When You're Too Hard on Yourself

Table of contents

A tarot + astrology reading

August 27th marks the new moon in Virgo. ♍

For those not familiar, the energy of the new moon is like the planting of a new seed. It's a fresh cycle, an opportunity to set intentions and renew your vision.

It's also the time when the moon is darkest. In the language of metaphors, nighttime is when we're invited to look inward. So a new moon is a good reminder to set aside some time for introspection.

The Archetype of Virgo

A little note from housekeeping: When dealing with archetypes, we're not referring to specific people. We're simply observing a pattern of behavior.

The archetype of Virgo is the diligent worker. This energy is organized and methodical, viewing their work as an opportunity to contribute something meaningful to the world. And Virgo energy is damn serious about its work. This archetype has a keen eye for details, immediately spotting any flaws or mistakes.

Unfortunately, this energy flows both ways. The same keen eye turns inwards. They analyze themselves ruthlessly, finding all their flaws, and demanding nothing short of perfection.

For this archetype, their contribution to the world is not good enough unless it's flawless.  

It's easy to see how this can result in unhappiness. An eye for detail is useful. An eye that seeks out flaws (and even creates some where there are none!) does more harm than it helps.

So for this lunar cycle, we're going to spend some time reflecting on the intentions and expectations we set for ourselves around our work, exploring to see where we might be too hard on ourselves.

Self Worth and Perfectionism

Carl Rogers, the founder of person-centered therapy, believed that a person's self-esteem was based on two things: their self image and their ideal self.

Self image is who you see yourself as. It's your current self.

The ideal self is who you want to be.

The further apart these are, the lower the self-esteem. In other words, the bigger the gap between who are you now and who you want to be, the worse you feel about yourself.

So when Virgo turns their critical eye inwards and begins listing all their faults, it's because there's this huge gap. They know exactly what they don't like about themselves and their work. And they have a clear vision of what they want their work (and themselves) to be.

It seems like there's an easy solution, right? Just close the gap.

The problem is that for perfectionists, their ideal self isn't based in reality. It's a vision that can never be achieved. Perfectionists have such a high standard – literally, to be perfect – that it's genuinely not possible to attain their goal.

So instead, whenever they inspect themselves, all they see is the ways that they're not good enough. And so the gap keeps being reinforced; a constant reminder of all their supposed failures.  

The Card: The Hermit

So how can we deal with this gap in a way that doesn't keep us trapped in self-loathing? Well, for that we turn to the cards.

In tarot, Virgo corresponds to The Hermit card. It's the energy of introspection. Of reflection. Of withdrawing from the world in order to tend to your inner space.

Through introspection, the Hermit gives us a key on how we can begin to integrate our current and future selves, and start to narrow the gap.

In the spirit of self-reflection, here's are some prompts that can be a starting point for this work. Answer these questions, preferably in a journal, if you can:
  • What do you believe is expected of you? What are you afraid will happen if you don't live up to these expectations?
  • Where did you pick up these beliefs?
  • Do they empower you, or do they make you feel limited?

No one is born a perfectionist. You don't see babies being hypercritical, calling themselves stupid because they peed their pants for the third time today. Our beliefs are absorbed from our environment. So to do the work of letting them go requires us to create some emotional distance between us and the environment.

Like the woman in my Hermit card shutting down her laptop, sometimes we need to step away from the noise so that we can observe what beliefs we've let slip into our psyche.

Set Your Intentions

Virgo season (Aug 22 - Sep 23) is an invitation to reflect on where we need to have a sharp eye, and where our eye might be a bit too sharp and we could benefit from treating ourselves with some compassion.

Here are two ways you can carry this work into your everyday life:

  • Have a sharp eye when it comes to articulating who you currently are and who you want to be. Name the differences out loud. Gently acknowledge where you've been holding yourself back or sabotaging your own growth.
  • Have a compassionate eye when it comes to bridging the gap. You can't criticize your way into becoming your ideal self. Instead, you need a gentler approach. You need to harmonize the two – to accept who you are while integrating aspects of who you want to be.  

One of the best ways I've found to do this integration work comes from Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, where he says that you should act as the person you want to be. It sounds simplistic and yet, like other wisdom from the East, it really is that simple. What can you do today to embody the energy of your self-ideal?

A lot of us first wait to feel like our best selves so that we can take action. But action precedes the feeling. Action is what causes the feeling to arise.

I've written about this before, but if you want to live your dream, you don't have to wait for it to happen. You don't have to put your happiness and contentment on standby until it manifests. You live your dream in the present moment by acting in a way that supports the vision.

If you have social anxiety and want to make friends, what do you do? You don't sit at home and wait for friends to show up at your door so that you can start being more outgoing. You act like you're already outgoing. You start up conversations with people. You participate more on social media. You reach out to people who you haven't talked to in a while.

You act first.

So, go out there. Act like your highest and best self. You don't even need to believe that you've become your ideal self. You just need to start implementing the behaviors that this person would have. The feelings will follow the action.

And until the next time you hear from me, which will be in September for the full moon in Pisces, I wish you peace and ease.

From my soul to yours,

Terri. 🌚