring to ask who was the fairest. It was unfair, the harsh ways I judged myself. But, it also made me a shoo-in for promotion after promotion. After all, the promotion of a perfect woman without recognition of my own appearance can do that to a person. It did. It did that to me.
The nagging feelings of physical appearance insecurities became coupled with a desire to be the beloved classroom teacher’s pet, proving yet again that brains came before beauty… I believed I had none of that, anyway. The jabs also snuck underneath my silicone swim cap and crawled into my ears as I fought to avoid being lapped, being last. A rainbow hue of ribbons is no good if they’re heavy-handed in last places. At least I didn’t get disqualified—well, unless I was swimming breaststroke.
My Own Harshest Critic allowed me to exile from friends and family—even if they didn’t know it— because how could I believe the nice things that were barricaded from entering my brain as My Harshest Inner Critic strongheld them in my eardrums?
And I excelled.
I was the best at believing the worst in myself while maintaining appearances—one I still couldn’t bear to love—so as to not raise suspicion from others around me.
As much as I enjoyed the position… all the nights of wracking my brain for ways to feel better and searching for solace from those who loved me more than I could ever love myself (or so I thought), I need to back away before I commit to a lifetime at one company. Misery loves company, after all. And I’m no longer interested in the misery business.
It will not be easy to unlearn all the lessons this position has granted me for the last 10 years or so.
But I will no longer scale the meanest parts of my mind looking for insults to hurl if I don’t like the number or letter on a clothing tag. I can instead critique the flawed sizing system and recognize that my flaws don’t make me a failure. And I can celebrate that beauty is in individuality and imperfections.
I will not see the grades on transcripts that aren’t A+ as a subtraction of my self-worth. Because my student statistics are merely that… GPA part of me, not the whole picture. I will use the competitive nature from learning environments to support others and challenge myself without a condescending or chastising undertone.
Although I do not compete anymore, I won’t let the swimming ribbons I earned fair and square serve as a reason to mope. The way I felt in the water—uninhibited—is how I want to be remembered and remember my time as an athlete.
I won’t let the executive position of my Harshest Inner Critic tell me that friends and family are liars for piping my head full of sugar-coated sentiments. I do not want to shake salt in the wounds this job inflicted on me. Instead, I want to indulge in the sweetness of those I surround myself with. I am deserving; they will not go in one ear and out the ear anymore, mainly because I dislodged that pesky nay-sayer.
My Own Harshest Critic has served as a valuable reference on resumes for quite a while. I will still accept criticism from myself and others, with the exception that it is constructive.
I want to grow and be built up from years of comments that only aimed to tear me down.
This job was one I came into early in life. And it will not be easy to step away from the work ethic I developed in this decade, which was only heightened during 2020. But I know if I can work hard and understand that growth from this role cannot and will not be linear, I can go from My Own Harshest Critic to My Own Loudest Cheerleader.
I can and will go from sometimes not being able to stand myself to celebration in the form of standing ovations at how much I have accomplished despite the challenges and not in spite of them.
I want to thank this job for the opportunity to grow unsure of myself, but I am now sure I am ready to move on to bigger, brighter and better things for me.
An Employee You’ll Never See Again
Hannah M Hippensteel