The phrase ‘do your best’ is something you are likely to hear a lot when growing up. Later on in life, if you ever find yourself in the self help aisle of your local bookstore, you will no doubt be offered similar advice in the form of ‘be the best version of yourself’ or something along those lines.
It is perhaps not so surprising, then, that many of us come to struggle with a serious case of being too hard on ourselves. We are so quick to lay the blame at our own doorsteps, that we form a tangible, self-perpetuating feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction.
In our eyes, we are always found wanting; we could always have done better; we will always fail to live up to our own unrealistically high expectations.
If you are keen to know whether you fall into this particular trap, ask yourself how many of the following signs you observe in your life.
1. You Strive For Perfection
Perhaps it is the natural evolution of the ‘do your best’ advice from childhood, but you aim to be as near to perfect as you can. You find it hard to tolerate your shortcomings and, instead, fixate on eradicating all of your flaws.
What’s more, things have to be done a certain way – your way. When others are involved, you try to enforce particular rules so that they behave to your standards and things are to your liking.
2. Your Focus Is Biased Towards Your Failures Rather Than Successes
You are very quick to identify ways in which you have come up short, but are often unable to celebrate when things go well. This is because your mind is internally predisposed to look for ways you could have done something differently that might have resulted in a better outcome.
When you do have successes, you either play them down or deny them altogether.
3. You Dwell On Mistakes
Not only do you look towards your failings at every opportunity, you spend countless hours thinking about things you deem to be mistakes. Whether it’s something you said during a conversation, the way you acted in a given situation, or a choice you made, if you believe it was a mistake, you will go over it in your head again and again – sometimes for hours, sometimes for days.
4. You Seek To Learn Instant Lessons From Mistakes
One of the primary reasons why you are prone to dwelling on your mistakes is because you believe there is a lesson to be learned in each one. You are so concerned with working out what that lesson is that you neglect to consider the possibility that either there isn’t one, or that you aren’t yet in a position to learn it.
You are impatient to discover any potential teachings, so you ruminate on the mistake in an attempt to force it to reveal itself.
5. You See Things As Black Or White
With you, things are either good or bad, success or failure, right or wrong; there is no in-between. You struggle to comprehend the subtle variations that span the gaps – the many shades of gray that exist between black and white.
This makes you quick to berate yourself when things haven’t gone completely to plan, even if they worked out ok in the end. It’s a disaster if you’re 5 minutes late for something; the meal is ruined if you put a little too much salt in it; you’re hopeless at your job if you didn’t get the highest possible ratings in your yearly appraisal. These are the types of thoughts that go around in your head.
6. You’re Impatient For Success
Because, for you, there is no halfway point between success and failure, you are in a constant state of anxiety for as long as your vision of success eludes you. Even if you are making good progress from an outsider’s perspective, you remain unhappy until you reach a specific goal.
You are discontent with anything less than the perfection you aim for, and this means you are constantly seeking ways to speed up the process of attaining it. This makes you susceptible to the lure of a shortcut, a cheat, a quick fix – anything to get to where you want to be.
7. You Fear Failure
Your impatience for success is driven by your abject fear of failure. You try so hard to reach the high targets you set for yourself because you can’t stand the idea of letting people down. You believe that anything less than exemplary is a stain on your character and that people will think less of you because of it.
8. You Are Paranoid About What Others Think Of You
You can’t abide the idea that other people might not like, respect, or appreciate you, so you try ever harder to please them. You push yourself beyond your limits in order to avoid the scorn that might come should you make a mistake.
You fear your boss and superiors at work, convincing yourself that they are unhappy with your performance and that your job is at risk. You believe that your friends secretly mock your achievements and that your family are disappointed in your status in life.
9. You Freak Out When Someone Criticizes You
You absolutely loathe it when criticism is aimed in your direction. You take it so deep within your heart that it breaks your spirits and sends you into a dark spiral.
It doesn’t matter how flippant the comment is, how insignificant the other person might imagine it, or how constructive they wanted it to be, when someone suggests you could do better, a feeling of worthlessness erupts inside you.
10. Yet You Are Highly Critical Of Yourself
As hard as you find it to take criticism from others, you are quick to point out all of the flaws you see in yourself. You regularly highlight your weakness, both to other people and inside your mind because you genuinely believe that all these bad points exist.
And it doesn’t matter how many people tell you otherwise, once you become convinced of a shortcoming, it stays with you for a very long time.
11. You Look At Others With Envy
You are so harsh on yourself, so utterly convinced by your own self-diagnosed failings, that you cannot help but view others with envy. You are more likely to ignore their shortcomings, seeing them as nothing more than minor blemishes in an otherwise perfect life.
You wish you could enjoy the same level of happiness, freedom, and material wealth that they have, regardless of what troubles they may be facing that you don’t know of.
Now that we’ve explored some of the common signs that indicate you are treating yourself very harshly indeed, let’s turn our attention to the ways you can get out of this damaging mindset.
If you are willing to work at it and accept that it might take some time to accomplish, there are things you can do, certain habits you can adopt, that will give you a more compassionate view of your own achievements.
Since you are your harshest, and possible only, critic, it is within your own mind that you must make many of the changes. The very first thing to do is to listen to your self-talk as if from a third party’s perspective.
Take note of the particular language being used to put yourself down and learn to disagree with what your mind is saying. So when you have the thought “I’m stupid,” consciously follow it up with the thought “actually, no I’m not; I’m smart.”
Your inner monologue might seem like something that you don’t have too much control over, but you really can change the overall vibe it is giving out by reacting to the negativity with a conscious positivity.
2. Ask Whether It Will Matter In A Week/Month/Year
Your fear of failure and your subsequent obsession with perfection can be tackled by habitualizing the question “will it matter in….?”
Every time something doesn’t follow your ideal plan, instead of falling into a self-critical frame of mind, simply consider whether this bump in the road will matter in a week, a month, or a year. Consider that you might not even remember it or that you will look back with a smile on your face, then watch as you start to feel more sympathetic towards yourself in the present moment.
3. Embrace The Uncertainty
Regularly remind yourself that neither you, nor anyone else, can predict what might happen in the future. What you currently see as a failure might actually turn out to be the beginning of something wonderful, and what you think of as perfection today might not be as perfect in the future.
Embrace the fact that life is unpredictable and somewhat chaotic at times. You might not yet be able to see the good in the bad or the bad in the good, so why fret about which is which and beat yourself up about it?
4. Treat Yourself Like You Would Your Best Friend
There’s a good chance that you are far harder on yourself than you are on those people who matter to you. With this in mind, why not try treating yourself like you would these other people, with compassion, encouragement, and a softer approach to failure and mistakes.
Ask yourself what you would say to a friend who came to you unhappy that they had failed at something. How would you comfort them, convince them that things are not as bad as they seem, and remind them not to be so hard on themselves? Now repeat that to yourself.
5. Confide In A Friend
If you can’t imagine what you would say to a friend in your position, why not simply speak to one of them about your concerns? Let them know that you feel as though you have failed or that you are failing, and just see what they say.
Chances are, the very act of confession will provide immediate relief, and that the advice they give you will be to stop being so hard on yourself. Talking about the issues can help you to figure out what drives you to think this way and how you might possibly change that.
You are the only person who has lived your life, so it is unhelpful to try and compare yourself to others. You don’t know what opportunities they had or what experiences they’ve gone through for them to be where they are today, but chances are they have had a very different past to you.
Comparing yourself to others is a fast-track ticket to discontent in your own life because no matter what level of success you achieve, there will always be people with whom you can compare your life unfavorably.
7. Stop Being Critical Of Others
While you may not find yourself criticizing close friends and family very often, if you ever pour scorn on the choices and achievements of others, stop it immediately.
When you let yourself denigrate people behind their backs, you only serve to reinforce the messages that you then proceed to direct inwards. In other words, by being critical of others, you strengthen your inner critic too.
8. Develop A Thick Skin
It is almost inevitable that you will face some criticism from time to time, so it is important that you form a thick skin in order to restrict the damage it does to your sense of worth.
Learning to take on board suggestions is vital if you are to avoid seeing them as personal attacks, and it is healthy to consider these alternate points of view as learning opportunities.
Remember, just because someone else disagrees with how you do something, it doesn’t mean they are right and you are wrong. Never let someone else undermine a view that you hold passionately just because they see it differently.
9. Accept What You Cannot Change
There are some things in this life that you have no power over, and these are things that you should never let undermine the belief you have in yourself. If you cannot change something, you have to learn to accept it. If you don’t, you may find yourself taking the blame for an entirely uncontrollable set of circumstances.
10. Remind Yourself Of Your Successes
It can be so easy to cast your mind back towards all the things that appear to have gone wrong in your life, but you should, instead, think about all the times when you have tasted success.
When you remember the various achievements from your past, you will begin to ease up on yourself in the present. It will remind you just how capable you are and how far you have come; it will release the feelings of inadequacy you may be currently experiencing.
11. Surround Yourself With People Who Believe In You
When you are struggling to believe in yourself, it pays to have plenty of loved ones around you whose belief never falters. They can help to pull your mind out of the darkness and back towards the light by reassuring you of your many talents, and by giving you a sense of perspective so that you can enjoy where you are today and all the abundance it has to offer.
When other people are so sure of you, it can’t help but make you a little surer of yourself.
Are you often hard on yourself? Has the advice above helped you to see how you might change your attitude and ease up just a little? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.