“You’re Too Hard On Yourself!” This is a sentiment echoed to me over and over throughout my life, and one that used to make me so frustrated. For most of my life I never felt like the expectations or standards I had for myself were unreasonable. Be perfect- what’s the problem with that?
When I was “perfect” nothing went wrong. Nobody was upset, no one got angry, there were no problems to solve. When I wasn’t always 10 steps ahead, thinking everything through, anticipating problems before they arrived- then when things went wrong, it felt really bad. It felt like the world was ending and it was all my fault. I always felt that somehow I should have known better, and solved problems before they happened.
Saying that now I realize how irrational and unreasonable that sounds. But honestly, it’s taken me year and years of trial and error, mistakes, failures, and hours of therapy to begin to realize:
1) It’s not my job to control everything
2) Just because things sometimes go wrong, doesn’t mean it’s my fault.
These two little revelations go a long way in the journey to being less hard on yourself. Obviously these kinds of behaviors are assumed through self protection when we’ve experienced trauma or hardship in our life. Some people shut down and avoid, other people go into overdrive and start to anticipate everything. This also took resolving my fear of failure which is such an important piece of the puzzle.
Is it scary? Yes.
Is it hard? Definitely.
But is it doable? Can you actually learn to ease up on yourself and not live with unreasonable self expectations? Absolutely!
And it’s so worth doing for yourself!
Working With Failure
If you’re too hard on yourself, you’re mostly likely also terrified of failure. So as scary as it sounds, the first thing you have to start doing is working with failure and come to under your relationship with it.
Sometimes this is thinking about the true worst case scenario and what would actually happen if that played out in your life. Then considering the true likelyhood of that outcome. Seeing yourself as resilient and able to come back from anything that comes your way can really reduce the level of fear going on.
You also have to practice failing by allowing the mistakes to happen, showing accountability, and moving forward without shame or guilt. Are you allowed to feel bad? Absolutely. But should you beat yourself up or spiral about your self worth? No! Mistakes happen. Things go wrong sometimes, and it can also be ok.
Evaluate Your Expectations
Another important piece of learning to be less hard on yourself includes evaluating your expectations.
If you’re anything like me sometimes the first expectation you come up with is unreasonable high, and could use some editing. If you can learn to not always assume the first expectation is the “right” one to have, and give yourself permission to set the bar at an attainable and reasonable place- you’ll notice a HUGE shift in the dialogue you have with yourself.
Often times you’ll go above and beyond the reasonable expectations, but if for some reason life gets out of hand or something happens that you can’t control- it won’t effect your belief in yourself.
And remember- this doesn’t have to be done only at the beginning. Empower yourself by remembering you can almost always change and re-evaluate your expectations. So even when things are going wrong, which sometimes they do, you can take that step back and ask yourself what shift you can make to your standards right now that will help you cope better with what’s happening.
Address The Root Cause
Finally, along the journey, you’ll have to get to the root of the problem by finding out what’s causing these high expectations, the perfectionism, and the fear of failure. It’s not always fun to talk about, but so many of us struggle with worthiness and feeling as though we’re good enough- exactly as we are.
When you fall into the trap of proving yourself to others, or feeling as though what you DO is what makes you valuable- you’re more likely to fear what happens when you can’t control/maintain this status quo.
There are so many tools to support you in your journey including therapy, talking with friends, sharing your story, listening to others healing journey, and more. Do what you need to do to make inner changes now. You are good enough exactly as you are, and it’s time to believe it!
For more on this subject, check out the sister episode of the A Bit From Within Podcast right now! Also available on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you love to listen) and feel free to share this with your friends who need this message too.
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