Ask Amanda: How to Not Be So Hard On Yourself
posted on November 22, 2015 | by Amanda Holstein
I tend to have a lot of high-achiever/perfectionist tendencies (or maybe I should just give up and call myself a perfectionist). One thing that I have found has really affected me and brings a large amount of stress is being hard on myself. I was wondering, what have you learned about stopping that kind of mentality?
I can certainly relate to this — I grew up in a very competitive school and always felt like I had to be the best no matter what. I looked at everything in very black & white terms. For example, if I wasn’t the best, then I was nothing. Or if I didn’t succeed, then I failed. But life isn’t in black & white and it really helps to free yourself of that concept. Here are a few insights I go back to when I’m feeling stressed or being too hard on myself.
Being hard on yourself is counterproductive
I’m sure you’ve noticed, but when you are hard on yourself, it creates more stress, which actually makes you a lot less productive. The first thing to realize is that the harsh, demanding voice inside you is only hindering you from moving forward and succeeding. It’s important to be your own cheerleader. Be your own support system and build yourself up. Step back and remember that you are smart, hard-working, resourceful, etc. and make sure you let yourself truly believe those things.
Don’t let mishaps define you
Another problem I had was that if I didn’t succeed, I called myself a failure. Defining yourself by these mishaps can only hurt you — plus, it’s not true! Remind yourself of who you are and what your amazing qualities are, and remember that the “failure” or “mishap” is not a permanent thing, but rather an instance in time. Someone once told me to think of myself as a mosaic: we have all different sides to us and are made up of different parts. When one part makes a mistake, that doesn’t mean it affects your entire self.
There is no such thing as perfect
I know it’s cliché, but we all make mistakes — it’s literally impossible to be perfect 100% of the time. In fact, “perfect” doesn’t exist! What’s more important is figuring out what goals you have for yourself that would truly make you happy, rather than what goals would make you look successful or perfect from the outside. Happiness and self-confidence should be your goal, not “getting to the top”.
You don’t have to be the best
This one was a hard concept for me to accept. As I mentioned, I grew up going to a very competitive high school and college, and always felt like I had to be the best in order for any of my hard work to “count”. I thought my parents expected me to be “the best” and that if I wasn’t, I was nothing. But that is so far from true. If you take a step back and tell yourself, you don’t have to be #1, you don’t need to be on the top, everyone you care about loves you no matter what, and being the best isn’t the most important, it will free yourself of so much pressure. Remember that being happy and content with yourself is the most important, so setting goals that are meaningful to you and your life, rather than goals you think you should be striving for, will lead you to true happiness.
Know that it will take some time for these thoughts to really click and for you to start being more supportive of yourself, so don’t stress out if this doesn’t click right away. Try to catch yourself in those moments when stress is taking over and remind yourself of your strong qualities and ask yourself what you’re really working towards and what matters. Also know that this is totally normal to be feeling, especially in your twenties as you’re trying to figure out what’s important to you and who you are.
Good luck! You will be fine, I promise.