How to Stop Being So Self-Critical: ANGTFT

05/27/2015 05:57 pm ET | Updated May 27, 2016

"But about a month before my friend Pammy died, she said something that may have permanently changed me. We had gone shopping for a dress for me to wear that night to a nightclub with the man I was seeing at the time. Pammy was in a wheelchair, wearing her Queen Mum wig, the Easy Rider look in her eyes. I tried on a lavender minidress, which is not my usual style ... Anyway, the dress fit perfectly, and I came out to model it for her. I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, 'Do you think it makes my hips look too big?' and she said to me slowly, 'Annie? I really don't think you have that kind of time.'"

-- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (Hat tip: Gretchen Rubin​)

When I read this quote recently, it reminded me of when I first started doing Louise Hay's mirror work a few years back, telling myself how much I loved and approved of myself while looking in the mirror. I realized that most of the time I'd spent in the mirror in my life had been spent looking at my ass to adjudicate whether it was too big or too stretch mark-ey, like my judgment would decide whether or not I could leave the house that day.

I tried to calculate the time I'd spent looking disapprovingly at my ass in the mirror and thought I could probably have written a book or three in that time. So I released that issue. I've got books to write. Kale to grow. Tres leches cake to eat. (I do still look at my ass in the mirror, but now it tends to be admiringly.)

Anyhow, the Anne Lamott excerpt also reminded me of a saying I've grown fond of that goes like this: "Ain't nobody got time for that." ANGTFT, for short.

This saying can be deceptive. It's actually not meant to signify that you're so busy you lack time for a given task. When you say "ain't nobody got time for that," what you mean is that out of the priorities to which you will devote your precious moments of breath in this lifetime, drama, nonsense, Other People's Issues and other assorted instances of emotional mayhem do not rank as worthy of even one moment.

You might have time. You just ain't got time for that.

My whole team at work now says it. In the workplace context, it simply means that battles that are not mission-critical are not worth fighting. We've got important work to do, trying to help inspire the world to live healthier lives. We have time for work, for play, for fun, for reading and resting and thinking. But no time for nonsense.

It's a great concept in the workplace. But ANGTFT is even more perfect, as an expression, when it comes to the malicious way so many of us think about, talk about and look at our own bodies.

That we do this self-critique and trash talk of this one body we've been given is understandable, given our cultural context, but still unreasonable. It's mean, it makes us feel bad and frankly, it's also self-defeating. Trust me when I say from personal and professional experience that you cannot hate yourself skinny. It doesn't work like that. Living a healthy life and maintaining healthy habits is a long game you can only sustain from a place of deep self-love and self-care.

That we trash talk ourselves and our bodies even when we look amazing, like Anne, is wildly toxic to the spirit. It is no less dysfunctional because "everyone" does it. All judgment creates turbulence in our bodies and spirits -- it's a drag on the forward thrust your life wants to have. Judgment against ourselves creates a turbulent shame spiral that feeds into itself, hardening into the deepest unlove, at the center of who we are. Judgment against ourselves in the moments where we should be delighting in our own beauty and magnificence blocks the endless enthusiasm and joy we all possess, deep down, for the adventures and service to others we were put on this planet to carry out.

This judgment point is important, because it's easy to read this sort of piece and spiral straight into shame at the realization that you've spent possibly years of your life moaning over something so meaningless while so many lovely humans have passed away too soon. People who would have been desperate to have increased their life spans by even 10 of the minutes you spent poking your love handles in the mirror this morning.

But if you are judging yourself after reading this, you're reading Pammy's comment wrong.

As I read it, Anne's friend Pammy was not trying to be dire or sad or judgy or shame-on-you in the least. Even if Anne had another couple hundred years to live, Pammy was still telling the truth when she said "you don't have time for that." She was issuing a rallying cry to live! This was her call to spend the precious moments of our lives in exuberance and life and meaning and joy and impact, vs. looking in the mirror counting our cellulite dimples (which, by the way NO ONE ELSE GIVES A RIP ABOUT).

This thing we do, spending so much time critiquing ourselves about how we look, what we might have said wrong, whether we'll ever get another date, who will ever love us -- this, fortunately, is stoppable. Rewire-able.

Faith helps. I had the breathtaking realization awhile back that every single thing about who I am and my life experience had conspired to position me perfectly for every challenge, every opportunity, every dream, every next-level of my life. God made me exactly this way and gave me exactly what I would need to connect the dots of my life. Exactly this build. Exactly this skin color. Exactly this brain. Exactly these neuroses. These allergies. And these stretch marks. To do exactly what I was put here to do.

But if you're not sure about faith, or whether there even is any other power out there for you to believe in, that's okay. You can still start enacting an ANGTFT life, free of the tyranny of excessive self-critique. Start in the mirror. Repeat after me (really, after Louise Hay): I love and approve of myself. Again. Okay, one more time. Yes, just like that.

Actually, just like her: